There are a few things you’ll get at an Aerosmith concert that you won’t find at a Joe Perry solo show: Steven Tyler, arena scaling, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” But there’s something else that underlies all of them and more: obligation, both to the band and to the audience. For two hours Wednesday night at the House of Blues, the guitarist neither wanted nor needed to do much more than simply come out, plug in, and let ’er rip without the weight of the Aerosmith machine.
If Tyler’s own solo shows in recent years aimed to take his audience on a journey, Perry just wanted to go. His band — which included Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford on rhythm guitar — charged out of the gate strong with the sharp and fiery “Let the Music Do the Talking,” and they proved over and over that they had teeth. There was the grunting snarl of “Train Kept A-Rollin’ ” and tough riffage of “Adam’s Apple,” yes, but there was also the sashaying strut of “Pandora’s Box” and the crawling psychedelic verses bursting into the big, blooming chorus of “Won’t Let Me Go.” Perry’s soloing was a melodic, piercing howl atop the latter’s elephantine riff.
His vocals — an attitude-laden monotone deployed on the Strangeloves’ lustful sneer “Night Time” and others — were effective the few times he opened his mouth, but he smartly farmed out most of the singing to others. Extreme’s Gary Cherone commanded the stage without either aping Tyler or upstaging Perry on the chunky “Last Child” or the chiming and moody “Seasons of Wither.”
Better still was cult artist and Perry pal Terry Reid. Having last performed in Boston in 1968, he came dressed as a grandpa separated from his tour group and showcased a gravelly tenor with a disarmingly sharp bite on a trio of songs including “Sick & Tired” (Led Zeppelin minus the thunder but with the drama and dynamics intact) and the aforementioned “Won’t Let Me Go.”
Perry’s freedom had limits; “Rockin’ Train” was far too long even before the bass solo began, and “Quake” was meathead sex-rock that should have been beneath both him and Cherone. But Perry closed out the night with “Toys in the Attic” (hellbent), “Sweet Emotion” (lean and hard, with Aerosmith’s Tom Hamilton guesting on wobbly bass), and a “Walk This Way” where he tore up the outro solo like he had nothing better to do.
Former Joe Perry Project singer Charlie Farren opened with solo-acoustic translations of hair-metal and blues-rock clichés, complete with blockheaded ideas of what constituted deep thoughts. He was followed by the energetic but joyless arena-prog bombast of ex-Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau’s Engine Room.
With Barry Goudreau’s Engine Room and Charlie Farren
At House of Blues, WednesdayMarc Hirsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @spacecitymarc.