Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 4, 2015)
Now 45 years into their existence, who would’ve believed that Aerosmith would still be together in 2015 – and with all the original members still involved? Given the excesses of their youths, who would’ve believed all five original members would be alive in 2015, much less active?
Still on the road, Aerosmith headlined one day of the hard rock-oriented Download Festival at England’s Donington Park. As expected, the band’s 20-song setlist represents a mix of eras, though it emphasizes the older material. 2012’s Music from Another Dimension! - Aerosmith’s first album of new material since 2001’s Just Push Play - provides only one song: “Freedom Fighter”, which also becomes the sole moment in which guitarist Joe Perry gets to take a lead vocal.
Otherwise it’s all Steven Tyler and all hits. “Dream On” and “Mama Kin” come from the band’s self-titled 1973 debut, and 1974’s Get Your Wings offers “Same Old Song and Dance” and “Train Kept A-Rollin’”.
1975’s classic Toys in the Attic brings us “Walk This Way”, “Sweet Emotion”, “No More No More” and the title song, while 1976’s Rocks - another classic – offers “Last Child” and “Home Tonight”. Our last effort from the 1970s comes via Aerosmith’s cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together”; it originally appeared on the soundtrack to 1978’s ill-fated Sgt. Pepper’s movie.
From there we leap all the way to 1987’s big comeback album Permanent Vacation, as it brings us “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)”. 1989’s even more successful Pump delivers “Love In an Elevator” and “Janie’s Got A Gun”.
As we round out the band’s discography, 1993’s Get A Grip provides “Eat the Rich”, “Livin’ on the Edge” and “Cryin’”. 1998’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” comes from the Armageddon soundtrack, and “Jaded” – the band’s last hit single – stems from the aforementioned Just Push Play.
Though the set obviously favors the 70s, it seems fairly well-balanced. Aerosmith enjoyed a pretty nice resurgence in the late 80s through the late 90s, and Donington represents that reasonably well.
Does the DVD show a band with much left to give, though? Yeah, I think it does. No one expects Aerosmith circa 2014 to be the same band they were 40 – or even 20 – years ago. Ala the Stones or the Who, they exist mostly to tour behind their oldies. When an otherwise active band takes 11 years between original albums, that’s a sign they’re not going to be much of a creative force.
But I have no problem with Aerosmith’s choice to remain active on the road, even as a quote-unquote “oldies band”. While I think it’d be good if they tried to stay more relevant musically, if they want to enjoy the fruits of their labor and entertain people with their ample catalog of songs, I say they should go for it.
Especially if they can continue to play well. I won’t call Donington a great performance, but I think it’s a good one. Steven Tyler still musters mostly solid vocals, and other than occasional hiccups, the band sounds fine. They crank through the set with energy and enthusiasm.
As a concert, I like Donington, but as a video presentation, it loses points due to visual choices. Apparently directors Dick Carruthers and Jeff Claire thought Aerosmith lacked the flair they wanted, so they went nuts with the editing. Donington cuts like there’s no tomorrow, and this occurs during the vast majority of the program. The rapid-fire editing makes it tough to really absorb the performance and it becomes a distraction.
Despite that issue, I still like Donington. It shows Aerosmith in good form and turns into a mostly entertaining run through their catalog.