AEROSMITH: DEUCES ARE WILD Continues April 11, 13, 16, 18, 21, 23 & 26, 8 p.m., $69+. Park Theater, 702-730-7777.
Aerosmith solidified its claim as one of the biggest rock bands in history with its late-'80s resurgence, skyrocketing the band into pop stardom for the next 30 years. On Saturday, April 6, the Bad Boys from Boston got back in the saddle, albeit a bit slowly, kicking off the grand opening of their Las Vegas Deuces Are Wild residency at Park MGM.
The crowd was at a fever pitch before the show, but the excitement slowly died out after a video montage that played for 45 minutes. The film, which spliced images and graphics with audio of the band’s songs and interviews, seemed like something that should play while attendees find their seats and grab drinks; instead, it tested the patience of people who paid big bucks to see a legendary band in the flesh.
Eventually the quintet ascended to the stage under a giant, winged letter "A" logo, the single word “Aerosmith” emblazoned in thick metal—but the show started off almost as slowly as the rainforest time-lapse that had been playing minutes prior. The band opened with “Train Kept A-Rollin'," which sounded great but far too slow to kick off an evening already off to a sluggish start. On a positive note, from the moment frontman Steven Tyler began singing, it was clear the 71-year-old’s vocals remain rich and strong, and also loud and pitch-perfect when the song calls for it, like on his signature “Baaaack!” shriek during “Back in the Saddle.”
Aerosmith has always been self-indulgent—many of the band's songs clock in around the five-minute mark—and they didn’t steer away from that during the show. Deeper cut “Kings and Queens” marked a change in the set, utilizing a live, behind-the-scenes string section (which later made two onstage appearances for “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and “Dream On”), piano solos and lots of pyro. "Kings and Queens," which dabbles in proggy chamber-rock, felt powerful and epic with the accompanying strings, emboldening Joe Perry and Brad Whitford’s robust guitars.
“What the f*ck are you sitting down for?” Tyler yelled into the mic before heading into 1975 favorite “Sweet Emotion." "Trust me, we’re all getting laid tonight, so stand the f*ck up!"
Despite the lasers, animated videos and fancy pyrotechnics, Deuces Are Wild isn’t a glitzy or glammy show. It’s a straightforward rock concert that, in the beginning, finds the band grasping to command the giant Park Theater stage. Given the presence of the circus-like performers that roamed the stands before the show, I hoped Aerosmith would use acrobats to give the show some Vegas-y zeal. Alas, they did not. Also, for the first handful of songs, the screens weren't utilized, making it hard to focus on the band below if you weren’t in the pit.
An intimate moment helped break up the pace when Tyler and Perry performed Permanent Vacation cut "Hangman Jury" and “Seasons of Wither” from Get Your Wings, featuring Tyler’s impressive harmonica playing and even better-sounding vocals. It was a risky move to come out the gate with the group’s lesser-known songs and follow them with a paired-down acoustic bit, but it actually worked in their favor. Though Perry and Tyler look like they’re competing in a Jack Sparrow look-alike contest, they riffed off each other’s energy, harnessing that power into something the entire crowd could feel.
Eventually, the band started churning out hit after hit, from a live-album worthy rendition of “Cryin'" to “Living on the Edge,” complete with a video that featured the Women’s March and protests with signs like “Make racists embarrassed again,” alongside clips of natural disasters and militarized police. The video was a bold move given Aerosmith’s largely older audience, though Tyler did send President Trump a cease-and-desist letter for using Aerosmith songs at his rallies in 2018.
The string quartet, featuring Vegas musicians Sarah Chaffee, Jennifer Hellewell, Jennifer Lynn and Monique Olivas, arrived onstage during the band’s performance of 1998 Armageddon soundtrack hit “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing,” appearing inside the band’s logo and adding depth to the song. An energetic rendition of “Dude Looks Like a Lady” closed the main set before the band returned for an encore, first with Tyler seated at the piano for "Dream On" and then “Walk This Way,” in which Tyler and Perry climbed a giant horizontal walkway that stretched high into the center of the theater.
For the most part, the show flowed in chronological order, beginning with Aerosmith's rough-and-tumble early days in the '70s to the band's star-studded '90s commercial heyday. After a lackluster start, the new Las Vegas residents successfully regained their footing, not unlike the group's personal trajectory. Casual consumers of Aerosmith’s discography might not love the setlist or production, but for die-hards, the Deuces Are Wild residency is certainly worth betting on.