No one expects rock bands to age gracefully. Either they enter middle age in complete denial, trying like the Beach Boys to act like teenagers even though they look like retirees, or they stumble into their dotage with sagging guts and thinning hair (hello, Deep Purple!).
Yet somehow, Aerosmith appears not to have aged at all. Even though guitarist Joe Perry was celebrating his 43rd birthday when the band played the USAir Arena Friday, these rock vets seemed as lean and rakish as ever strutting through the likes of "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" and "Walk This Way."
Perry, in fact, looks better at 43 than he did at 30, and if frontman Steven Tyler has lost any energy or agility to age, it certainly wasn't apparent in his manic on-stage demeanor.
Aerosmith's sound has aged well, too.
Granted, it would be pointless to argue that there's anything fresh about "Dream On," a song that has long since been played to death by classic rock radio, but "Draw the Line" and "Back In the Saddle" kicked with such ferocity that it was hard to believe some 16 years of history behind them. The band even burned through the stone '70s boogie of "Last Child," although a bluesy call-and-response routine between Tyler and guitarist Brad Whitford definitely helped kindle the flames.
Tyler and the guitarists may have reaped most of the applause, but credit for much of the musical energy belonged with the rhythm section, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer. Their ability to walk the line between rock and funk not only kept the old songs sounding new but also lent vitality to slickly-arranged new stuff like "Livin' on the Edge" and "Fever."
True, even they were unable to make "Shut Up and Dance" live up to its title, but they more than made up for that lapse through stalwart playing in "Love in an Elevator" and (Kramer especially) "Rag Doll." Better still, Hamilton and Kramer kept that rhythm lock in place even when the band changed styles, grounding the roadhouse blues of "Stop Messin' Around" (Perry's solo spot) and putting enough grit into the country-rock pulse of "What It Takes" to pull an impassioned performance from Tyler.