Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler is midway through his act, leering at fans, preening like a peacock and propositioning girls in the audience.
He drops to his knees for a harmonica solo. His face is just inches away from a camera broadcasting to onstage screens. It looks like a slobbery kiss from an over-amorous dachshund.
The Bad Boys From Boston are limbering up in Europe for a U.S. summer concert tour that starts in July -- shows that very nearly didn’t happen. Last year, it looked to be over, after four decades in the business and 150 million albums sold, the most for any American rock band. When Tyler fell offstage and pulled out of gigs, guitarist Joe Perry tried to replace him.
Now, the feuding “Toxic Twins” have kissed and made up for the “Cocked, Locked and Ready to Rock” events. Tyler, the owner of the most prodigious lips in rock after Mick Jagger, looks his 62 hard-living years. At London’s O2, the band reels off power ballads and hard rocking blues.
Tyler wears flared silver trousers and a sparkling black T-shirt. With white earrings, a blue Panama hat and scarves tied to his white microphone stand, he accessorizes as perfectly as a character from “Sex and the City.”
Mixing sandpaper blues drawls and vocal gymnastics from the school of Mariah Carey, he is equally at home with the sleaze of “Love In an Elevator” and the tear-jerk balladry of “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
The band keeps the blues tight and filthy and the slow numbers bombastic. There are sufficient metal moments for Perry to let his instrument really scream.
At times the debt to the Rolling Stones “Glimmer Twins” becomes obvious. Aerosmith’s flamboyance is a little too raucous. Shifts between all-conquering pop-chart fodder and displays of blues musicianship throw up contradictions.
The strutting “Walk This Way” reunites the crowd. Aerosmith famously re-recorded this song with hip-hop pioneers Run DMC when rap was in its infancy. The riff is as distinctive and sexual as ever.
The Aerosmith tour plays European countries such as Spain, Belgium and France this month before ending in Venice, Italy on July 3. The American leg starts on July 23 in Oakland, California and currently runs through Sept. 4. Information: http://www.aerosmith.com.
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Robert Heller is a music critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)