Aerosmith’s recent European tour began and ended with cancellations prompted by strife and tumult. And for once, it wasn’t internal.
Wednesday’s closer in Kiev was scrapped over lingering tension from Russia’s move into Ukraine. The May 14 launch in Istanbul, the band’s first-ever concert in Turkey, was skipped after the government declared three days of mourning for the Soma mine disaster victims.
“There was all kinds of corruption, and they closed the Internet down while we were in Turkey,” guitarist Joe Perry says. “It was a pretty chaotic and fascinating time.”
Chaotic and fascinating could also describe Aerosmith’s 44-year saga. With its history of ruptures, resignations, rehabs and recriminations, the Boston quintet nonetheless survived trends from disco to grunge with its mojo intact.
They’ve racked up four Grammy Awards, 21 top-40 hits and global sales of 150 million albums.
“Some of us were teenagers when we put this together,” Perry says. “You can’t keep five people who grew up together in a rock ‘n’ roll band and not have some turmoil. It’s amazing we kept this thing going. ZZ Top is the only other band I know of still doing it this long with the original members.”
Singer Steven Tyler marvels at the band’s ability to bounce back from drug addiction, failed marriages, infighting, lawsuits and illness. But the years and setbacks never follow the musicians onstage.
“The music is timeless and speaks for itself,” he says. “I look over at Joe, and I don’t see age. It’s the same song with the same velocity. We’ve always been a bunch of troubadours. It’s just that the world embraced us, and we have a pretty lofty existence now, going from the pool in the backyard with the kids to a sold-out Madison Square Garden.”
Tyler, Perry, drummer Joey Kramer, bassist Tom Hamilton and guitarist Brad Whitford will hit the road Thursday with opener Slash, who faced similar ups and downs with Guns N’ Roses before the implosion of the classic lineup in the mid-’90s.
“I had great hopes of Guns N’ Roses carrying the torch,” Perry says. “I talked to Slash a lot about it and asked his advice because of what he’s been through. It would be great for the original band to get back together, but it takes more than great songs to keep a band going. Slash has done an amazing job on his own.”
Slash, dismissing the latest rumors of a GNR reunion, has been recording and touring in recent years with his band The Conspirators and singer Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge.
He and Kennedy “had that magical chemistry that happens in the first downbeat of a rehearsal,” Slash says. The group’s next album, “World on Fire,” arrives Sept. 16. “We’re really finding each other. You can’t predict chemistry, which doesn’t happen all that often. It really makes what you’re doing roll on all cylinders.”
In the Aerosmith army, harmony is less of a concern now than health. Hamilton, who was diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer in 2006, sat out the band’s tour that fall. His cancer returned in 2011, forcing more absences. Last year, an infection took him off the road again.
“Tom’s stronger than ever, and it’s the same old band it’s always been, except we have to force-feed him like a duck,” Tyler jokes.
Hamilton’s cancer is in remission, and “he’s handling the road fine,” Perry adds. “He’s very concerned about taking care of himself. Of everyone in the band, he loves playing the most. He’s not going to let anything stop him.”
Touring is not for wimps, Tyler notes.
“The fourth week onstage kicks my (butt),” he says. “I lose about a pound a night and have fun eating to gain it back. I go to bed sore and wake up sore.
“It’s brutal when the throat goes out,” says Tyler, who had vocal surgery in 2006. “Lead singers got it the hardest.”
After the tour ends in September, Perry will begin promoting his autobiography, “Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith,” in stores Oct. 7. His bandmates will get copies, but to keep the peace, “I’m not going to let them read it until it’s out,” Perry says.
“It’s my one-fifth of the story,” he says. “I’m sure there are things the guys will remember differently. A lot of people will be surprised, especially by the last 20 years, because all the warts and the real behind-the-scenes stuff was kept under cover. I wanted to put across how hard it’s been to keep the band together. We made every mistake three times.
“Digging into the truth was harder than I thought,” says Perry, who enlisted co-author David Ritz and read roughly 40 biographies for inspiration. “I had to take responsibility for my part in certain situations, and those things were tough to revisit. I figured if it was going to be worth anything, I’d have to take a few hits.”
Perry took issue with much in Tyler’s 2011 autobiography, “Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?,” but he says “Rocks” is not a counterpunch.
“Steven’s book is what he wanted people to see,” he says. “That’s his truth. It’s the First Amendment, baby.”
Tyler expects contradictions but insists that his “Noise” is “no fiction.”
“It will be fun to read Joe’s book and see pictures of him as a kid,” he says. “I do love him dearly. There’s a time when everyone in the band needs to ego-speak. Now and then, there’s a break in the clouds, the sun comes out, and we all see eye to eye. Doesn’t happen much.”
Aerosmith, Slash ready to let rock rule on 20-city tour
“The world is living on the edge,” says Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler. “Every now and then, people need a big fat bonfire to dance around, and that would be us.”
That match gets struck Thursday, when Aerosmith’s 20-city Let Rock Rule tour kicks off in Wantagh, N.Y. The band ended its two-year Global Warming Tour June 28 in London, yet they seem more fired up than worn down.
“We still love to rock,” says Tyler, 66. “It’s nothing but a good time when the band hits the stage.”
Expect a show top-heavy with hits: “Dream On,” “Walk This Way,” “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” “Livin’ On the Edge,” “Love in an Elevator,” “Janie’s Got a Gun,” “Amazing,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”
“There are two hours, and we fill them up with what people want,” Tyler says, adding that they hope to insert “Oh Yeah,” “Freedom Fighter” and possibly “Out Go the Lights” from 2012’s “Music From Another Dimension!” Not that he minds serving up the favorites.
“It’s the greatest feeling,” Tyler says. “There are songs we fought hard to get on a record, that took a year to write, and they stuck in the craw of people all over this planet. That’s overwhelming.”
Guitarist Joe Perry, 63, says Aerosmith’s fatter catalog and multigenerational audience have made crafting set lists tougher.
“Everyone in the band has a different view,” he says. “If you put in new songs, what old songs do you take out? That’s the battleground. We’re not talking about screaming matches. It’s more philosophical.”
The players monitor fan feedback on social media for requests. On this run, they’ll also factor in likely encounters with opener Slash, who has jammed on stage with Aerosmith several times, including at a Los Angeles club when Let Rock Rule was announced in April.
“There’s going to be interplay at some point,” Perry promises. “Slash and I have talked about it. He’s a great guitar player, and he’s in one of the best new bands that we’ve ever played with.”
For Slash, joining the bill was a no-brainer.
“It’s a great matchup, and Aerosmith is one of my favorite bands from way back when,” says the guitarist, 48. “They put out ‘Rocks’ (1976) when I picked up the guitar, and it had a profound influence on my playing and spoke to who I was as a teenager. They were exactly what I was looking for, a raucous combination of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones that had rhythm and soul in a loud delivery.”
Nearly 40 years later, Aerosmith still aims to thrill.
“A lot of what Aerosmith offers is that rock ‘n’ roll sense of excitement that the train might go off the rails any minute,” Perry says. “The challenge is to put enough energy behind every song to make it fresh so everything locks and we can say, ‘Tonight we were the best band in the world.’”