How Joe Perry Overcame Worries About Aerosmith’s Vegas Residency
Joe Perry admits he expected Aerosmith's on-going Las Vegas residency to bore him. The guitarist said he was eventually won over by the show's new production elements; he also relishes the opportunity to prove themselves night after night.
“Finally, it got to a point where we didn't feel like doing another album, and we wanted to do something different,” Perry told Billboard. “This seemed like the natural thing. … And we said, ‘look, if we're going to go in and do it, let's do it in a way no one has for a rock band. Let's bring in that production.’ We wanted to take a giant step beyond that.”
The Deuces are Wild shows find Aerosmith extending their lineup to include additional musicians, delivering songs from throughout their career after an opening film that explores their history in a way that Perry says has left some fans in tears.
“You're immersed in Aerosmith's world when you come to this show, and that's the difference," he said. "It was important to us to maintain the hardcore, garage-band feel of what Aerosmith is and try to bring in the big-show element of a Las Vegas show.” He said the onscreen action, especially the opening film, was the “most important” part of the production.
“When we showed that film the first couple times, people were actually crying in the audience," Perry added. They were saying, "'I remember them when they played there!’ or, ‘I remember when I first heard that song,’ or whatever.”
Watch Aerosmith Perform on Opening Night in Vegas
The guitarist admitted: “Every night I just hold my breath. I thought I was going to be bored doing this by now, the way everybody was talking about it. You know, ‘You don't have to travel every day; it's all automated, the lights, moving stuff.’ Well the bottom line is, when we go out there, it's a new audience and it's like a whole different show. … You have to go out there and win them over. If you have a night where everything was great, you still gotta do another great one tomorrow. You gotta try. You're always starting from zero every time you walk out there. So, that part is exciting. Frankly, I haven't been bored yet.”
Producer Jack Douglas, whose connection with Aerosmith goes back to the early ‘70s, said the band rehearsed more for this Vegas residency than they had for any other performance. “Sometimes they don’t even rehearse. After 50 years, what do you need to rehearse?” Douglas told the Bob Lefsetz Podcast. Despite that attention to detail, he added, “the first show was slightly fucked up. I think they were over-rehearsed and Steven [Tyler] was thinking more about what could go wrong with all this production.”
Douglas attended the final run-throughs in Boston before Aerosmith moved to a pre-production location near the 5,200-seat Park Theater at the Park MGM Hotel and Casino, where 18 shows had originally been booked. He said his major contribution to the show was talking the musical director out of using click tracks to keep the extended band together.
“There’s no click that can identify the groove on some of those old songs like ‘Same Old Song & Dance’ or ‘Mama Kin’ or ‘Back in the Saddle,'" Douglas said. "The whole idea of those songs is that they’re gonna move – they’re gonna move up in the chorus then they’re gonna move back down for the verse. You can’t put a click on them. And when he tried to, it was very uncomfortable, and the band … looked like they were laboring through the songs.”
Watch Aerosmith Rehearse for the Las Vegas Residency
Asked whether Tyler and Perry were getting along well together at present, the producer replied: “Not really.” Douglas added: “I’ve often thought about what keeps a band together for 50 years. … You know what’s keeping them together? The idea at the back of their heads that one day they’re gonna get Steven. But they never do. … ‘One day I’m just gonna get him. Well, I didn’t today but I’ll get him tomorrow.’ And this has gone on for 50 years!”
However, Douglas continued: “There’s still some humility and gratefulness. These are working-class guys, not the greatest musicians. … You take okay people with a lot of character and you put them together, and they make a special noise together. They’re amateurs and they just make a really cool noise together.” He singled out Tyler’s ability to engage fans, reflecting: “I don’t know whether it’s someone told him ‘always be good to your fan base’ … or it’s a natural thing, he just loves people. The only people he doesn’t love being with are the ones in his band!”
Despite Perry’s enthusiasm about the opening movie, Douglas predicted it might disappear from later versions of the show. “I think people are complaining, ‘too much film, not enough music,’” Douglas said. Another change might be the inclusion of “Deuces are Wild,” Perry said. Despite giving the show its name, the Pump-era song is not currently on the set list.
“[W]e didn't know who was going to be in the audience, what was going to be the demographic, and we certainly wanted to give the audience what they want,” Perry explained. “So, we really pulled out all the big guns and played all the popular songs that we've played over the years. The next leg I know we'll be switching it up, bringing more of the old album cuts we get requests for all the time. ‘Deuces are Wild’ is one of the songs we've rehearsed all the time but somehow never play it. I gotta think, the next one we're gonna have it in the show. I really like it, and every time we play it in the meet and greet, I look at Steven and he looks at me and we go, ‘We gotta play this song.’ It's definitely at the top of the list of the next round.”
The first run of Las Vegas shows began on April 6 and will continue through July 9. Aerosmith goes elsewhere before returning to the Park MGM Hotel and Casino between Sept. 21 and Dec. 4. Updated concert information can be found on Aerosmith's website.
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