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Music Review: Aerosmith concert an all-star bash

Saturday, August 17, 2002

By Ed Masley, Post-Gazette Pop Music Critic

Thursday's encore at the Post-Gazette Pavilion brought an all-star jam on "Walk This Way" with Steven Tyler trading lines with Kid Rock and Run-D.M.C. while Jam Master Jay assumed his place in Aerosmith on two turntables and a microphone.


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But the summer's most promising lineup had already made good on that promise long before it came to that.

Run-D.M.C. kicked off what Kid Rock called "a celebration of good mother[bleepin'] American music" with a line or two from "Walk This Way," then stopped it cold and told the crowd they'd have to wait for Aerosmith if they wanted a piece of that one. In the meantime, Run-D.M.C. offered a spirited old-school mini set of their own classics, starting with the song that put them on the map outside of Queens, "It's Like That," followed by "It's Tricky," an audience sing-along on "Mary Mary," and a set-closing version of "King of Rock" that found them joined by Kid Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker band. As Kevin Bacon would've said, if this were "Diner," it was a smile.

It also marked the start of Kid Rock's set. He took it down a notch or two from "King of Rock" with "Sweet Home Alabama" and later saluted the band with a lyrical shout-out (right alongside everyone from David Allen Coe to Johnny Cash) in "American Badass" and a verse or two of "Freebird." But he doesn't really have the voice or lead guitarists in his band to make it on the Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute circuit, which is kind of weird because he sounded great on his own "Freebird," "Only God Knows Why."

The set was the usual Kid Rock mix of humor, go-go dancers, hip-hop, Southern rock and showmanship. He played some solid porch-front blues guitar on a song about what he would do if he were president (the platform ranged from turning all the churches into strip clubs to giving the working man his money back and getting high on Air Force One). His intro to "You Never Met a Mother[bleeper] Quite Like Me" was even funnier, talking about his meeting with St. Peter at the pearly gates on Judgment Day ("St. Peter, with all due respect, you never met..."). When he dropped to his knees, a personal assistant in a suit came out to drape a pimp-coat over his shoulders in a playful James Brown tribute. And sandwiched between his own hits "Cowboy" and "Bawitdaba," he saluted his roots in Detroit with a tribute to some of the music, from Bob Seger to the MC5 and Eminem.

But even with his flames and go-go dancers, Kid Rock's set seemed kind of small compared to Aerosmith, whose every movement seemed as staged as Kid Rock's didn't, including a trip through the crowd of 21,012 to do a stripped-down set of oldies on the lawn ("Big Ten Inch Record," "Dream On," "Mama Kin").

And it's not that there's anything wrong with a show being staged. Few bands could stage a better big-rock show than Aerosmith at this point, Tyler playing to the back rows and the girls down front in equal measure while the giant fans on stage gave him and guitarist Joe Perry the perfect wind-blown rock-star hair.

With Tyler playing to the ladies, Perry squeezing incredible solos from a seemingly endless supply of guitars and the band as a unit committed to making it one nation under a groove, the set was a mix of road-worn classics and material as fresh as "Girls of Summer," a cut from the band's new greatest hits collection. To their credit, they blew the dust off the classics (from "Back in the Saddle" and "Same Old Song and Dance" to "Sweet Emotion") with the same enthusiasm they showed on the newer material ("Jaded," "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing").

With "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)," they brought the set to a rollicking finish. And the encore somehow took it up a notch, with "Draw the Line," the all-star jam on "Walk This Way" and a spirited "Train Kept A-Rollin'."

Ed Masley can be reached at emasley@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1865.

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