LAS VEGAS — Ever since Celine Dion first basked under an onstage rain shower at Caesars Palace in 2011, the long-held notion that Las Vegas residencies equated to the twilight of a career evaporated.
While Dion will wrap her insanely successful run Saturday, after more than 2 million people flocked to the Colosseum to witness her live spectacle, her trailblazing will live on (and on).
Artists ranging from Cher and Lady Gaga to Gwen Stefani and Bruno Mars continue to camp out on the Las Vegas Strip for extended periods. Janet Jackson launched her "Metamorphosis" show at Park MGM last month and the Backstreet Boys afforded 30-somethings the final chance for a Vegas squeal-a-thon in April — evidence of the musical merry-go-round that now identifies as strongly with Las Vegas as Cirque du Soleil.
But the outlier among the polished pop acts is Aerosmith.
The steadfast quintet kicked off their "Deuces Are Wild" residency at the Park Theater at Park MGM in April and will play pockets of shows at the 5,200-capacity venue — outfitted in THX sound specifically for their performances — through December (as with other artists under the MGM banner, such as Cher, they'll bring their rock pageant to East Coast casinos this summer as well).
Aerosmith isn't the only rock band taking a gamble in Las Vegas. Journey will visit the renovated Colosseum for a stretch in October and Def Leppard hunkered down at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in 2013 and returns for a dozen concerts at the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino starting Aug. 14.
But Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Joey Kramer, Brad Whitford and Tom Hamilton (augmented by a percussionist and keyboardist) are seizing Las Vegas with a mixture of grit and movie ballads, druggy '70s-era guitar slashing and MTV-dominating anthems.
They are rock pioneers triumphing in a new environment.
Even the pre-show, a countdown of 30-plus minutes (what, did you think a rock band was going to take a Vegas stage at the unholy early hour of 8 p.m.?) is a customized marvel: documentary-style interviews with the band — audio only — play as jagged screens blare vintage video (every THX-infused rumble fully experienced) and groovy animations, such as the Al Hirschfeld cartoon from the Draw the Line cover squiggling alive, attempt to captivate a restless audience.
There is a touch of Cirque oddity as characters, including the fembot from the Just Push Play album jacket and the large-headed "Nine Lives" cat, playfully engage with fans as the clock ticks down.
But once the Beantown Boys rise from behind the stage, shrouded by a Godzilla-size Aerosmith logo, and Kramer rolls out the snare drum to their live classic, "Train Kept A-Rollin,'" the rush is relentless.
Tyler, who will usually bare his glistening, age-defying six-pack and be clad in some assortment of fedoras, floor-length coats, pajama pants and scarves, hits the V-shaped catwalk like an athlete. Performing is his catnip, and even at 71, he exudes sinewy sexiness as he gallops up ramps and skitters downstairs.
The stage is flanked by onstage seating — Tyler and Perry pay ample attention to fans who spit out more than a grand for the privilege — and those in the standing-room-only pit are treated to handslaps and microphone dunks from the veteran frontman.
While the casual Aerosmith admirer might bristle at the exclusions of "Janie's Got a Gun," "Rag Doll," "Jaded," "What It Takes" and other radio fare, understand that while fans crave hits (and there are plenty in the 16-song set list), a residency is also an opportunity to go deep — and Aerosmith complies.
The Toxic Twins perch at the edge of the catwalk with a harmonica and guitar primed for blues and roll through "Hangman Jury" — which they resurrected live in 2007 — and "Seasons of Wither," enjoying each other's company and foot-stomping as casually as if chilling on a back porch. There is even a dive into Fleetwood Mac's 1968 blues burner, "Stop Messin' Round."
But still, the fit Perry delivers an extended virtuoso solo on a lasers-packed "Sweet Emotion" and Tyler's barely diminished voice tackles midtempo material ("Kings and Queens") and his trademark shrieks (everything else) with equal potency.
The prescient "Livin' on the Edge" is a highlight and the polarizing "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" — Aerosmith's biggest pop hit — is accompanied by a string quartet, summoned from beneath the stage for a few minutes of crowd swooning.
But the show reaches its zenith with a pyro-infested "Toys in the Attic," which also includes an airborne hodgepodge of inflatable bears and elephants, and the swampy Stax swagger of "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)."
Encores of "Dream On" and "Walk This Way" are the most indicative of Aerosmith's surroundings, with ramps, balloons and piano-hopping injecting the show with an extra jolt of excess.
With "Deuces Are Wild," Aerosmith has deftly balanced arena bombast — in a venue a quarter of the size of their usual environs — with their grimy roots.
There is impressive stagecraft — swirling lights, shifting video panels, KISS-esque flames. But, as any Aerosmith devotee knows, the real show comes from the delivery, which the band unleashes with fiery gusto.
Weekend on 06/06/2019
Print Headline: Aerosmith turns casino theater into rocking arena