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Classic Rock
By John Brodeur

Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz

Pepsi Arena, Nov. 30

There’s a point during every Aerosmith concert (since 1998, anyway) when the lights dim, the tempo slows, the dudes go for beer, and the soccer moms get their soccer mom on. It’s the moment on which the general character of the show is measured: the delightfully schlocky, Diane Warren-penned (oxymoron?) Armageddon love theme, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” Aerosmith recorded more than their share of junk songs while rebuilding their legacy in the ’90s, but love it or loathe it (there is no third option), “Miss” was the band’s only No. 1 hit—and they’re going to be playing it until Steven Tyler hangs up his white spandex slacks. So its placement within the set is of delicate interest. The slightest miscalculation and boom!, there’s nowhere to go but “Eat the Rich.”

Thankfully, the band avoided such a fate last Wednesday at the Pepsi Arena, as they turned in one of their best all-around area performances (there have been many) before nearly 10,000 faithful: short on the schlock, heavy on the gritty, bluesy, butt-shaking rock & roll the band continue to excel at well into their fourth decade. And “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” was given a brief piano intro (courtesy longtime sixth man Russ Irwin) that allowed the haters ample opportunity to dissipate, leaving a sea of Bics dutifully flicked.

The band still had to work for it, with Tyler often goading the sleepy audience into behavior more befitting a rock show. (Earlier, upset with a lack of audience participation, Lenny Kravitz walked the arena floor in a last-ditch effort to work up some lather.) You’d think that with tickets going for $125 a pop, people would have gotten looser. Maybe they couldn’t afford to buy beer. Or maybe it was that disconnected feeling whenever the cameras took the band’s minds off of the audience, although the cameramen redeemed themselves by timing shots of the 57-year-old Tyler (only now showing his age!) shaking his playing-card-adorned ass in coincidence with that line in “Sweet Emotion” about “wearin’ out things that nobody wears.” Funny stuff.

Highlights included, believe it or not, Joe Fucking Perry’s obligatory lead vocal turn on “Shakin’ My Cage.” (He looked fantastic, as usual.) It was a fun, full 100 minutes, only a quarter of which was spent on anything recorded after 1977 (“Cryin’” ain’t so bad, anyway), stocked with hell-yeah classics like “Seasons of Wither” and “Lord of the Thighs.” There’s your $125 right there.

Opening in chronology only was Lenny Kravitz, who felt the need to remind himself (and the audience) that he is a Rock Star by allowing (encouraging, hiring, you pick) a photographer to run onto the stage and stick his lens into the crack of every rock squat. Kravitz and his band (featuring local boy Jack Daley on bass and Cindy Blackman on drums, and typically rock-solid), flanked by two pairs of background singers and horn players, performed in front of an David-Lee-Roth-video-sized wall of amplifiers. (From the glance I got during the changeover, I don’t believe a single one of them was plugged in, and I’d bet there wasn’t even film in that camera.) To fluff an already inflated ego, a gigantic “LK” logo lit up whenever guitarist Craig Ross took a solo.

With the exception of “California,” a throwback power pop tune that simultaneously evoked Badfinger and Stone Temple Pilots, the song selection was heavy on the mega-hits, allowing the starry-eyed Kravitz to reveal his full range—not always with the best results. Example: The wide-eyed, Moody Blues mysticism of “Believe” sounded comfortably retro (we miss you, 1994), but it was sandwiched between a Kid Rock knockoff (“Just Can’t Get You off My Mind”) and the just-plain-dumb “Dig In.” “Are You Gonna Go My Way” and “Always on the Run” still had quite a sting (the horn breaks on the latter are undeniably funky), but the “American Woman/Fly Away” medley was the high point for crowd reaction. Suckers.

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