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Aerosmith Still Living on the Edge at the Forum Concert Review

Back in 1997, Aerosmith released an album titled Nine Lives. Seventeen years later, the veteran quintet is still living those lives as one of the few bands from the '70s currently on the arena circuit with its original line-up still intact. The band most famously rose from the ashes of its late '70s flameout to come back more than a decade later as a video-ready hit machine thanks to Run-DMC, songwriters Desmond Child and Diane Warren, and video vixens Alicia Silverstone and Tyler's daughter, Liv.

Although the radio hits stopped coming shortly after the turn of the century, Aerosmith found a way to remain relevant this decade with Tyler appearing as a judge on American Idol and the rest of the band threatening to replace him for his lack of commitment.

Thankfully, that never happened, but the band released the long-delayed Music from Another Dimension! in 2012 with little notice, selling just 63,000 in its debut week. While indifference to the new material has left the band questioning if it will ever release new material again, Wednesday at the Forum Aerosmith played like a band with something to prove - its relevance.

The question remained, however, which Aerosmith would be on display - the gritty '70s rockers who provided an American alternative to Led Zeppelin's misty mountain hops or the '90s hit-makers who made some of their old fans cringe when they scored their first No. 1 hit with the Warren-penned power ballad "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"?
The answer, of course, was both. Yet after opening with mid-'70s staple "Back in the Saddle," the band quickly shifted gears to their '90s video era, with Tyler and Joe Perry striking wind-blown rock star poses in front of fans and the video cameras manned on stage that projected their images on the big-screen backdrop. When five songs into the set, the band did "Livin' on the Edge," it even had clips from the video projected on the screen along with the live performance. Tyler was strong in voice and the band played like a well-oiled machine, yet with the band concentrating on newer material - "newer" as in 20 years old rather than 35 or 40 - some of the older fans were bound to be disappointed.

That all changed seven songs in when the whipped out "Kings and Queens" from 1977's Draw the Line, the final complete album by the original line-up before it imploded. With Tyler's pleading vocals doubled by auxiliary keyboardist Buck Johnson, who also supplied the songs elegant piano runs, it gave the hardcore fans just what they were looking for. That was followed by rip-roaring take of "Toys in the Attic" that left Tyler's voice so shattered that mid-song he grabbed a bottle of water, which he quickly gulped and then held in front of his crotch before he unloaded over the crowd.

As Tyler put it, the band continued to alternate between "the old shit and the new shit," but there were a few missteps. "Monkey on My Back," a rock hit from 1989's Pump, isn't one of the band's best or best-known songs from that era and could have been replaced with a dozen of more worthy tunes. Even worse was "Freedom Fighter," a Perry-sung number from the last album about a veteran alienated by the government. Flashing the song's pedestrian lyrics only reminded us that Perry should follow his own advice and let the music do the talking. During the band's cover of the blues novelty "Big Ten Inch Record," Johnny Depp made one of his now obligatory guest shots on guitar, which have gone from a surprise to an expectation.

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