Live Review and Live Photos by Robert Cavuoto
Twitter : @RobertCavuoto
You can’t keep a good man down! Back in May, when eight of Aerosmith’s twenty-four Deuces Are Wild Las Vegas residency shows were postponed due to Steve Tyler checking into rehab, Joe called a few good friends, packed up his gear, and reignited The Joe Perry Project.
With his restless spirit and inability to sit still for any length of time, Joe onboarded some talented and versatile musicians, including Buck Johnson [keyboards], Chris Wyse [bass], Jason Sutter [drums], and Gary Cherone [vocals] of Extreme/Van Halen fame, to perform as The Joe Perry Project. They have three back-to-back Northeast shows, July 21st at Hampton Beach Casino in New Hampshire, July 22nd at Leader Bank Pavilion in Massachusetts, and July 23rd at the Atlantic City Hard Rock Casino in New Jersey. These performances mark the first solo shows for Joe in more than four years since the release of his 2018 Sweetzerland Manifesto album. Tonight’s show in Atlantic City was abuzz with excitement.
The band opened with “Let the Music Do the Talking,” a fast-paced, raucous tune that showcased their ability to kick ass right out of the gate and set a furious pace for the show. As fans envisioned, the evening would be filled with greased lightning guitar playing, blue bravado singing, chest-pounding bass runs, and thunderous drumming. The Joe Perry Project did not disappoint!
It’s hard not to get excited seeing the two Boston boys on stage together. The physical combustibility of these larger-than-life musicians is like atoms colliding. Joe is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and a legend among guitarists, with 150 million Aerosmith albums sold worldwide. Gary is hands down one of the best and most versatile singers, entertainers, and frontman with Extreme and was also handpicked by Eddie Van Halen to front Van Halen! He is a powerhouse singer who can sing the phone book and make it sound great. Tonight, he was in the superstar realm as he sang with sincerity and passion like on “Toys in the Attic.” His moves were so silky smooth, like watching liquid slide down a glass pane. He can captivate an audience with his presence and has a voice that draws you into the song’s essence. Whether in the front or the last row, Gary made you feel as if he was singing directly to you!
Joe’s roots have always been firmly planted in the blues, which can be heard on every note of every Aerosmith album and his solo releases. You can hear the diverse array of blues influences within each note and chord he played. Watching him combine his signature techniques, dexterity, melody, and reach into a pyrotechnic display of guitar playing like on “Rockin’ Train” as he went off the rails was awe-inspiring. He crushed instrumental songs like “Wooden Ships” and “Spanish Sushi” with Chris playing an electric standup bass! Combine that with some tasteful vibrato solo, and the songs are enhanced beyond expectation. Joe even incorporated chiming harmonics and tremolo bar dives like on “Walking the Dog.” They don’t have a lot to do with the blues, but they look cool and sound terrific when Joe does it. His live guitar tone was rich, thick, and gritty, as you would expect like on the slinky version of “Walk This Way!”
As the night blazed on through the nearly two-hour set of 18 songs that combine classic and deep Aerosmith songs with Joe’s solo tunes, it was hard to keep track of all of Joe’s incredible solos as he rarely let the audience catch their breath.
I had a chance to ask Joe what makes his playing style unique and instantly recognizable. He responded, “I think most of it falls back to songwriting. I just pay attention to the song and what you can do to contribute to it. It’s about fitting something in there that is going to complement the song and give it another hook that people will remember it by. Those riffs can be so simple, but they can be just as important as the vocals. I always go back and listen to the guys who inspired me, so I keep my technique going to keep my paint pallet always stocked with new and different colors. To keep experimenting. If it works, great; if the guitar isn’t that easy to play or isn’t set up correctly, it makes you work harder. You might get something out of it that you wouldn’t ordinarily get. I also like to focus on my foot pedals because you can do so much with them, especially the old ones.”
Joe was playing the blues and dancing on his foot pedals to find that magic combination of touch, tone, and fuzz. It was as if he was saying, “I’m Joe “Fucking” Perry, and you can’t ignore what I’m doing up here.” The band even debuted a new song that will be on Joe’s next solo album called “Quake” or “Shake & Bake,” as Joe and Gary affectionally joked about its title!
Chris, Jason, and Buck did a tremendous job tonight maneuvering, navigating, and keeping up with the blues stylings. They were the unsung heroes of the night, allowing Joe and Gary to soar. The show ended with “Train Kept A-Rollin,” with the audience screaming “All Night Long” at the end of each chorus. It was a perfect ending to the perfect show. It’s hard to imagine a better, more satisfying encore.
Joe and Gary are blues ambassadors rewriting the limits of genre and the vernacular for the 21st century. The excitement from attending a concert that you know to be special from the outset is always exhilarating. If you missed one of these shows, don’t fret, Joe hinted at a solo album, and I’m sure a tour will follow. Also, Joe has an Aerosmith big 50th-anniversary show on September 8th at Fenway Park in Boston before they head back to Vegas for more residencies. Gary has a handful of select Extreme shows scheduled for August and September.