August 1, 2016
Fair Park Music Hall
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Mike DiQuinzio
Photos by Michael Insuaste
No Country For Old Men
To the younger generation, Steven Tyler is already a brand unto himself; He's the guy that saved American Idol from boredom, the guy who sings that song from that movie, and oh yeah- the guy from that band your parents like. To us older (and wiser) folk, Steven Tyler and "that band" are one in the same. It's impossible for us to think of one without the other, much less to think of him as a country artist. The buzz surrounding Tyler's solo foray into country music, last month's "We're All Somebody from Somewhere," has been at a fever pitch for nearly two years, so when he made a stop at the Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas, TX, this Aero-head made damn sure not to miss a thing.
Billed as the Out on a Limb Tour, the show is an even mix of old and new with several covers thrown in, all played with a new-found country twang courtesy of his backing band, the Loving Mary. Diving head first into Aerosmith's greatest hits, the show opened with countrified versions of "Sweet Emotion" and "Cryin'," complete with banjo and fiddle. If that last sentence made you wince, rest assured that it sounded surprisingly phenomenal. In a rare showing of restraint, Steven Tyler presented these re-imagined classics with only subtle updating, which made them much more faithful to the originals than we may have been led to believe. Just as unexpectedly, it worked every time.
The pace of this show was much more relaxed than the average Aerosmith show, so Tyler took time to introduce each cover with a short story of how it shaped and inspired him as a performer. His medley of Beatles classics, including "I'm Down," "Oh, Darling," and "Come Together" thrilled the crowd early on, while his faithful rendition on Janis Joplin's "Piece of my Heart" brought them to their feet. He also offered a rare glimpse into Aerosmith's early beginnings by performing an abbreviated version of Fleetwood Mac's "Rattlesnake Shake," the song that enamored him to Joe Perry.
The title track to "We're All Somebody from Somewhere" was the first of the new songs in the set and, along with "My Own Worst Enemy," is the most obvious point where Tyler's past and present overlap. Between the two, there is more of his signature swagger than on most of Aerosmith's last album. "Country is the new rock n' roll," he kept repeating before pleasing his newer fans with the decidedly more country-sounding singles "Love is Your Name" and "Red, White & You," but it was the remarkable "I Make My Own Sunshine" and "Only Heaven" that left the most lasting impression. Tyler seemed reinvigorated while delivering his new material and the stories of each song's origin during his trip to Nashville, and the intimacy of the Music Hall created an infinitely better atmosphere for such an engagement than the packed arenas in which we're used to seeing him perform.
The crowd still preferred the oldies, though, as "Dream On," "Walk This Way," and the more country than you remember "What It Takes" earned the most deafening screams. However, the encore of the re-imagined "Janie's Got a Gun" stood out, but I'm still not sure if it's for the right reason. The new version is best described as "eerie," but that may be a good thing considering its subject matter. At any rate, it stalled the momentum a bit and might be more at home in a Rob Zombie film. The crowd seemed to like it though, and they screamed their approval as Tyler introduced his band over the intro to the night's final song, "Train Kept A Rollin'".
Going solo is always a gamble, especially when the original band is still (dys)functioning. Rock n' roll history is littered with tales of failed attempts of flying solo, but with the rumor of next year's farewell tour looming, Steven Tyler may just get his wings.