Aerosmith's second act has been a remarkable one. Their comeback-period albums of Permanent Vacation, Pump and Get A Grip are now each over 20 years old and the band has survived everything from in-band fighting, cancer, Steven Tyler falling off the wagon (and off stage) and becoming a judge on American Idol. In 2014, the band headlined the Download Festival at Donington Park in Leicestershire, UK, with a blistering set that would make bands half their age take notice. The show was filmed and has been immortalized in the DVD/2-CD set, Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014.
The DVD begins with backstage footage of the band. Guitarist Brad Whitford is shown warming up to The Rolling Stones' "Midnight Rambler," while, in a typical over-the-top display, a parade of women are seen leaving Steven Tyler's dressing room. The band takes the stage and launch into "Train Kept A-Rollin." Tyler, sporting a Native American headdress, doesn't look or sound like the 66-year-old man he was at the time this show took place. It's amazing how well his voice has been preserved all these years and the band's performance is equally vital.
A series of 1990s Aerosmith hits follows and the crowd eats up every one of them, loudly singing along to every song. "Eat The Rich" and "Love In An Elevator" rock more than their studio counterparts while the band shows off their pop side on tight renditions of "Cryin'" and "Jaded." Tyler is in strong voice on "Cryin'" in particular, pushing his voice to its upper limits. The vastly underrated Whitford delivers a tasteful solo on "Jaded," with Joe Perry content to handle rhythm parts for one number.
Whitford plays the intro on the band's classic funk jam, "Last Child," a track he co-wrote with Tyler. This is Aerosmith at their sleazy best and the band moves into an extended guitar jam to finish out the song. Along those lines, "Same Old Song And Dance" finds the band locked into a tight, gritty groove. Few, if any rock bands are better than Aerosmith when they are in this mode.
Festival shows are typically greatest hits affairs and this show is no different. That doesn't mean there aren't any surprises, however. For Perry's solo spot, the band offers "Freedom Fighter" from their most recent album, Music From Another Dimension. The track is a driving rocker that doesn't feel out of place amidst the classics. Tyler also gives an all-too-short tease of the Rocks gem "Home Tonight" before playing the classic opening notes of "Dream On." It's a nice treat to see Tyler playing keyboard again on this legendary track as he had gotten away from it for some time.
Bassist Tom Hamilton gets to shine on a potent "Sweet Emotion," giving a funky bass solo before the track's signature opening lick. The group closes with "Mama Kin" from their first album showing that after all these years, they have lost none of their vitality.
The show is well filmed and really captures the synergy between the band and the audience. Audio options include Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Surround Sound. The show is spread out over two CDs and is complete on both formats.
More than 40 years later, Aerosmith still has it and is as bullet proof as ever. Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014 shows a vital band still playing as if they have something to prove. Their killer catalog and adoring crowd would make it hard not to deliver a great performance.