It’s very, very wet… which, rumour has it, is just how Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler likes it. But for me, an evening spent in a field, walking on a carpet of mud, crushed cardboard cups and discarded fast food, is about as far from paradise as the last train back from Brighton on a Saturday night.
Twenty years ago, in my Donington-going youth, I’d have relished it. These days, I enjoy my homely comforts far too much to fully appreciate these huge outdoor shows. Purpose-built stadiums are bad enough, but when someone decides to erect a relatively low stage in a totally flat park, alarm bells play havoc with my tinnitus. Add rain to the mix – cue a sea of view-blocking umbrellas – and my heart sinks further into the mire.
So it’s a pleasant surprise to find myself engaging with Aerosmith for the duration of this London show, their first and only UK date since 1999. For many years, I’d been hoping that the band would come back and play, but this isn’t how I’d envisaged it. My memories of seeing the band on the Pump tour in 1989 are fleeting but still reasonably vivid, and I was hoping that they’d once again hit the arenas. Still, it wasn’t to be, so Hyde Park calls.
Taking to the stage 15 minutes late, the band kick off with Love In An Elevator, possibly the most crowd-pleasing opener they could have chosen. Thankfully, by this point, the rain has eased off and most of the umbrellas have come down – a few stragglers find themselves getting bottles aimed their way until the brollies are folded – but my view of the stage is still limited, to say the least. I watch most of the set on the three giant video screens, but y’know what? It doesn’t seem to matter. The cameras love Tyler and Perry. And Tyler, especially, loves the cameras, treating them as if he’s performing in his own home movie (you know the kind I mean).
I’m cold, I’m wet and I’m a long way from the stage, but I’m enjoying myself. Having deliberately avoided setlists, I have no idea what’s coming, but as a fan of all periods of the band’s career (yes, even that song – call me a soppy beagle, but I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing makes my ticker melt), I’m hoping for a good, decade-spanning collection of songs. And for the most part, that’s what the band deliver, albeit it rather concisely.
Their set lasts for just 85 minutes – not the lengthiest of shows, and considering that they’ve played for far longer on this tour, British fans have a right to feel a bit shortchanged. But I guess that’s what happens when you play an event that technically isn’t yours, even though you’re headlining. Personally, I’m happy with the early finish but I’d have appreciated an early start to match.
Oh, and I’m pleased to report that, despite the mud, I manage to stay upright for the duration. “Going… down?” Not me, Mr Tyler. Not me.
That setlist in full:
Love In An Elevator
Same Old Song and Dance
Eat The Rich
I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing
Baby Please Don’t Go
Hangman Jury (teaser) / Seasons Of Wither
Livin’ On The Edge
Stop Messin’ Around
Draw The Line
Walk This Way (with Darryl McDaniels)
And yes, the picture you see on this page is my best photographic effort. You’re welcome.