Sunday Lifestyle


- Scott R. Garceau - The Philippine Star

What has eight legs, long hair with highlights, and kicks like a mo-fo? Well, it ain’t the Spider From Mars, and it ain’t some extraterrestrial creature sent  down to suck our brains. It’s Aerosmith, who finally touched down in Manila for the tail-end of their “Global Warming Tour” at SM Mall of Asia Arena last Wednesday.

Eight legs? Well, counting out original bass player Tom Hamilton who skipped a few Asian dates due to, depending on what you hear, a) illness or b) reluctance to tour abroad. (His throbbing bass work on Sweet Emotion was sorely missed, though sub bassist David Hull did his best.)

Aerosmith is one of the last “classic rock” bands left to tread the earth, still around to claim pelts and bragging rights. That means they get to trot out the “classic rock” moves, and the Manila crowd ate it up. Cannon blasts? You got ‘em. A blizzard of confetti at the climax? Locked and loaded, sir. Singer Steven Tyler belting out a string of timeless hits like his larynx is that of a 25-year-old? Hey, he’s still got it. Add to that the Marshall stacks, Joe Effin’ Perry’s laidback guitar heroics, and a white baby grand piano for Dream On, and it’s kind of exactly how you hoped Aerosmith would sound. One had only wished for a galloping Back in the Saddle to open the set.

No, instead it was Love in an Elevator, signaling the ’90s comeback chapter of Aerosmith’s long career. It sounded great, all bombast and pomp buoyed by Joey Kramer’s meat-and-potatoes rock drumming (he had an impressive, Ginger Baker-ish drum solo mid-show, aided by Tyler on extra sticks, the man who claims he taught Kramer how to drum and made him cry one time). All water under the bridge for a band that’s survived while countless haircut bands have come and gone under the Ice Age floes.

My notes tell me they played a track or two from their latest release, “Music from Another Dimension,” but really, fans were there for the jukebox thrills of hearing practically every hit song, along with some neglected gems, during a (could’ve been longer) two-hour show that was made possible, in no small part, by Pulp magazine’s Vernon Go. Yes, that karaoke staple Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing got the spotlight, the band’s only No. 1 song, strangely enough. Some critic once pointed out that Aerosmith, from the start, combined elements of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, with neither of those bands’ mystique. That’s pretty accurate, because, despite all the rehab tales and split-ups and bust-ups and rock theatrics, Aerosmith are in the “make you smile” business, not the eerie “dance with the devil” business. They write hits. Twenty-one hit singles, according to Billboard. You don’t rack up such impressive stats by choking on your own vomit or going to sleep in a swimming pool. Longevity is part of the band’s lasting appeal, but mostly it’s songwriting chops. And there’s nothing mysterioso about the hooks embedded in radio-friendly songs like Livin’ on the Edge, or What it Takes (both songs sounding impressive live, my notes say). There is something to Tyler’s description of his band as a “rock juggernaut”: “It’s the Screamin’ Demon’s howl from hell and Joe’s raunchy blues grind that makes Aerosmith’s 150-proof moonshine… It’s that beautiful, dirty Aerosmith liquid hydrogen snarl that makes the liver quiver, the knees freeze, and the booty shake.”

That patented rock swing drove singalong hits like Cryin’, Rag Doll and Janie’s Got a Gun. Tyler showed impressive frontman skills, still doing that crazy twirl that my wife likened to little Olive spinning around at the end of Little Miss Sunshine. (After all, he had to compensate for the immobility of rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford and bassist Hull.) Tyler gave us snatches of Tagalog (“Maganda ka…”), yelped like a banshee, and played with the crowd, heckling one dude in the VIP section for wearing a tie. (Well, Manilans in general, I notice, tend to overdress for rock shows. I mean really, it’s not the opera. Dudes in suits and women in cocktail dresses and high heels? Seems more like they’re in the business of being seen and looking good, rather than getting down for a rock concert. Then again, my Led Zeppelin T-shirt was no less of a style goof.)

And let’s also mention that Mall of Asia Arena seems a tad bit unfamiliar  with the notion of what a “rock show” is supposed to entail. Such as dancing (impossible because standing up blocks people’s view). Such as moving into the aisles and waving your hands about. This was not tolerated either, as Arena security quickly showed up to herd people back into their proper seats. I watched Carlos Celdran air guitaring in the aisle next to us, only to be firmly removed and quelled. Later I joked: “I thought they were going to haul you away to the pokey again!” “The Fuzz!” he said, grinning and shaking his head. Come on, SM, loosen the leash a bit. It’s called “Rock and Roll,” not “Sit and Nod.”

Back to the show. Joe Perry (whose middle name is now legally changed to “Effin’”) rocks those bluesy solos like a reeling drunkard, in a good way; but ‘twas also a treat to hear Brad Whitford take the hot solo during the resurrected funk-rock gem Last Child. Weird to hear the band launch into a bit of James Brown’s Mother Popcorn (first heard on their “Live Bootleg” album eons ago), then abandon it after a few minutes; nice to hear them lacerate Come Together, completely pistol-whipping it out of the Beatles’ hands and making it exclusively Aerosmith’s property. Lost classics from “Toys in the Attic” made an appearance (No More, No More, back when the band was more about mammoth riffs than pop hooks), along with the gargantuan slide-guitar fest that is Draw the Line. The encore came, on schedule, with Tyler at the piano launching into Dream On (their first single, from 1973) followed by a lengthy examination of Sweet Emotion. And then the band waved and headed offstage and Tyler peeled away his shirt as Mannish Boy played over the speakers. Good night, Manila!

Igan D’Byan said he had wanted to hear that prototype power ballad, Home Tonight. I wanted a little bit of Uncle Salty, and of course, Back in the Saddle. But hey, what do you want? They only have eight or so legs, and just as many arms, and but a few hours in Manila to roll out their hits.






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