By Thomas Johnson, July 13 2018 —
The Calgary Stampede, to its credit, pumps metropolitan Calgary with so much life-blood that the incoming energy manifests itself in as eclectic a range in music as you’ll see anywhere in Canada on a weekday. On Wednesday, July 11, for example, Dickens hosted a number of death metal bands and only a handful of blocks away, The Rose & Crown’s tent housed The Get Down, a night of hip-hop and R&B oriented acts.
However, for no reason other than a belief that American rock from the ‘70s and ‘80s acts as a wonderful palate cleanser, I ventured to the Cowboys Tent to catch Steven Tyler. Yes, 70-year-old Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. And he fucking killed it.
You don’t survive the recording industry for nearly half a century without a deep understanding of which jokes you’re in on and which jokes you’re a part of. Tyler kicked off his set with “Dream On,” accompanied by a nostalgic video montage before shifting to “Sweet Emotion.” Somewhere in there, he even snuck a cover of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.”
He executed the setlist — which, mind you, involved several songs that could not be more ripe for parody — with just the right amount of corniness. His violinist roared all the way through the set, country elements were brought to the literal and figurative forefront of his songs and he pandered to the crowd with his plan to record a country album to boot.
Tyler’s voice was crisp and strong. When he closed the night with a two-song encore of “Walk This Way” and Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” he filled the tent with his androgynous tenor. Steven Tyler is as old as some of our grandparents. He should not be able to do that. I thought for a moment that his frail body was going to burst like a balloon. But his sustained shriek carried throughout the night like a welcome case of tinnitus. And we all cheered.