Boston’s rock royalty lead Fenway party

A review of Aerosmith, J. Geils Band at Fenway Park on August 14, 2010

, Editor-in-Chief

It was the mostly highly anticipated concert of the year and with good reason: two of Boston’s most legendary bands in America’s most famous ballpark for one night only. This dream pairing of Boston’s rock royalty – Aerosmith and the J. Geils Band – has had the city abuzz for months and on Saturday night, it finally led to an explosion at the beloved home of the Red Sox.

Certainly part of the intrigue for fans heading into Fenway on Saturday was the state of Aerosmith. To put it bluntly, last summer’s Aerosmith tour was a total disaster and the wheels had already begun coming off the track before the band’s show in Mansfield last June. After months of a soap opera-like drama, the band reunited earlier this year to make plans for a summer tour that kicked off in fine form. Then came the “Steve Tyler to ‘American Idol'” drama and rumors that the Aerosmith train was about to fall of the tracks before their biggest hometown show in years ran rampart. And while those rumors and drama probably won’t go away anytime soon, Aerosmith was just fine on Saturday.

Following a very funny video narrated by hometown favorite Denis Leary that explained the Red Sox and Aeromsith history, the curtain dropped and Aerosmith opened with a sweeping run through “Train Kept A Rollin'”. The band was tight, led by the toxic twins of frontman Steven Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry. Tyler, whose vocals were strong, threw his arms around him for “Fallin’ In Love” and later declared, “The rumors are true…I’m carrying Joe Perry’s baby.” Meanwhile, it was great to see a healthy guitarist Brad Whitford back on stage as he took lead for “Last Child”. And the rhythmic foundation of bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer, who would deliver a rock solid four-minute solo later in the evening, kept it all together.

Not everything worked to perfection though. Sadly, Perry wasted time by battling an animated Guitar Hero character of himself. The KISS-like marketing ploy didn’t work last summer, and it certainly didn’t work this year. Also, many fans left with gripes over the set list, which was pretty standard for their current tour. Still, we’d gladly forgo “Pink” and “Cryin'” for older classics like “Toys in the Attic” and “Back in the Saddle”. And did anyone really want to hear our bad boys deliver “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”? Hell no.

That aside, Aerosmith was a well oiled machine and they did deliver some great moments, notably awesome takes on “Rag Doll”, “Come Together”, “Sweet Emotion” and “Draw The Line”, all of which sparked roaring approval from the crowd. They even got in on their blues influences with a jam session cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Stop Messin’ Around”, which featured Perry’s sons Adrian and Tony (both members of local outfit TAB the Band) and later with Muddy Waters'”Baby, Please Don’t Go”, another tune off 2004’s Honkin’ on Bobo.

The overwhelming highlight of the night came at the start of the encore as Aerosmith delivered the best moment of any Fenway Park concert. “Hey Boston!” Tyler screamed as a spotlight panned all across the stadium until it finally found him, sitting at his baby grand piano atop the Green Monster. As he delivered the first notes of “Dream On”, the crowd exploded with joy. The band kicked in and soon Tyler would leave the piano and sing the epic anthem clad in a Red Sox jersey while leaning over the monster wall. It’s been said that every Bostonian needs to hear the band play that song live once, but never will they deliver it in such dramatic fashion as they did on Saturday. With Tyler back on the main stage, the band rocked through “Walk This Way”, completing a one-two punch of their biggest hits.

The crowd loved every minute of it and at its conclusion both Tyler and Perry took time to thank the hometown faithful. But rather than rocking one last song or better yet, bringing Wolf and the Geils crew on stage to complete the historic show (apparently Tyler and Wolf had a bitter disagreement the night before over use of the stage’s catwalk), they opted for a photo at the end of the catwalk. It made for strange and somewhat disappointing ending to what had been a perfect encore.

As strong as Aerosmith was, the J. Geils Band was the MVP of the show. The days of touring the world like Aerosmith are long gone for J. Geils, but you would never know it when the band hit the Fenway stage. The group, who reunited last year for the first time in over a decade to for a handful of shows, was spot on. After the Boston University Marching Band warmed the crowd up with a rendition of “Centerfold”, the band emerged and launched into “First I Look At The Purse.” Continuing with another favorite off their 1970 self-titled debut album, “Hard Drivin’ Ma”, it was quickly apparent that the band was in remarkably fine form. With a simple banner on stage and the sun still shining, Geils set was all about the music and having fun as each of the members seemed to relish the moment.

Midway through the set, The Uptown Horns joined the band on stage. They started with “Freeze Frame” and filled in the song’s synth spots quite well and later injecting other tunes with a new vibe. “Detroit Breakdown” gave guitarist Jay Geils time to shine with a solo while frontman Peter Wolf danced all over the stage and catwalk. Clad in a golden jacket, black shirt and signature fedora, Wolf was an absolute showman. With the crowd already in the palm of his hand, he delivered the full intro to “Musta Got Lost” (including jokes on how each part of town walks). He then made his way through the crowd and into the bleachers for the fan favorite, sparking a frenzy. Later in the set, he handed out dozes of roses during “Love Stinks” and “Lookin’ For A Love”. Magic Dick made his presence known on many songs and led the way into the bluesy instrumental “Whammer Jammer” before main set closer, “(Ain’t Nothin’ But A) Houseparty”.

With the crowd roaring for more, the J. Geils Band returned for a two-song encore. Wolf first took time to thank just about every member of their crew by name before the band kicked into “Southside Shuffle”. A sing-along of “Centerfold” brought the set to a rocking – and arguably too soon – close.

Those that made it into the ballpark earlier enough were treated to a set from local standouts Jenny Dee & the Delinquents. Led by leading singer Jennifer D’Angora, the soul/garage favorites are well worth checking out in more intimate setting.

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