By Mike Sembos
11:10 AM EDT, July 3, 2013
Wed., July 10, 7:30 p.m. MGM Grand at Foxwoods, 350 Trolley Line Blvd., Mashantucket, (866) MGM-0050. foxwoods.com. $175-$300.
What can you say about Aerosmith — in 2013? They're one of the most successful bands of all time, having sold over 150 million records. For comparison, as of the 2012 census the U.S. population was 312 million people.
The band has had its share of well-publicized ups and downs. They've had drug problems. They went in and out of vogue over and over again, though more often than not they were "in." And they've persisted for 43 years, still making headlines and selling tickets by the ton. You can think you're too cool to like Aerosmith, but you're not.
Bassist Tom Hamilton is a founding member. Even he's a bit taken aback by the constant stream of support.
"I think that we'll keep going as long as we can feel that there's a lot of people out there that want to hear us play," he says. "That message from our fans has not died out. We might take more time off now, but the phone always rings and it's our manager saying, 'Hey, they really want to hear you in Australia' or to do a U.S. tour or a Japanese tour, and it's really hard to resist that. It's flattering and it's inspiring to know that there's a lot of people out there that want to come hear the band. So, you know... we fall for it every time."
When singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry's on-and-off feuding reached another climax in 2009, it seemed it might be over once and for all. Tyler became a judge on "American Idol" and worked on developing "Brand Tyler," and Perry was not amused. Auditions were planned to find a singer to replace Tyler. But they once again pulled it together, rising from the ashes to record Music from Another Dimension, using producer Jack Douglas who sat behind the controls for the recording of Toys in the Attic, Rocks and Draw the Line, arguably the strongest albums of the band's career. Some of that classic Aerosmith energy was injected back into the band. Hamilton remembers the mid-'70s era fondly.
"It was a peak, for sure," he says. "I think back on those days and just remember how each album was, in terms of how our studio skills were really at their height for Rocks. It's not just about the skills but about how much fun we were having, and about how well everything was working together in the band, and what a blast it was to get together with Jack and make a record. That record definitely was way up there. We hadn't made enough money to destroy ourselves with drugs yet, but we were well on our way. It was definitely a peak. I look at Toys in the Attic and Rocks as being sort of a yin and yang kind of thing. I think of Toys in the Attic as being a more melodic record and Rocks as a darker, more evil sounding record. But you know, you get to hit these particular moments in your career and all you can do is ride them for all they're worth."
Musicians ranging from Slash to James Hetfield to Kurt Cobain have pointed to Rocks as a major inspiration. Though the late '80s-early '90s Aerosmith renaissance redefined the band in more of a melodic pop-rock context, younger fans probably don't realize the band was once dirty and raw enough to be influential to the sound of a band like Nirvana.
Things were bad during the in-between years of the early '80s. Joe Perry quit for five years beginning in 1979, and guitarist Brad Whitford followed suit in 1981. Through it all, Hamilton stuck with it.
"That was a pretty dark period," he says. "That was a period where we let the band fall apart. You'd have to work hard to find anything about that that was positive. I think we had a situation where Steven... you know, he had sort of a love-hate relationship with Joe, and he was kind of loving having Joe out of the band, but hating it too. We finally did put that record out and go on tour, and that's when we felt the wrath of our fans. They really let us know that they were fans of the band in its original form and they weren't really interested in any newcomers."
But let's travel back to the present, in which Aerosmith is once again touring the world, in sporadic bursts. On this leg there are only four U.S. dates, and one of them is at Foxwoods. Hamilton developed a chest infection during a run in Australia earlier this year and had to sit out for a few shows, but now he's back in the saddle again to support the new record, on which he has more writing credits than usual.
"I've just been really dedicating myself in the past few years to the craft of songwriting and lyric-writing and how to tackle all the different elements of a song," he says, "whereas in the past my contributions have been instrumental arrangements and more based on a riff. I was able to write a song on the record called "Tell Me" which is the fourth song in. And I get to have the joy of hearing Steven sing my lyrics back, which was pretty much a first. And then on the deluxe version of the record there's a song called "Up on the Mountain" that I wrote and I sang, so that's a first for me.
Right now the band is in top form, in good health and everyone is getting along. But you never know how long it'll last with these guys.
"I hate to make any predictions because it's always been a very volatile atmosphere," says Hamilton, "but we're all set up for the rest of this year with a bunch of touring, and I think we're all really looking forward to it."
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