LONG ISLAND, N.Y. -- It's not often that a band is on tour as it releases a live album chronicling an earlier portion of the same tour.
Yet evergreen rockers Aerosmith are about to give it a shot.
Even as the veteran road-warriors and MTV icons prepare to release a two-disc live-album, A Little South of Sanity, on Tuesday (Oct. 20), they're still playing what were originally planned as summer dates on their Nine Lives tour -- one of two tours already immortalized on the new album.
"Our life kind-of revolves around getting to and from the stage to perform. The easiest thing we do is to rock like that," guitarist Brad Whitford said.
A knee injury sustained by singer Steven Tyler onstage in April and serious burns suffered by drummer Joey Kramer in a gas-station fire in July forced the band to reschedule a total of 30 spring and summer shows at the same venues, beginning in September.
Despite the postponed dates, the summer saw Aerosmith score the first #1 pop-single of their 25-year career with "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" (RealAudio excerpt), a ballad penned by pop songwriter Diane Warren. The tune was included on the soundtrack to the summer action-blockbuster film "Armageddon."
Whitford said that the band can already see the effects of its biggest hit to date, though the song is not included on A Little South of Sanity. "[There are a lot of] young kids in the audience who only know 'I Don't Want to Miss a Thing,' " Whitford said. "We've got everything from toddlers to guys our age and older [in the audience] these days."
In putting together a live album, the band looked to translate the energy of its live performances onto A Little South of Sanity. The album, which features tracks selected by the band and producer Jack Douglas from the tours for Nine Lives (1997) and its predecessor, Get a Grip (1993), includes some of Aerosmith's biggest hits and classic cuts.
On Thursday night, in 50-degree weather, Aerosmith played the latest of their rescheduled shows -- a sold-out date at Jones Beach Theater, a picturesque beachfront amphitheater usually reserved for summer events.
The show shared many high points with A Little South of Sanity: emotional performances of power ballads such as the classic "Dream On" (RealAudio excerpt) and "What It Takes," faithful renditions of hits including "Janie's Got a Gun" and "Living on the Edge" and hard-hitting versions of classic rockers such as "Walk This Way" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Sweet Emotion" (RealAudio excerpt).
At Jones Beach, though, "Sweet Emotion" held a surprise not included on the live album -- a mid-song segue into "Heartbreaker," by riff-rock pioneers Led Zeppelin, a band Whitford said was "a huge influence [on Aerosmith]. We do some sort of tribute to them almost every night."
To help fans keep warm on the cold night, the theater's food-vendors sold hot chocolate instead of their usual fare of ice cream, and frontman Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry sported long coats over their traditionally skimpy stage-attire. But the multi-generational crowd's response to the two-hour set was as fiery as the night's ocean breeze was icy.
"It wasn't really that cold. Anyway, we were all together watching the show and we kept warm," said Steph Sprasklen, a 14-year-old fan from Garden City, who, as Whitford might have predicted, said her favorite part of the show was the band's performance of "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing."
Two of her companions, Kristin Steinhauer and Dan Mineo, both also 14 and from Garden City, agreed that the ballad was the show's highlight. Mineo expressed interest in buying the new live album: "They sounded good today. I think a lot of their songs sound better live," he said.
Though drummer Kramer showed no signs of the burns he'd suffered, either in his drumming or on his body, Tyler still wore a bulky leg-brace over his orange lace-up tights, which hampered some of his usual onstage acrobatics. Still, he managed to screech and perform the same vocal acrobatics that have characterized his long career in the spotlight.
"He didn't do some of the stuff he usually does, like kicking his legs up really high, but if you didn't know what it's usually like, you wouldn't have thought anything of it. I was actually surprised how well he got around with the leg brace," said Cathy Cordone, a 33-year-old fan from Brooklyn.
Cordone said she had seen Aerosmith play 10 years before, but she didn't really see any difference in the bandmembers' stamina onstage. "No, they were very energetic tonight. It was a really good show," she said.
Whitford, who frequently shares the lead-guitar spotlight with Perry, his somewhat flashier counterpart, said that the band doesn't see its 25-year history as a burden. "It's most definitely an advantage; there's not too many disadvantages to it."
Whitford said that some newer bands' live acts suffer from their lack
of performing history. "That's where I see them missing their roots.
Maybe they don't have the opportunity we had to be playing all the
time. We used to play day in, day out, anywhere and everywhere," he
The band will continue playing U.S. shows at least until
December, after which it probably will return to the studio,
according to Whitford.
"I think we've never had an album that we're 100 percent satisfied with," he said. "Something always happens when you're making a record; you're working with the big record company and the big money is there and the pressure is there. For some reason, with the choice of material, as right as it seemed, when you get down the road from it, you're scratching your head, asking, 'Why?' I think we're still trying to make the perfect album. So we're going to do another album and try to get a little closer to that."