Photos and review by Doug MacGunnigle, WPRO
First things first. This was no “country” concert. Despite being marketed as containing somewhat “countrified” versions of Steven Tyler’s hits with Aerosmith alongside tracks from his new album “We’re All Somebody from Somewhere,” this was a rock and roll show through and through.
Tyler, along with longtime producer and co-writer Marti Frederiksen and his talented Loving Mary Band, brought his “Out on a Limb” tour to the Providence Performing Arts Center on Saturday night. Tyler hasn’t played at the PPAC since October 1974 (then known as the Palace Concert Theatre) where as part of Aerosmith he appeared 6 times, including stints opening for The Kinks and Mott The Hoople.
Tyler and his band delivered a mixture of big hits, new songs, and a few covers of songs that Tyler said were influences on his songwriting and singing.
After the one-two punch of “Sweet Emotion” and “Cryin’,” where Loving Mary’s Elisha Hoffman’s mandolin and banjo parts were tough to hear over the electric din of the band, Tyler asked the crowd if the Civic Center was still there (he last played there with Aerosmith in 2005) and showed off a tattoo he got in 1971 back when Providence was “the only legal place around” to have the work done.
He spoke of his early influences including the Kinks, the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles, and took the band through a medley of Beatles tunes, including “I’m Down,” an impressive “Oh, Darling,” and “Come Together.” While the sound during the music portions was loud and clear, it was at times tough to hear Tyler speak during his lengthy monologues.
Continuing with his early influences, Tyler spoke of his love of Janis Joplin, sharing a few lines of “Mercedes Benz” with bass-player Rebecca Lynn Howard, a Grammy-winning country artist in her own right, before launching into an impressive take on “Piece of My Heart.”
After wishing an absent Joe Perry (his sidekick in Aerosmith) a happy birthday, he launched into a frustratingly short take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Rattlesnake Shake,” which Aerosmith would sometimes stretch into a 15 minute blues jam. Here, after a few short minutes, the band segued into latter-day Aerosmith hit “Jaded.”
Tyler introduced Marti Frederiksen at this point, as the co-writer of “Jaded” and other Aerosmith hits. (Frederiksen also provided the singing voice of Jason Lee’s character in the Cameron Crowe movie “Almost Famous,” for the movie buffs out there.) After telling the story about how this project came together, the band played the first new tune of the night, “Love is Your Name,” which was well received by the crowd and featured great harmony vocals from the band and some powerhouse drumming from Sarah Tomek.
Tyler followed with a verse or two of the traditional “Little Brown Gal” on the ukulele, before bringing singer Alyssa Bonagura out for the Hawaiian flavored “I Make My Own Sunshine,” also from the new album.
It was on this new material that one could finally hear the “country” instruments from Elisha Hoffman, as well as lead guitarist Andrew Mactaggart’s tasty pedal steel licks.
The band followed with a version of latter-day Aerosmith hit “What it Takes” that Tyler billed as a “country” version, but again it was difficult to hear Hoffman’s banjo or Mactaggart’s pedal steel.
The funky title track to the new album was next, “We’re All Somebody from Somewhere” segued nicely into a few bars of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”
Multi-instrumentalist Suzie McNeil impressed all night on bluesy harmonica, piano, guitar, as well as accordion on the new “My Own Worst Enemy,” which featured a rocked-out jammy outro featuring the fretwork of Andrew Mactaggart.
Tyler took to the piano for the requisite “Dream On” and his voice, shockingly at 68, showed no wear from his Aerosmith heyday as he let out screams that a man half his age would have trouble hitting. Hoffman’s mandolin work shined nicely here, as well.
A percussion interlude gave way to the mega-crowd pleaser “Walk This Way,” where Tyler used the women in the band as replacement foils for his Aerosmith partner Joe Perry, stalking the stage like a madman.
The main set ended with a verse of the Led Zeppelin hit “Whole Lotta Love,” which made one wonder “what if” Tyler had actually gone along with the aborted plans to front Led Zeppelin for a tour several years ago.
The encore brought the only major re-arrangement of an Aerosmith tune, with an acoustic tinged sinister “Janie’s Got a Gun” featuring a sleazy guitar solo from Frederiksen and some banjo licks from Hoffman. Lots of twang on this one.
The band followed with the slightly misplaced “Only Heaven” before ripping into the Tiny Bradshaw classic “Train Kept A-Rollin’” that Aerosmith covered (along with the Yardbirds, Johnny Burnette, and Led Zeppelin) and the Loving Mary band smoked – especially Suzie McNeil’s awesome blues-harp solos.
Tyler and band were incredibly impressive, and were able to keep the crowd interested in the new material which can be difficult for anyone – but the small venue and white-hot band no doubt helped in this regard.
It’s a shame if anyone was turned off from going to this show because they were led to believe it would be a “country” performance…this was a rock and roll show for the ages from a true legend. The man’s still got it.