CHICAGO -- When Steven Tyler sings that “we’re all somebody from somewhere,” people can always relate.
But nobody more so than Tyler himself. Because the somewhere he’s from is like no other.
Where he’s from is Aerosmith. A place where a rainbow of scarves adorns on the mic stand, raspy vocals and harmonica fill the air, and classic tunes still sound just as good as they did in the ‘70s.
Even though Tyler’s Chicago Theatre show on Saturday (Aug. 13) was meant to coincide with the release of his solo country album, this show was just as much Aerosmith as it was Nashville.
After opening with a couple Aerosmith hits, “Sweet Emotion” and “Cryin’,” Tyler admitted he’d been watching the fans fill in the seats earlier in the night and was surprised that the crowd at a sold-out show could be so quiet.
But that was before he took the stage.
“This is beautiful,” he said of the welcoming screams. “Ain’t quiet no more, is it?”
As he wandered through a thorough set of Aerosmith hits, he seamlessly wove in a handful of his country songs and the story of how he wound up making that kind of Music City music.
“We were at the Bluebird, at a little table in the middle, and we did ‘Jaded’ and ‘Dream On.’ Then this girl on the left, Lord have mercy, she sang the shit out of this song,” Tyler said of hearing Lindsey Lee perform “Love Is Your Name.”
“I thought, ‘Let me see what my voice would sound like inside that song,’” he said.
Other tunes he played off his We’re All Somebody From Somewhere album, besides the title track and Lee’s song, included "I Make My Own Sunshine," "Red, White & You" and “My Own Worst Enemy,” with Suzie McNeil shining on accordion.
But for the Aerosmith fans in the crowd, Tyler had stories for them, too. Even if they’d heard them all before.
“It was ’69, and I was up in Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire, mowing the lawn. I’d broken up with all my bands, and I thought it was the end of me,” he recalled. “But up comes an MG, and Joe Perry is driving, and he said his band was playing and that I should come up and see him. I did, and as I see it, in my humble opinion, they were god-awful. For real.”
Something convinced him that Perry’s Jam Band was worthy of a second chance, though, because a year after that show, Aerosmith was born.
“And I've made it through the music industry unscathed. Bullshit, right? Wanna see my scars,” he said as he pretended to take off his billowy stars-and-stripes blouse and unzip his tight jeans.
Close to the end of his 90-minute show, he finally sat down at the white grand piano onstage.
“Just try and keep me away from this piano,” Tyler said as he started the intro to “Dream On,” from the band’s 1973 debut album. The song, he’s said before, came from lying under his piano at home and listening to his father -- a Juilliard-trained musician -- play classical music.
Tyler didn't have an opening act, but he was backed all night by Loving Mary, the six-man band (four are actually women) made up of Marti Frederiksen, Andrew Mactaggart, Sarah Tomek, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Elisha Hoffman, and McNeil. Saturday’s show had the added bonus of fiddler Jenee Fleenor, who had the night off from playing in Blake Shelton’s band.
“One of the secrets to Aerosmith music was the diversity, breaking out in all different directions,” Tyler explained mid-show.
Between the Beatles covers, the Janis Joplin covers, his new country tunes, his old rock tunes, and even a few seconds of "My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua, Hawaii" with Tyler on the ukulele, it’s safe to say that diversity is still the secret.