SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — In a performance important to host MGM Springfield, Aerosmith’s “Deuces Are Wild” tour arrived at the MassMutual Center on Wednesday night with a game effort by the Bad Boys of Boston and a high-tech spectacle of video, flashing lights and chest-pounding sound.
Defying their age (Steven Tyler is 71 but acts a lot younger) and some previous lifestyle choices, the Tyler-fronted band attacked hits such as “Rag Doll” and “Livin’ on the Edge” with abandon and enthusiasm.
The tour began with a residency in Las Vegas in April, continued in June and July before moving to MGM National Harbor, the Borgata in Atlantic City and now a four-date gig at the former Springfield Civic Center (also Saturday, Monday and Thursday), with tickets running from $89 to $253-plus.
Entertainment-challenged MGM Springfield (which has a summer patio band space but no big, live theater under its roof) needs these kinds of big-ticket events to forge its reputation as a resort in the region, so this has been the biggest booking to date for MGM.
There are pluses and minuses to the concerts set in a small-city environment. There’s free parking at the casino, but then you have to walk up the street to the entrance of the 8,000-seat venue (fewer seats for this concert configuation). The walk is short enough, but it wasn’t pleasant for folks about 15 minutes after we did it when a cloudburst had guys in the men’s room trying to dry their clothes and hair near the hand dryers.
The front stage juts out into the crowd, which this night was a mixed demo of boomers, middle-aged fans, younger ones and arguably kids too young for Aerosmith’s punky edge. At about the time you’d expect the concert to start, there is a 34-minute countdown clock with a half-hour bio video about Aerosmith, formed 49 years ago on the other side of I-90 in Boston. Much of the crowd wasn’t paying a lot of attention to the words, artwork and old photos (the F-word gratuitously sprinkled into the graphics for effect).
From the floor seats, the THX-certified immersive sound (using a version of the Vegas theater’s L-ISA Hyperreal sound array of 200-plus speakers) was at times awesome and other times muddy and assaulting, especially when sets of house lights blared at the crowd (sunglasses will help), but hardcore fans seemed pretty happy with the mix of light and sound during even lesser-known tunes. And the occasional laser-light flurry is definitely an element of spectacle.
Even casual fans, meanwhile, ate up the rock classics “Crying,” “Livin’ on the Edge,” “Sweet Emotion” and (in the encore) “Dream On” and “Walk This Way” — all played with panache by Tyler (with his raspy growls and howls intact), guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer.
A bluesy segment featuring Joe Perry was one of my favorites, as he led a cover of the Fleetwood Mac song “Stop Messin’ Around” that included solos on guitar, sax, keyboards and harmonica.
Moments like that made me pine for cleaner, simpler moments of sound, but to the standing legions on this opening night that might not do. Aerosmith is a fiery, loud, fist-pumping fusion of rock and flashing lights, and “Deuces Are Wild” delivers the flash.