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Jeff Moehlis: Dreaming On with Aerosmith at Santa Barbara Bowl

Singer Steven Tyler was full of energy as Aerosmith performed its first-ever Santa Barbara concert on Tuesday at the Bowl.
Singer Steven Tyler was full of energy as Aerosmith performed its first-ever Santa Barbara concert on Tuesday at the Bowl. (Mike Eliason / Noozhawk photo)

Those of us lucky/wealthy enough to catch Aerosmith at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Tuesday night had a rockin' good time as they revisited classics of yesteryear and hits from their 1980s comeback and beyond.

I'd bet my Boston baked beans that this show — the band's first-ever concert in Santa Barbara — will be remembered as the highlight of the packed 2015 Bowl season.

As the audience slowly accumulated, the evening began with a spirited set by Living Colour, featuring Vernon Reid's guitar heroics and Corey Glover's powerful vocals.

The highlight came at the end with their hard-hitting song "Cult of Personality," which had Glover singing his way through the audience and even posing with fans for photos. Other great blasts from the past were "Glamour Boys" (which also drew Glover out into the audience), "Open Letter (to a Landlord)" and "Type."

Aerosmith kicked off with "Let the Music Do the Talking," and the music was talking loud, proud and with a big dose of swagger. Singer Steven Tyler was full of energy right out of the gate, with flowing hair and clothes, hamming it up to the video cameras that projected onto the jumbotron behind the stage, and with what guitarist Joe Perry later referred to as the "biggest mouth in the land," belting it out.

Perry himself reeked of rock-'n'-roll cool as he played an incredible collection of guitars — including one with a picture of his wife, Billie, painted on it — in front of a wall of Marshall stacks. The rest of the band — fellow classic lineup members Brad Whitford (guitar), Tom Hamilton (bass) and Joey Kramer (drums), plus Buck Johnson (keyboards, backing vocals) — was less in-your-face, but just as crucial.

The first half of the concert focused more on the band's newer material — where "newer" here means only two to three decades old rather than four — such as "Love in an Elevator," the power ballad "Cryin'," "Livin' on the Edge" and "Rag Doll."

Aerosmith
Steven Tyler added his signature style to Tuesday's concert. (Mike Eliason / Noozhawk photo)

With the notable exceptions of the power ballad "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" and the glam-rocker-inspired "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)," the second half of the concert was all about the 1970s, the era of the band's creative prime exemplified by the concert's last three songs: The raunchy, riff-driven "Walk This Way" closed the main set and got a shout-out to super-producer Rick Rubin who was in the audience and spearheaded the pioneering remake of the song with Run D.M.C., which rejuvenated Aerosmith's career in the 1980s.

Personal Aerosmith favorite "Dream On" started with just Tyler at a white grand piano, and later had Perry and Tyler taking turns standing on the piano while the performed for added drama. Tyler didn't shy away from the high notes, and the song ended with a bang courtesy of jets of white smoke.

Finally, "Sweet Emotion" rocked with all those great elements that made it a hit — the bass underpinning, Perry's talk box guitar, Tyler's dismissive lyrics. Here Perry took a few minutes for a guitar freak-out before the song and show ended with more jets of smoke and confetti.

It may have taken Aerosmith over four decades to make it to Santa Barbara, but when they did they gave us a show that we'll be remembering for a long, long time.

Setlist

Let the Music Do the Talking
Love In an Elevator
Cryin'
Jaded
Last Child
Livin' On the Edge
Toys In the Attic
Drum Solo
Rag Doll
Stop Messin' Around (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Mama Kin
I Don't Want to Miss a Thing
Movin' Out
Walkin' the Dog (Rufus Thomas cover)
No More No More
Dude (Looks Like a Lady)
Walk This Way

Encore

Home Tonight (partial)
Dream On
Sweet Emotion

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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