i don’t wanna miss a thing…aerosmith live in nashville 9.19

When a man gets to be a certain age, you can count on certain things -- the knees, the hair, the hydraulic lift in the pants -- to go. It's not that God is cruel, it's that he believes in leveling the playing field -- and the (in theory) addition of wisdom has to be tempered with other lessenings.

Not that you could prove it by Aerosmith's bucking, pawing assault on the senses at AmSouth. Though Steve Tyler, Joe Perry & Co. have snorted, sucked and spun through every excess known to Western (and many Eastern) civilizations over seriously extended periods of their 30 years as rock and roll heroes, there's been no diminishment of powers. Indeed, it's as if they've distilled the knowledge of excess and put it between their ears and legs, in their throats and fingers.

Lessening? Not in that painfully taut Perry's 6-pack abs (replacing, no doubt the 24 bottle case previously consumed) which is flexed as he unravels stinging, sinewy guitar lines that entwine around the columns of pain and passion streaming from Toxic Twin Tyler's throat like hissing electricity needing a place to charge. Not the always androgynous Tyler in his shredded red and white striped t-shirt, his pants defying gravity as they clung to those swiveling hips in much the same way the Boston-based yowler's fingers wrap themselves around the mic as he leans into yet another seek-and-destroy vocal performance.

For Aerosmith, whose Just Push Play marks a conscious decision to return to the grit and the street -- forsaking Diane Warren's turbo-hit-balladry for a band-driven, hard as diamonds take on no frills yard dog rock, the 2001 tour is about reclaiming the truth of their roots. Largely forsaking the Geffen Permanent Vacation-era hits, which heralded a return to the commercial fore for the AOR jurassics, this was a show keyed to where they sprung from and showcasing Play's leaner, meaner reality.

A legitimacy grab can be a dangerous thing, especially when the act in question has drawn out a strong concentration of fans who weren't born when their first album was released. And no doubt, the superficial 'smithheads were lost for much of an evening filled with blues-based powercrunch. But for anyone who would surrender to the pummeling backbeat and take a lesson in dynamics, the sweep would carry them along until the gaps made sense.

Resurrecting bawdy jewels such as "Big 10 Inch (Record of Rhythm & Blues)," which was given a randy burlesque patina -- jauntily going barrelhouse as the graphics reinforced the music being whirled out before the capacity crowd -- Aerosmith knew no shame, just torque and release, torque and release, and delicious, near-carnal-crazied laughter. Lick it off your fingers, make THAT sound, feel the moment and let the moment move one's tropic of cancer or capricorn.

Defying the gender reality, is this a show that's double X? Or is it XY? Or is it about both inside us? And is it a literal read on the aforementioned? Or is it about a merger of the two chromosome combo-packs for the greater pleasure? If it's Aerosmith, it's both.

There were moments, Tyler and Perry -- gaunt cheekbone to gaunt cheekbone at the mic, singer leaning into guitarist as one peeled off another acid-dripping solo --where one could only hold their breath, wondering if they were going to the wall or mattress in some hedonistic merger that would defy homoerotic splendor and dissolve everything we've ever been raised to believe about gender orientation. And that's the beauty of America's hardest working, hardest rocking rock'n'roll band: they blow our minds, our carbons out of our carburetors, our longheld biases with their full-frontal ability to dissolve longheld conceptions about what sex, what rock, what catharsis feels like. It is them and us and a long Freudian tumble without words down a narrow tunnel to a place where there's a cigarette and a wet spot -- and truly nothing more needs to be said.

Not that this show was merely about the hurtling towards impromptu musical combustion. With the military precision of high tech, large production grand rock spectacles we as consumers have come to expect, Aerosmith hit their marks -- and used the resistance of "being there" to heighten the tension built.

Even what should have been a stiff little moment -- moving the band en masse from the stage, through the crowd to a flyer stage in front of the lawn -- came off as a bit of solidarity with the peeps. Though being surrounded by a phalanx of beef (surely for their safety, but it did create a barrier in the see-me, touch-me, fuck-me, rip-us-to-shreds illusion they conjure), the maneuver didn't detract from the impact of giving it back to the cheap seats.

Yes, the filmed vignettes were posturing and unnecessary. But as an entire lawn was lit by extended lighters, swaying gently back and forth during "Dream On," it was all forgivable.

"Dream On," with its meandering melody and trippy lyrics started out all those years ago as irony cast as wisdom, but something to (hopefully) be grown into… Today it is a telling truth, a rock and roll survivors pledge and promise. Lost in the build, one can forget it's a song about wisdom, loss, desolation, aging and the price of rock & roll dreams. That there is clarity here may've been lost on the crowd, but the huddled masses yearning to be hurled against the continuum to break on through the other side got the pining and the want, that need to make more out of what's left of the ruins wreaked through excess and unknowing.

"Even when light…like dusk to day" Tyler purr/whined, "Everybody's got the dues they like to pay-AY-ay" - as heads bobbed in recognition. It was a truth, one that may not have been recognized as such, but one that is tattooed on the back of the mind of every salient or even blotto concert goer. It is the bottomline -- time passes, we toil, it's all equal in the end. And, wisely and classily, the song was not sent out towards the Trade Center/Pentagon reality.

Not that the tragedy was sidestepped in its entirety. Tyler congratulated the crowd for not letting anyone make them victims, for standing up and rocking. His bite-off and spat-out predecessor's taunt "Beyond Beautiful" was all acid and bile for the man whose been replaced - and that malicious napalm wince may've been just as effectively sent into bunkers where the terrorists hide.

But this wasn't a show about world crisis or politics, beyond the politics of screaming guitars, stiff members, sticky nethers, kicking out the jams and finding the groove that will lift you up and leave you spent. With emphasis on "the old stuff," this show was a roiling valentine to why this is arguably the greatest rock band ever produced in America.

Beyond living the lifestyle beyond the definition, Aerosmith pawed and spat and bucked and kicked their way through ferocious blues and looming heavy Zepplin-esque moments. "Sweet Emotion" is -- and was at AmSouth -- loaded with the threat of something major, something with danger, something dark and foreboding, while "Walk The Way" snapped and popped with the voltage of Sparky waiting his next prey.

Even "Draw The Line" with its bass runs and charging guitar bursts found a new vitality. It reminds the faithful to bolt when necessary, but to stand and hold one's own with force and fire. This is a song of us against them -- and it was delivered in a way that broke down the sense of star and crowd. It was a violent thing in Tyler's shrieking, but it was also about empowering people to maintain the strain. Take it any way you can, but get your's while it's there for the getting.

And while the street shoots through your veins, offering emotional and kinetic thrust, keep reaching for something more. If it's the trippy psychedelia that marks the brand new "Sunshine" or the circular musical form that is "Jaded," a cautionary tale of being too molded by forces that will shape, then abandon you, you can have more than given if you keep dreaming and stretching.

Yes, they did the bloated "Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" -- sending it out to Faith Hill in what was either popcommentary or a reference to "breathe" in the first line -- and "Crying" got the full-on swing-it-around-a-pole vamp, but these moments weren't the soul that fired Aerosmith this night.

Near the end of a long drawn out summer tour, the boys were about taking it back. Musically. Spiritually. Attitudinally. For them, it was communion of the street, a sacrament of the scrappy ne'er-do-wells who ever so occasionally as no less than the American poet Tom Petty promised "even the losers get lucky sometimes." For one night, rock and roll surged in the home of country music -- and it was good.

Indeed, it was more than good: it was fire and rage and hormones and a man in a feather boa reminding everybody about that most primal tingle, whether the next morning was to bring school, a cubicle or a long day with a blue collar. For the cogs, to forget that and feel the pulse, that is the job of rock'n'roll salvation. For one night only, the reverends Tyler and Perry were putting it down -- and the sold-out masses were picking it up with the kind of fervor usually reserved for snake handling, tongue talking and full-immersion redemption.

I'll give you an A-men, but it'll be wearing a short plaid skirt + a pair of four inch platforms beside.

-- Holly Gleason