By Chris M. Junior
Some concert bills make more sense than others. And given the parallel career arcs of Aerosmith and Cheap Trick — 1970s arena-level stardom, early 1980s personnel changes, mid-late 1980s original lineup reunions and commercial success — plus their deep catalogs of muscular hard rock, the Global Warming Tour might be the closest thing there is right now to a no-brainer billing.
Another shared trait between Aerosmith and Cheap Trick is they always seem to deliver the goods in concert, and their Nov. 23 show at the Revel casino in Atlantic City, N.J., was no exception. With a capacity of just 5,500, Revel’s Ovation Hall provided the intimacy of a theater show, yet the venue could accommodate the stage production of a tour that’s been hitting major sports arenas across North America.
Whether opening or headlining, Cheap Trick can be counted on to play “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender” at some point, and animated guitarist Rick Nielsen will inevitably shower the audience with his custom picks. Cheap Trick did all of that during its 13-song opening set, which also included the chart hits “The Flame,” “Dream Police” and “If You Want My Love.”
But for hardcore Cheap Trick fans, the real treat in concert is the band’s choice of beloved album tracks and rarities. And on this night, the selections included “California Man” and “On Top of the World” (both from 1978’s “Heaven Tonight”) along with “Sick Man of Europe” (from 2009’s “The Latest”), plus the B-side “I Know What I Want” (sung by bassist Tom Petersson). Daxx Nielsen, Cheap Trick’s touring drummer since 2010 (and Rick’s son), was successful at balancing Bun E. Carlos’ signature fills (especially on “Ain’t That a Shame”) with his own flourishes. And as for Robin Zander, he can still belt ’em out with conviction — and, by all appearances, in the songs’ original keys.
The same can be said of Aerosmith’s frontman, Steven Tyler, who with guitarist Joe Perry emerged from underneath the extended portion of the stage for the opener, “Mama Kin.” There would be more songs from Aerosmith’s 1973 self-titled debut album, and two of them were played back to back early on: the bluesy “Movin’ Out” (which Tyler introduced as the first song he and Perry wrote together) and the funky “Walkin’ the Dog” (originally done by R&B legend Rufus Thomas).
Unlike Cheap Trick, Aerosmith was plugging a new album (the recently released “Music From Another Dimension!”), and the band worked two new songs into its set (“Oh Yeah” and “Lover Alot”). But prompting the biggest cheers were the big chart hits from Aerosmith’s late 1980s rebirth and beyond: tight, precise versions of “Love in an Elevator,” “Livin’ on the Edge,” “Rag Doll,” “What It Takes” and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).”
Whether singing a ballad or a rocker, Tyler was a constant source of expression and movement (which reached a high point during “Walk This Way”), and both his hair and the scarves on his microphone stand were in a steady swirl around him. Perry regularly worked the stage, too, while fellow guitarist Brad Whitford and bassist Tom Hamilton stayed rooted close to drummer Joey Kramer, their faces locked in concentration, but on occasion they flashed smiles, usually in response to a between-song comment by Tyler.
For Aerosmith’s encores, Tyler started out seated at a white piano, playing a snippet of “Home Tonight” before transitioning into “Dream On,” during which Perry, then Tyler, performed atop the instrument. As Tyler successfully hit the song’s piercing refrain toward the end, smoke erupted from the front of the stage, providing one of the best visuals of the night.
The Aerosmith/Cheap Trick Global Warming Tour continues Nov. 25 in Columbus, Ohio, followed by shows in Toronto (Nov. 27), Las Vegas (Dec. 1), Los Angeles (Dec. 3), New Orleans (Dec. 6), Sunrise, Fla. (Dec. 9), Tampa, Fla. (Dec. 11) and Nashville, Tenn. (Dec. 13).