‘Deuces are Wild,’ and so is Aerosmith’s opening-night show

Updated April 7, 2019 - 6:18 pm

Steven Tyler is a serious Beatles fan. He’s been known to play the band’s music almost continually in his dressing room, alternating so he can rock to the Rolling Stones.

Not surprisingly, Tyler has seen “Love,” the Beatles/Cirque du Soleil show at The Mirage many times. He’s paid attention to that show, envisioning how Aerosmith would evolve from its long and treasured history as a rock band into something, well … more produced.

It’s not a simple concept; Tyler’s co-pilot and yin to his yang, Joe Perry, is as orthodox a rock star as you will find. Just load the van, lumber to the next gig and plug in.

We have finally, after 49 years, arrived at where those sensibilities meet.

“Deuces are Wild” is the first Aerosmith production of its kind. Saturday night’s opening of the 34-show series at Park Theater provided Tyler a platform for a fancy production and Perry a stage to destroy the place on guitar.

Even Giles Martin, who reimagined his father, George’s, original Beatles tracks for “Love,” has been installed as a music-production consultant. Director Amy Tinkham (who has worked with Paul McCartney and soon-to-be Colosseum headliner James Taylor) and producer Steve Dixon (who has teamed with Guns N’ Roses and Justin Timberlake) are also on board.

The result is a visually impressive showcase that envelops the band’s best-known songs, with “Back in the Saddle,” “Dream On,” “Sweet Emotion,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and “Cryin’” all performed in the 90-minute show. The video panels, 140 feet wide and 40 feet high, bring fans right into the performers’ faces. The band’s familiar logo looms over the production. Tyler’s white grand piano, produced on a lift in the middle of the theater, is outfitted with a staircase so his buddy can climb aboard.

Exploring the theater, the band has installed a ramp connecting the stage to the upper-mezzanine level, above the entire floor section and VIP booths, as Tyler and Perry saunter up and back during the climactic “Walk This Way.” The band further embraces production value with strolling performers on stilts and in spandex, Cirque-styled costumes as part of the show’s walk-in, environmental entertainment.

But the band’s rock-club roots are not lost, as their original touring van recently reclaimed on the TV show “American Pickers” is showcased in the lobby. An uber-VIP package takes guests on an underground museum tour of the band’s vintage costumes, instruments, concert posters, even a battle-scarred stage logo from the early 1970s that looks like it’s been through a military action.

Also, in an unexpected move, the band is offering stage seating on either side of the performance, where you are placed right next to the music. I was in one of these seats Saturday, as ticket-holders are given iPods to listen to the same audio feed as the band, or the one used expressly by Tyler (this means Aerosmith is not only allowing phones into the show, but actually loaning out devices to add to the experience).

So, you can listen through Tyler’s “in-ear” monitor feed that musicians have come to use commonly, and you can hear the frontman calling out such directives as, “Cut the feedback!” and “More, Joe!” as a way to address the sound mix during the show.

Of course, these sections are also straight in Tyler’s path as he moves around the stage. He grooved up to our row and was about engulfed by fans. One woman actually pulled at his hair; Tyler wheeled around and hugged her for that brazen move.

The band is presenting these seats as the greatest opportunity to see a legendary rock ‘n’ roll band in a club-style setting, and it is hard to argue that. In Vegas clubs, best comparison is a larger-scale version of the “VIP” seats at stage left of Sand Dollar Lounge.

They are not cheap, of course — the couple behind me paid $700 a seat for theirs, and had seen double that amount on ticket-broker sites. It’s because these seats will become known as a place to be for rock residency shows.

The performance, as a whole, did present some questions and areas to address. The lead-in video and accompanying live performance for the acrobats went on for 30 minutes. Many fans arrived expecting the show to start with the band. Not so. The biographical video and live performers are utilized for fans just arriving to their seats, not as the thrust of the performance (the band is expected to start its performance at about 8:30 p.m.; Saturday they began playing at about 8:45).

Expect a break between that video, and the atmospheric performance, and the actual kick-off to the concert. Generally, the production should tighten through its run. The band, certainly, is motivated and hitting this residency with all of its collective energy.

Early on, the 71-year-old Tyler spotted a couple sitting in the second row of the front section.

“What are you sitting down for?” he shouted, tossing in the requisite profanity. “Get up! This is Vegas! We’re all going to get (lucky) tonight!” Later, he reminded the front sections to move close to him, as if explaining he would not bite.

“Get up here,” he demanded. “Y’all can move closer!”

Tyler wants “Deuces are Wild” to work, maybe well enough to even add dates next year. This is the band’s sit-down show, a blazing adaptation of its career story. It’s not exactly “Love,” but it’s rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s distinctly Aerosmith.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts.Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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