Aerosmith began its pandemic-postponed 50th anniversary show at Fenway Park with a bang — really, a bunch of them. As Steven Tyler, clad in glittery pants and his hair billowing behind him, wailed the opening word of the band’s commanding 1976 come-on “Back in the Saddle,” a battalion of fireworks went off — Aerosmith was, indeed, back in Boston, where it got its start. The band, which went from humble beginnings in Allston to worldwide fame that has been marked by resiliency, celebrated its legacy with a two-hour set that managed to include its sweeping ballads as well as its taut, blues-tinged rave-ups.
The five-piece formed in 1970 and released its self-titled debut in 1973; from there, the band ascended rapidly through rock’s ranks, making records that were rooted in blues-rock but veered off into different places — sparkling guitars give the chugging rhythm of “Draw the Line” extra muscle, while the pensive “Seasons of Wither” balances dreary sadness with arena-ballad splendor. Aerosmith had its ups and downs personnel-wise over the years, but its comebacks have consistently been forceful reminders of the band’s collective power.
Thursday’s show was as much a celebration of Aerosmith’s Boston roots as it was of the band’s five-decade history, with a spirited set from fellow Boston hard rockers Extreme, a video introduction from comedian Bill Burr (who also headlined Fenway this summer), and shout-outs to the Commonwealth Avenue apartment that housed the band in its earliest days. (There was even a shirt emblazoned with its address for sale.) Four of Aerosmith’s five original members — Tyler, guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, and bassist Tom Hamilton — were present, while drummer John Douglas filled in for Joey Kramer, who took a hiatus from performing with the group earlier this year.
Some of the more rewarding moments of the show came when the core members arrived in that zone where they were just playing off each other, getting knee-deep in the extended “Permanent Vacation” jam “Hangman Jury” and vamping over the groove that underpins “Sweet Emotion.” Of course, there were stadium-size moments as well — particularly at the opening of the encore, when Tyler appeared atop the Green Monster, where a piano had been installed so he could lay down the chords that serve as the backbone of “Dream On.” Thursday’s show ended with a romp through “Walk This Way,” the double-entendre-stuffed “Toys In The Attic” cut that had new life breathed into it when hip-hop group Run-DMC collaborated with Tyler and Perry on a revamp of the track in 1986. It was not only a way to send the crowd home happy, it was a reminder that Aerosmith would always be ready to climb back in the saddle.
With Extreme. At Fenway Park, Thursday.
Maura Johnston can be reached at email@example.com.