kevin statham photo
By Steve Newton
Twenty-five years ago tomorrow–on March 17, 1990–Aerosmith played the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. At the time the band was still putting out pretty decent albums; six months earlier it had released Pump, which boasted rockin’ numbers like “Monkey on My Back”, “Young Lust”, and “The Other Side”. This was before it sold out for radio play with the “Amazing”/”Crazy”/”Crying” video-single trilogy that made a superstar out of Alicia Silverstone.
That happened on the next album.
Back in ’90 the ‘Smith was still a formidable force, and it had a strong connection to Vancouver, where it recorded Pump at Little Mountain Sound with producer Bruce Fairbairn, who had helped get them back on the charts with 1987’s Permanent Vacation. It was cool that Fairbairn–who died suddenly from unknown causes in 1999–got up to blow some horn during the Vancouver show.
I remember feeling a little put-out that I hadn’t wangled an interview with my rock heroes from the ’70s in advance of the show. I mean, who was giving them ink seven years earlier when Joe Perry and Brad Whitford had bailed and Aerosmith was struggling with Rock in a Hard Place? Me, that’s who.
Anyway, here’s my review of the show, which ran in the March 23-30 issue of the Georgia Straight newspaper under the headline: Boston’s bad boys pass up the press, let music do the talkin’
Boy, the nerve of those Aerosmith guys! They stay in our city for months on end, tie up our world-class studios, use our best producers and engineers, hog all the seats in our strip bars, and then deny the city’s top entertainment rag a crummy phone interview! It’s nearly enough to make you wanna trash your worn-out copy of Get Your Wings and slag their show in revenge!
But not quite enough. Because even if they are big shots these days, Aerosmith is still one of the best kick-ass bands around, if not the best. The clean and sober kings of the raunchy riff showed a sold-out crowd at the Coliseum last Saturday that there is indeed a place for sex, no drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
But, while the Aerosmith boys have reputedly left the drugs and the booze behind them, it was obvious from the number of casualties occupying first-aid stretchers that many of their fans haven’t. One young fellow was so wasted that he decided to barge his way through the Coliseum’s glass doors without a ticket–while they were closed! Luckily, the local constabulary was there to show him that Aerosmith most certainly does not play for free.
Rowdies and bad-trippers aside, most of the real action was taking place on the stage, which was made out to resemble a rooftop, complete with Vancouver Hotel sign, laundry hanging out to dry, and steaming chimneys. The typically slinky Steven Tyler, dressed in a silky white jumpsuit and tailcoat, made the vast layout of steps and platforms a playground on which he gyrated and squirmed salaciously, while guitarist Joe Perry was Tyler’s antithesis in fringed black-leather jacket and pants.
Perry’s first solo was inaudible, but the bugs in his setup were soon worked out and he was free to trade dangerous licks with co-guitarist Brad Whitford, who actually out-riffed his higher-profile guitar mate throughout the concert. Drummer Joey Kramer was his usual stalwart self, while nonchalant bassist Tom Hamilton kept up an inconspicuous but steady throb.
“The blues had a baby and they named it rock and roll!” Tyler screeched like a demented budgie from hell, before the Margarita Horns–featuring Aerosmith producer Bruce Fairbairn and Skywalker Tom Keenlyside–hopped up for the soulful strut of “Rag Doll”. Tyler also called out local instrumental magician Randy Raine-Reusch, who blew into some sort of oversized pipe–a Himalayan sheepherders’ horn, perhaps?–for the sonorous intro to one of the band’s recent tunes, “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even”.
Aerosmith’s oldest songs (“Mama Kin”, “Dream On”) and newest ones (“Janie’s Got a Gun”, “Love in an Elevator”) went over equally well, and by the time they’d encored with the Yardbirds’ “Train Kept a Rollin'” and their biggest hit, “Walk This Way”, few fans had anything to complain about. But in light of that unforgivable no-interview deal, let’s end this one with a beef: why the hell did they leave out “Toys in the Attic” and “Back in the Saddle”?