Aerosmith: Hammersmith Odeon, London

AFTER MANY years studying the phenomenon of the rock concert, I have made a discovery that might well be hailed as a scientific breakthrough in research circles. If you want to obtain the best possible sound in the auditorium, take up position just to the left (or right) of the sound mixer in his base camp at the rear of the stalls.

When Aerosmith came to the Odeon Hammersmith on Sunday night there was much cheering, waving of banners and bellowing for encores. I was delighted that the American rock band I had been carrying a torch for during the last couple of years hid been a success on their first London visit.

But I was disappointed by the dreadful sound balance. It wasn’t until the milling throng who persist in standing on seats, rather than sitting on them, forced a retreat to the back of the building, that I heard Aerosmith to full advantage.

As the band roared into ‘Toys In The Attic’, the guitars came through clearly and the drums rumbled ferociously behind Steven Tyler’s impassioned screams. Until then, the main impression had been of an overblown snare drum vibrating through long throw horns.

You could tell how distorted the sound really was when drummer Joey Kramer casually clouted his tom-tom during a break between numbers and it sounded like workmen pouring bricks upon a galvanised zinc water tank from a great height.

But Aerosmith received a great reception from an audience that had never seen this American supergroup before. Stars and Stripes waved from the front rows as soon as Tyler, a wiry bundle of energy looking like an Indian brave inciting his tribe to acts of mayhem, hit the stage.

They proved surprisingly old-fashioned in many respects. Although Steven had been hailed as a pop idol, he did not hog the stage as much as, say, Rod Stewart or Mick Jagger. He gave a lot of the action to his twin lead guitarists, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, and bassist Tom Hamilton, with flowing golden hair and tight white jeans, was as impressive a figure as Tyler in the glam-rock stakes.

I was expecting a kind of Queen-ly slickness and Zeppelin-esque thunder. They certainly made a lot of noise and kept the fast tempi rolling. But they were much looser, and displayed that strictly American trait of finishing numbers when the guitarists had worked out an ending, rather than work towards a pre-determined climax.

Because of the rotten balance (from my position directly in front of the left-hand stack), some of my favourite numbers like ‘Uncle Salty’, ‘Big 10 Inch Record’ and ‘Walk like This’, with their funky back-beats and jumping riffs, were spoilt.

A natural desire to impress on an important gig resulted in breakneck tempi, instead of the more relaxed groove employed on the albums.

The band tore into their hour-long set with determined energy, and some fine playing from the leather-jacketed Joe Perry helped build the excitement. Steven made the occasional foray onto a specially extended stage, which aroused much fervour, but it wasn’t until he began yelling “let’s have a good time here!” and really communicated with the audience that things began to jump.

Security guards attempting to prevent the mass exodus from the seated to the raving position were met with a hail of abuse from Steven, and dancing in the aisles continued unchecked.

‘Dream On’, taken at a slow tempo, showed what the band could do at a lower, more musical volume, and, after ‘Uncle Salty’, Steven exhorted the audience; “I wanna hear you SING!” ‘Train Kept A Rolling’ piled on the pressure, and then Aerosmith quit the stage. Would they return? I dived for the back row and heard ‘Toys In The Attic’ as it should be heard, with Steven diving through clouds of smoke from a judiciously detonated flash bomb.

What the band needed for their debut British tour was a British sound team and a stage producer who could direct their energies in more productive fashion. They needed to project intrinsically good material with more intelligence. Pure energy is not enough.

© Chris WelchMelody Maker, 23 October 1976

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