MANSFIELD — Steven Tyler was standing atop the piano and near the end of “Dream On,” going in for the kill with those high notes that most men his age wouldn’t dare to attempt, when a question crept in: Does he do this in his sleep? Because he probably could.
Closing in on its 45th year, Aerosmith is indeed rock’s train that kept a-rollin’, to lift a line from one of the band’s early concert staples. Its members have been immortalized as Boston’s bad boys who, well into their advanced years, still look and sound better than most of us ever will.
Tyler is 66 and sings and behaves like a young dude playing his first show in front of 12 people at a dive bar on a Tuesday night. He’s out to win over every soul in the room, even when it’s at an outdoor amphitheater such as Wednesday’s show at Xfinity Center.
As usual, they roared out of the gate with something to prove, this time with “Back in the Saddle.” Tyler lugged his mike stand with him, and on guitar Joe Perry played it cool with a cigarette dangling from his lip (and I swear the ashes never fell). Midway into the show, they settled into a steamrolling groove, nimbly moving from power ballads (“Cryin’ ”) to blues romps (“Stop Messin’ Around,” with Perry on lead vocals).
Tyler was a generous frontman, eager to please any way he can.
“Do you like the old [expletive] or the new [expletive]?” he asked the crowd, knowing full well the answer. That old [expletive] was pretty rip-roaring, from “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way” to “Rats in the Cellar” and “Kings and Queens.” On “Mama Kin,” Perry and Brad Whitford formed a trio of guitar heroes with Slash, who opened the show with his band, which brought to life Slash’s heyday with Guns N’ Roses.
For “Train Kept a-Rollin’,” they brought out another special guest: Johnny Depp, who has been in the area filming the Whitey Bulger movie “Black Mass” and who recently sat in with Willie Nelson and his band at their Boston show. Except this time, sandwiched between Perry and Whitford, Depp stepped up to the plate and played a squealing solo.
And that’s why you never leave early to beat the traffic.