Reviews of shows I've been to (and maybe you have too!)

Joe Perry Project @ Starland Ballroom (11/7/09)

What should you expect when seeing a side project? A bunch of songs from the main band with a few from the side project? No songs from the main band? Only lesser-known songs from the main band?  I was unsure what I would get from the Joe Perry Project. In preparation, I had listened to all of Joe Perry’s lead Aerosmith songs (Combination, Bright Light Fright, Walk On Down, Drop Dead Gorgeous), but being unfamiliar with his recordings with JPP, I was entering unknown territory. Before getting answers to these questions, I first had to put up with being entertained by the incredibly Cream-esque openers London Souls. Loud blaring guitar on top of a fantastic rhythm section (backed by a Ginger Baker clone on drums) made for a groovy opening 35-minute set. Hopefully a band I will hear more from in the future.

The show was prefaced by a swirl of rumors and reports that Steven Tyler had left Aerosmith, and that the rest of the band was intending to hire a new lead singer to carry on in his stead. However, the night before, Tyler had made a cameo appearance with JPP to perform “Walk This Way”, tending to silence the rumors. Though I hold out a minute hope that the same scene might repeat itself tonight, this thought is extinguished almost immediately as JPP made their entrance to somewhat muted applause (though I had my earplugs in so I may have missed out on some of the fervor). Joe Perry welcomed the crowd by complaining of his “long day”, and stating his wish to “just play some music”, pretty clear references to the Aerosmith drama. So this might be my best chance to see any version of the band for the conceivable future.

I was surprised to learn that Joe Perry was not the primary vocalist for the group, which instead went to a young Steven Tyler/Jon Bon Jovi clone. His half-assessed histrionics were his best feature, compared to his wailing, high-pitched shrieking. The band opened with “Let the Music Do the Talking”, a JPP song redone by Aerosmith that I slightly recognized, and a version of “Walkin’ the Dog”, which Aerosmith had done on their first album. This pattern of alternating between songs from JPP and Aerosmith would continue throughout the show. Thankfully, Joe indulged the true Aerosmith fans (such as myself) with deep cuts that included “Combination” and “Get the Lead Out”, while also throwing the mainstreamers a bone with more recognizable standards. Perry prefaced one of these songs describing an offer from a cruise company to play on the ship, but only if they played this particular song in a specific arrangement. Having turned the gig down, he then solicited the audience’s reception of the idea by kicking into a reggae-fied version of “Dream On”, the kind of alternate song performance I would love to see Aerosmith actually try. After the final note, he sent a barb towards Steven Tyler by claiming “they would never play that fucking song.” Guess those reconciliation rumors are dead.

Perry was clearly the main attraction for the audience, as all eyes focused on him, especially during solos. More disturbingly was the similar reaction from the rest of the band.  They were completely deferential, even intimidated, as none, other than occasionally the bass player, seemed comfortable playing side by side or even moving from their designated spots. Joe even made his way to the other side of the stage to play off the second guitarist, who quickly retreated, not wanting to share licks with the headliner. Joe took a few lead vocals, including on a couple of blues covers found on his JPP albums. Though the Starland Ballroom was less packed than usual, the crowd was into the show, if not in a frenzy. The only real energy came during the main set finale of “Toys in the Attic”, with some fine audience participation. The brief encore had one JPP song before ending with “Walk This Way” that finally satisfied the meatheads. In the bathroom afterwards, I overhead a guy complaining that “he didn’t play any Aerosmith songs other than that last one!” Though he was quickly corrected by a friend (before I had the chance), his response gave me the answer to my initial question.

Set List:

  1. Let The Music Do The Talking
  2. Walkin’ the Dog
  3. Long Way To Go
  4. Get The Lead Out
  5. Slingshot
  6. Rockin’ Train
  7. Head Kicked In
  8. Do You Wonder
  9. Dream On
  10. Vigilante Man
  11. East Coast, West Coast
  12. Scare The Cat
  13. Combination
  14. Toys in the Attic

Encore:

  1. Stop Messin’
  2. Walk This Way
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