With membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, more than 150 million albums sold and status as one of the most consistent concert attractions of all time, Aerosmith simply never goes out of style. The group that defined the 1970s then redefined the ’80s and ’90s continues making strides this millennium, releasing “Music from Another Dimension!” (its first entirely new studio album in 11 years) and touring no less than 16 countries, including a historic stop in the UK. Fans who were lucky enough to experience the excursion, alongside those turned away by a sold out sign, can simultaneously experience the new concert film “Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014” (to kick off the “Classic Music Series”), which comes to select cinemas in Chicago (along with other key cities across America and internationally) for one night only on Thursday, February 26.
The 19-song set list finds all five legendary members- Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton and Brad Whitford- plowing through career crests like “Dream On,” “Sweet Emotion,” “Walk This Way,” “Love In An Elevator” and “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” on a site also known for hosting fellow superstars AC/DC, Metallica and Rage Against the Machine. Chicago Concert Reviews joined bassist Hamilton and rhythm guitarist Whitford on a teleconference call to talk about the concert film, their opinions of fellow members’ autobiographies, Record Store Day vinyl reissues of its Columbia-era titles, plus what may or may not be in store regarding the band’s recording future.
“I can see why people are enjoying it as a theater experience because you can go in there. You can listen to it really loud, and nobody’s blabbing to you while you’re trying to listen to it. You’re really much more immersed at it than you can be at home unless you’re absolutely by yourself…”
CCR: Could you elaborate on some of the elements that made the particular performance at Donington so magical?
Tom Hamilton: It’s the set list that we played there, right Brad?
Brad Whitford: Yeah.
Hamilton: It was just a night where everything just really set in for the band. The band was so tight that night, yet we could relax, just have fun [and] get off on the insane crowd there…
Whitford: Donington always held a special place for bands of all types. Just to be invited at Donington has always been special. It just had a magic about it. We were excited just to be there…To be able to capture that moment like we did was great because it does hold a special place for all us rock and rollers.
Hamilton: We should mention that we had planned to film the show and got one of the best rock video/film directors around, named Dick Carruthers. He’s from England. He does a great job from that English point of view about rock bands. It’s a neat thing as far as our history goes. Anyway, that’s another reason that makes it a special DVD. It’s a night in the tour, but it’s also something that’s really filmed and interpreted beautifully. The sound is awesome. The band played really well that night.
Talk a little bit about what the atmosphere was like that day.
Hamilton: Oh, man. One thing about Donington, every time we’ve been there, it’s been probably the funkiest, most earthy audience situation on the tour. Usually the crowd has been there for a few days, and it’s been raining guitars out. The last two times we played there, it rained all day long and into the opening act…Then, we always seem to luck out and it stops raining to a reasonable amount. We’re lucky that way. The audience gets a particular aroma between the mud and the people who just felt it was too far to go to the porti-cans. Whatever bodily fluids were happening makes up the dirt. It’s great. Oh my god. It smells like you’re on a farm.
Whitford: There are so many different bands on that show. Then the crowd is so appreciative of everything they hear. It’s really an eclectic group of fans. They’re there to hear it all. It’s great because back where all the artists are, you see people you haven’t seen in a year or two years, so many friends from other bands and stuff. It’s a great little reunion as well. It makes it a lot of fun when you’re up on stage and all these guys from other bands are standing in the wings watching. It’s really fun.
When you guys do a performance like this, does it change your attitude or approach when you know you’re being filmed for the big screen?
Hamilton: Yeah, you want to look as good as you can and still be okay with being a rocker and rough around the edges like we’re supposed to be.
Whitford: You kind of forget though. The best approach is to forget the cameras are there and just do it the way we do it every show. We try and deliver our best performance always. I don’t think we approach it too much differently other than there’s certainly a lot of planning and stuff before about where cameras are going to be and all that stuff, but then once you’re up there you forget about it.
What do you guys think accounts for this increasing popularity of live concerts coming to movie theaters? I know U2 has done it, Peter Gabriel has done it, The Rolling Stones have done it, and now you guys are doing it.
Hamilton: You know what? I didn’t really realize that, or it didn’t dawn on me that there is a lot of that. I think it’s just that, in the last few years, the sound of them is so much stronger. It’s not like somebody set up a few mics to record a show one night. I mean, we record absolutely constantly when we play. It’s just a given right now. It’s just always on record.
Whitford: Yeah. You know what? It’s actually a great way to see, to relive the concert. We do our best when it’s a live performance to make it have the visual impact and the sonic impact that it has. When we do something like this, put it on DVD or play it in the theater, you do get a chance to revisit the mix. That allows you the opportunity to really make it sparkle. Sometimes stuff live can get lost or cluttered. In this particular show, you’re hearing it exactly as it happened. There are no over-dubs. Nothing’s been fixed on it or repaired. It’s just been sonically enhanced. If you weren’t there and you go see this in the theater, you’re going to see it just as good as it could be possibly represented to you.
Hamilton: That’s very enlightening to hear that you’re noticing an increasing trend. I wasn’t aware of that. That’s very interesting. We have such an amount of…recorded Aerosmith shows going from the present back to 20 years ago. We’ve just been recording shows constantly. Obviously some day we can go through some of that. That would take a long time. That’s stuff we can put out for people to check out and put some really great digitals with it and some interesting comments from the band on it.
I can see why people are enjoying it as a theater experience because you can go in there. You can listen to it really loud, and nobody’s blabbing to you while you’re trying to listen to it. You’re really much more immersed at it than you can be at home unless you’re absolutely by yourself…
What are your opinions of the recent Aerosmith books by Joe Perry and Steven Tyler?
Hamilton: I think Joe’s book was a big success. Really well written, depicting the story from his point of view. It’s very authentic. It’s for people who really are interested [and] want to learn the history of the band from the viewpoint of somebody that experienced it. Steven’s book is fun to read, but it’s also all over the place. It’s not really that concise, but it’s fun to read.
Whitford: Yeah, I would have to agree that my favorite book was Joe’s book. I thought it was extremely well done, and to me, there was more passion and romance in that book, the narrative of his story and his desire to do this thing. He talked about growing up in Hopedale, Mass. [and] just the struggle just to get your hands on a guitar and live out this dream. It makes for an incredible story because he did it. He did it, and he did it in a very big way. I just thought it was extremely well written. It was definitely my favorite book about Aerosmith to this point.
In addition to the books and the concert being broadcast, many of your Columbia-era titles were re-released on vinyl for Record Store Day. What do you think of this vinyl resurgence, and are there any plans to do the same with your Geffen albums?
Hamilton: It’s kind of something you usually let the record company know you’d like to do it. Then, we’ll say, from then on it has to occur to them. Yeah, it’s so cool, the vinyl thing. Obviously, it’s not the main way of people getting music, but it’s such a great way to get it. People are discovering that, wow, you can actually hold the thing and read about it while you listen to it. It’s a different experience. It’s a more physical experience where you’re a little closer to the original vibe of the recording.
Whitford: Yeah, I think it’s great. I’m so glad that it happened. It seems to be growing just at an incredible rate. It’s funny because when this whole digital revolution started it seemed to be so cool. Oh gosh, it was almost like you could hear more on the CDs. There was more information and that seemed to be very cool. But these days when I listen to the vinyl and I hear the differences, it’s really quite remarkable. I didn’t really hear it back then. You’re hearing more information on the CD thing, but something happened to the sound quality. The vinyl today is so much richer. Maybe there isn’t as much information on it, but the vibe and the sound is there, and it’s pretty obvious to a lot of these younger fans who are just eating up the vinyl. It’s quite obvious. You listen to it back to back, you really hear the difference.
Hamilton: It’s just a neat thing. I like the digital side too. It’s great that we have both. I think it’s neat that there are these people who are discovering that it’s interesting to relate to your music the way you do when you play an LP versus a CD or on your phone or whatever. We’ll see what happens with it.
At this point in your career, how much of a priority is new music?
Whitford: Well, that’s interesting. We’re not currently in the studio or anything. We’re not quite sure when we might get back in the studio. Right now, actually, Steven is working on a solo album that he’s been wanting to do for the last 20 years. I think a good deal of inspiration may come out of that. He may want to continue to write. Maybe at some point this year we might get into the studio and record some new music. Currently no plans. Our plan right now is we’re preparing for tour this summer.
“Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014” comes to select cinemas throughout Chicago and some surrounding suburbs on Thursday, February 26 at 7 p.m. For a list of participating theatres and ticket information, visit www.fathomevents.com and www.aerosmith.com.