The Pro Football Hall of Fame held its first “Concert For Legends” on Friday evening at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. And when you’re talking about legends, it’s hard to think of a better choice than fellow Hall of Famers — 2001 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, that is — Aerosmith.
The Boston band wrapped up its 2015 “Blue Army” tour in style, playing to their largest crowd of the summer. The stadium’s official capacity is listed as 22,364, and it was packed to the rafters with fans who were ready to celebrate the kickoff of the weekend’s Hall of Fame events with a good time. Aerosmith didn’t disappoint. You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here
After a powerful but brief opening set from Living Colour and a short changeover period, the stage lights dimmed and the band made its appearance, taking the stage with the giant Aerosmith logo hovering behind them with neon white wings and the familiar Aerosmith script glowing bright red. Appropriately, they reached straight back to the title track of 1977’s Draw the Line
to kick off a high-energy 17-song set. 45 years into the Aerosmith story, incredibly, the band still maintains its original five man lineup and these guys still perform with the intensity and connection that you can only find when you’re making music with a bunch of guys that you first jammed with back in 1970.
Clad in a swashbuckling combination of purple and black, frontman Steven Tyler, is 67 years old, but you’d have a hard time believing that, watching him writhe around on the stage on his back as he enthusiastically spat out the familiar lines of “Love In An Elevator” from the band’s late ‘80s Pump
album. Two songs in, Tyler knew things were going good and at the conclusion of that song, he looked out into the crowd and quipped, “Crosby, Stills, Nash — and Aerosmith,” referencing the band’s airtight harmonies on the song.
Joe Perry, Tyler’s longtime counterpart, was typically cool (emphasis on the “cool”), calm and collected, with the guitarist throwing off riff after riff with a heavy amount of swagger that remains undiminished by the passage of time (and yes, that’s a picture of his wife, Billie, that you saw on the guitar that he played during “Crying”). Behind Perry, drummer Joey Kramer, who is similarly mellow on the surface, provided a key element to the performance. He was an endlessly percussive engine of activity operating with a visibly focused amount of intensity. On the tail end of the classic “Toys In The Attic,” Kramer would get a chance to really show off his stuff with a drum solo — one of those arena rock moments translated quite well to the stadium environment in front of the amped up crowd
Guitarist Brad Whitford and bassist Tom Hamilton complete the lineup for the Aerosmith dream team that has entertained the masses for so many decades now and on this night in Canton, the band chose a setlist that drew on its many ‘70s highlights — including a couple of wildcards, “Rats In The Cellar” and their famous version of the Beatles’ “Come Together” while also offering plenty of acknowledgement to the hits that followed during the rebirth of the band in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. If we’re going to talk in football terms, Aerosmith scored touchdowns — a lot of them — and they wrapped up the night with a big bang, bringing the members of Living Colour back out on stage for a set-closing jam.
Surrounded by cheerleaders, the combined forces tore through a blistering version of “Walk This Way” with Living Colour vocalist Corey Glover sharing the vocals with Tyler, while Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid traded riffs with Perry. With no shortage of musicians on the stage, they stretched out and made it a good long jam during which everybody got a piece of the action — even the cheerleaders, who eventually linked arms with Tyler and did a synchronized Rockettes-style dance as the band continued to play on.
They could have easily wrapped up the night right there. But Aerosmith came back and gave the crowd two more, sending fans home with an encore set of the classics “Dream On” and “Sweet Emotion.” It was a great night and a fitting kickoff that no doubt left the crowd in attendance well primed for the remaining celebratory events of the Hall of Fame weekend.