Steven Tyler Brings History of Rock to Ryman Auditorium
Steven Tyler doesn't try to hide it: he's a rocker in a country music world. The Aerosmith frontman brought hit songs, cover songs and songs from his just released We're All Somebody From Somewhere album to Nashville's Ryman Auditorium on Wednesday night (Aug. 17). It was the two-hour show you'd expect from musical gypsy, which is to say everything was unexpected.
He played the hits — "Sweet Emotion" opened the set and "Walk This Way" closed it, until he returned for two encores — but the Loving Mary Band isn't Aerosmith, and they were at their best when they didn't try to be. Even if Tyler had called in sick, this motley collection of country and rock musicians would be worth the ticket price. They inject new bohemian energy into songs fans have listened to for decades. "Cryin'" was familiar, but not the same song you fell in love in 1993.
"Sweet Emotion" featured a full horn section. If you ever wondered how a tuba would sound on this 40-year-old Aerosmith classic, this was your night to find out. Near the end, Tyler transitioned seamlessly into "The Battle of New Orleans" (You know, the Johnny Horton song that goes "In 1814 I took a little trip ..."). Versatile undersells what Tyler does on stage. Rock, blues, R&B, country, western swing ... he borrows from all over to create a show that's uniquely him.
The horn section was again featured prominently on "We're All Somebody From Somewhere." Vocalist and Loving Mary harmonica player Suzie McNeil leaned into Tyler during this song, sharing a microphone as he transitioned into Sly and the Family Stone's "Thank You." Their chemistry is captivating, each encounter feeling spontaneous and honest. Tyler wisely returned to her several times through the show, but also played with the drummer and his guitarist, frequent Aerosmith collaborator Marti Frederiksen.
A moment later (during the Beatles' "Oh Darling") Tyler moved his hips in a way that would make Luke Bryan fans turn away from their favorite denim-clad singer. Some very impure thoughts were racing through minds of many women standing attentively inside the mother church of country music. Tyler moves like a man half his age, and while he's not reaching as many high notes as he once did, he's still capable of pulling down quite a few.
Throughout it all, Tyler told his story, often transitioning with "And then ..."
"And then there was this hippie from San Francisco," he said before his Janis Joplin tribute. Loving Mary Band's Rebecca Lynn Howard joined him for "Mercedes Benz" before he began "Piece of My Heart," a song he covers on his solo album.
"And then I was in New Hampshire ..." he said, explaining how Aerosmith formed. That's not an exact quote, but it's how he made his way from Joplin to "Rattlesnake Shake," a song he says was the one that started it all for the band.
"Thank God for Joe Perry," he exclaimed convincingly. He's talking about how he was out of work when Perry invited him to see his band's show one night.
"Jaded" came next. More songs from the solo album followed, including the Eric Paslay co-written "Love Is Your Name." Paslay stood in the balcony and raised a drink when Tyler mentioned him. He high-fived friends and family when the song — one Tyler says started his country journey — finished.
At times the Aerosmith songs stayed too true to the original versions. After an experimental introduction "Dream On" felt tentative, the talented band holding back the energy they injected early on. A great show lost a little luster toward the end, but what song do you choose for an encore to follow "Walk This Way"?
Tyler went with his nuevo version of "Janie's Got a Gun" (complete with a Middle Eastern-inspired introduction) and a new ballad called "Only Heaven." The Grand Ole Opry dancers were delightful, but a sharp left turn that gave "unexpected" a new definition. As the crowd filed out, Tyler returned again, bringing his band to the front of the stage to perform "It Ain't Easy," another new song from We're All Somebody From Somewhere. To some extent, he was playing to cameras present to film the show for a TBD broadcast, DVD or digital release. Live it was somewhat anti-climatic, but one can easily see how the raw acoustic ensemble will give goosebumps on screen.
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See Photos of Steven Tyler's Set at WE Fest in August