“Worst [bleeping] crowd in the last 10 years,” Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler proclaimed at the inaugural Twin Cities Summer Jam at Canterbury Park in Shakopee.
You never know what’s going to come out of his unfiltered mouth.
On Friday night, he was reviewing the crowd’s effort to sing the chorus of “What It Takes” without his help.
The fans apparently needed that scathing critique from the former “American Idol” judge because they found what it takes on the second try.
Tyler and Aerosmith, those bad boys from Boston, certainly had what it takes to win over a Midwestern crowd on Friday — the rock-star swagger, high-octane energy, singalong hits, terrific guitar work and the loud mouth of Tyler.
No doubt, Aerosmith’s 90-minute set ranks as the highlight of the three-day TC Summer Jam, which also featured Rascal Flatts, REO Speedwagon, Pitbull and Tim McGraw in an attempt to mix musical genres on the same bill.
More on those crowd-pleasing acts later. But, first and foremost, back to Aerosmith.
The Rock Hall of Famers have been ensconced this year in a Las Vegas residency in a 5,000-seat theater. So they seemed a little distracted and unfocused at first on Friday in front of 16,000 people outdoors on a night thick with humidity and threatening skies.
Tyler was revved up from the get-go, swinging his microphone stand, swiveling his hips and shaking the shoulders of guitarist Joe Perry on the opening “Draw the Line.”
Perry, 68, was on fire all night, with tasty fills and outstanding guitar solos. By contrast, Tyler, 71, seemed to turn it on and off. He’s been more consistently engaged in previous Twin Cities appearances, but then Aerosmith hadn’t rocked in town since 2012.
The band seemed to shift into high gear when Perry took over vocals on “Stop Messin’ Around,” an early Fleetwood Mac blues tunes featuring standout solos by guest Buck Johnson on organ, Perry on guitar and Tyler on harmonica, blowing right in Perry’s face.
Other high points were a crazed “Livin’ on the Edge,” an animated “Love in an Elevator,” a frenetic “Toys in the Attic,” and an emotional “Dream On” during which Tyler segued from playing piano to screaming atop it.
He’s so unpredictable. Early in the evening, he shouted “Thank you, St. Paul.” During the encore, he gave a shout-out to Hazelden, the treatment facility that he said saved his life.
Opening for Aerosmith was the aggressively bad Buckcherry, which made noise on hard-rock radio in the late ’90s and the ’00s. Frontman Josh Todd even resorted to lame covers of “Footloose,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Proud Mary” to try to keep the crowd’s attention. Epic fail.
No such disappointments on Thursday and Saturday. With their common dependence on a tenor singer and lots of vocal harmonies, REO, lite-rockin’ favorites in the 1980s, and Rascal Flatts, middle-of-the-country-road kingpins for the past 15 years, were remarkably compatible on opening night of TC Summer Jam.
But if anything proved the festival’s premise that music fans don’t just stay in one musical lane, it was Saturday’s closing bill with McGraw and Pitbull. If these performers were prize fighters, Pitbull scored a knockdown in just about every round. And steady but unspectacular McGraw triumphed with a unanimous decision.
Pitbull, 38, is the Miami party machine. Rapper, singer, hypeman and fast-talking, bilingual motivational speaker, he was a hurricane of sweaty energy, danceable beats and never-ending positivity.
So what if his jams were curtailed to radio-length of four minutes and some of his instrumentation and guests like Kesha and Christina Aguilera were prerecorded. He whipped his four female dancers, himself and the crowd into a frenzy of unadulterated fun for 65 minutes.
“Fireball,” featuring Pitbull’s rapid, tongue-rolling rap, had him bouncing up and down and running so excitedly that he slipped on the stage. The crowd was carrying on with equal enthusiasm. Who cares if you’re dancing on soggy grass from the morning rain?
That was a hard act to follow, especially for the largely low-key, less-than-physically-active McGraw. The 52-year-old country superstar seemed a little tired at first, or maybe it was just because of the unstoppable, full-on force that is Pitbull.
Things turned around for McGraw mid-set on his dramatic reading of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” He offered three new songs that presumably will be on his album due later this year. The loving “Thought About You” sounded more orchestrated than most of his material, the catchy “Good Taste in Women” had a nice beat and plenty of country touchstones (Motel 6, trucks), and “Hallelujahville” committed the sin of being musically uninteresting.
McGraw eventually loosened up, easing to the side of the stage to recognize the 90-something mom of his Iowa-reared guitarist Denny Hemingson and strolling into the pit to connect with fans for the infectious “I Like It, I Love It.”
In his encore, the unanimated hunk demonstrated a little body language on “Real Good Man” and then, during “Indian Outlaw,” pulled up his shirt to show off his abs for a moment, a highlight for some at TC Summer Jam.
Buckcherry notwithstanding, TC Summer Jam earned high marks for the musical performances. It merited solid grades in just about every aspect except ticket pricing (too high) and efficiency (computer and box office glitches). Here’s hoping the fest promoters can come up with the capital to bring TC Summer Jam back in 2020.
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719