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Aerosmith marches into Arizona to kick off this summer’s Blue Army Tour

By Kory Kilmer

NO ONE SAID THAT BECOMING ONE OF THE BIGGEST BANDS IN THE HISTORY OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL WOULD BE EASY, and none has exemplified this better than the Bad Boys from Boston, Aerosmith. But even after 45 years, they are still quick to hit the road and prove once again why they are considered by many to be America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band. After six long years since Aerosmith had last visited Arizona, this June they rolled into Gila River Arena to kick off their Blue Army Tour. The state’s loyal members of the Blue Army were eager to welcome them back to the Valley and exploded as the band hit the stage with the title track to their 1977 album, “Draw the Line.

Draped in his trademark scarves the always colorful and equally bombastic Steven Tyler captivated the audience with one of his legendary screams to kick off “Love in an Elevator” and then again by showing off with his harmonica during “Cryin’.” With the first three songs on their new tour represented three very distinct periods of the band’s storied and turbulent history, with an appeal that now has inspired several generations of Aerosmith fans. Friends, Tyler, Joe Perry, and Tom Hamilton formed the group in 1970, and within a year the band added Joey Kramer on drums and guitarist Brad Whitford to round-out the line-up. Early hits such as “Dream On,” “Sweet Emotion,” and “Toy in the Attic,” helped Aerosmith emerge as one of the biggest bands in the world by the middle of the decade. But with those early successes came the expectation of more, and as the 1970s wound to a close it looked uncertain if the band would be around for much longer.


“We had just run our batteries dry and just kind of worked Aerosmith into the ground,” explains guitarist Brad Whitford, who spoke with AZSAL from his home in Nashville, Tennessee shortly before kicking off the tour. “We were going into the studio to give the record companies something and just couldn’t come up with anything. I was very frustrated and I was convinced it was kind of over with at that point.” Well-chronicled battles with substance abuse and with each other had taken their toll, and by 1981 both Whitford and fellow guitarist Joe Perry had left the band. But the breakup did not last, and by the mid1980’s the band decided to sober up and focus once again on their music. A well-timed collaboration with Run-D.M.C. remaking the band’s classic “Walk This Way” preceded the release of their unofficial comeback album Permeant Vacation and introduced Aerosmith along with their made-for-television frontman to the MTV generation.

A little-known fact is that Steven Tyler was actually the original drummer of the band in those early days back in Boston. He found his way out front from behind the kit pretty quick, a decision that seems to have been the right call all these years later. “He is a little bit of everything,” says Whitford. “That guy can sing without a mic in a band situation and you can still hear him. He puts 110% into his vocals. He can be all that and a major pain in the ass at the same time. But I think we can all be major pains in the ass, and if it was too easy, there wouldn’t be any fire.”
“That guy [Steven Tyler] can sing without a mic in a band situation and you can still hear him. He puts 110% into his vocals.”

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That fire vibes not just from Tyler, but through each member of the band and it is what has kept them together and making music after so many years. Throughout the waves of the past two and a half decades Aerosmith have rode some of their finest crests, but have also been washed out on a bad break here and there as well. But through it all, there is a fundamental love of the music that keeps them going. “I’m what you might call a hyper-fan. I love it so much that I have to do it,” says Whitford. “I can’t turn my back on it or anything, and when I hear it I’ve got to be in the middle of it, and that’s what keeps me going.” On the heels of a handful of other bands’ farewell tours over the last few years, Aerosmith has made it clear that there are no plans for this tour to be their last.

Whitford admits that a few of those conversations have taken place, but no one is ready to throw in the towel quite yet. In fact, they are excited to be back out on the road, together. And, where better to kick off their tour than right here in Arizona? “You can never get tired or board of just sitting there and soaking up the beauty of the state,” admits Whitford. “When I was really young in grammar school, I would go to my dentist — whom I despised — once a week for years on end, but he always had piles and piles of that Arizona Highways Magazine in his office, and I became aware of the majesty of [Arizona] as a kid. And then finally getting to go there when I got older — it’s just awesome.”