April 9, 2004
Philips Arena - Atlanta

Cheap Trick:

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Perennial opening act Cheap Trick kicked the night off. In Atlanta, they seemed a little happier and more relaxed than usual. Robin Zander even spoke to the audience before “Scent Of A Woman”, taking the time to personally thank the crowd. Anyone that’s seen them knows how rare a non-sung word from Zander is. Of course, “I Want You To Want Me” and “Dream Police” were the big numbers, if a bit sloppy. It was clear that the band’s heartbeat faster for new numbers like the killer “My Obsession” and “Pop Drone.” As for the oldies, drummer Bun E. Carlos actually reinvented some of his parts, going so far as to add a Beatle-esque beat to the intro of the rarely performed smash “The Flame.” Rick Neilson threw out a couple of thousand guitar picks, even deftly aiming some down the low cut blouses of the girls in front. He slammed out “Surrender” on a fifty-pound five-neck monstrosity. By the time the quartet played “Surrender,” the audience already had done just that to the power pop wallop that is Cheap Trick.

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Aerosmith is riding another creative peak these days. Following the release of their best album in more than a decade, the blues based Honkin’ On Bobo, the Boston five some has taken to the road with a new fire lit beneath them. Atlanta’s show proved it. Having seen the band several times, I can say that they seemed looser and more in control of their abilities than ever. This was just an average Aerosmith show. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a powerful night that would blow away the best from most groups. Starting the show from a tiny stage in the center of the floor with “Toys In The Attic”, all of the Aeromen were in the audience’s collective face right from the start. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry shared the harmonies on a communal mic while cramped in a space no bigger than a club. By the time they rushed the main stage with “Back In The Saddle,” the tone was set. Bobo was aired heavily and the new songs were a fuel-injected addition to the core set. For a group whose show changes significantly from tour to tour, it’s amazing how consistent they are. Back to back, they did the blues swing of “Shame, Shame, Shame” (for the first time ever) followed by their oldest classic, “Dream On.” The juxtaposition of an inaugural performance chased by a 30-year old gem said more than I can. They attacked both with the same fervor and dedication.


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Surprisingly, this was only a start. At the end of “Dream On,” Tyler announced it was time to move into “second gear.” “Draw The Line” was a masterpiece of attitude and grit. Drummer Joey Kramer added in new fills and pumped the beats out in a way that made them feel as important as oxygen while the late set “Baby, Please Don’t Go” felt like Zeppelin reborn. Guitarist Joe Perry even took to lead vocals for “Stop Messin’ Around,” introducing it as one they did back in ’74 at Atlanta’s long gone Electric Ballroom. While Perry sang, Tyler wailed on a harmonica. During “Walk This Way,” Steven Tyler swung 60-feet over the crowd, upside down from a trapeze swing, landing deftly on the walkway that split the floor in half. It was stupid, dangerous and pure rock and roll. A bass and vocal lead in from The Beatles’ “Within You, Without You” led Tom Hamilton into a heavier than usual “Sweet Emotion” to close out the night. “Train Kept A-Rollin’” was the ultimate encore. A blizzard of logo shaped confetti filled Philips top to bottom. Aerosmith circa 2004 is as sharp and shiny as they’ve ever been. They may be the only rock band that’s ever improved with age.

(Chris McKay /

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