I stepped out of the 1989 Ford Tempo into the crisp fall air. There was a bit of sleet coming down, and I could see my frosty breath as my Mom, and I made our way toward the arena. In the distance, I could see what looked like an endless line of fans anxious to get inside and find that perfect seat. We arrived a bit late, so the only place we were going was the back of the line. As we nestled in behind a pair of guys with long ponytails, I looked up to see the shining lights of the marquee flashing “Tonight Only: Aerosmith. I still get chills thinking about the excitement I felt waiting outside wondering, “What are they going to play?”, “What will it sound like live?”, “Will I have a long ponytail when I’m older?”. In just a few hours, my teenage curiosity would melt away into pure amazement.
Growing up, Aerosmith was our family soundtrack, so naturally, I was a huge fan. When my Mom bought tickets a few months before my birthday I was beyond ecstatic. The show was supposed to take place on my birthday in May of 1998, however, a few days before, Steven Tyler injured his knee, and the show had to be postponed until November of 1998. I was bummed I had to wait an additional six months, but once the day arrived none of that mattered.
As the line slowly inched forward and we made our way to the doors, I could hear the massive crowd inside getting pumped up for the show. Vendors shouted like carnival barkers, “Ice cold beer!”, “Official tour shirts!”.
It was like going to the circus, but instead of clowns and tigers, there were long haired scruffy dudes and girls in leather skirts.
We stopped by the merch booth to check out the shirts, but I was anxious to get a good seat. We went inside and started scouting for the best view. Being that it was my first rock show, I was a little intimidated with the thought of being on the floor where it was standing room only, so we elected to grab some seats in the stands.
As I sat listening to the house music, I could feel the electricity of the crowd. I anxiously waited for the curtain to open, like a doorway to a new world. As the house lights went down and the opening band came out, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. This was it. The moment I had waited for was finally here, and it did not disappoint. The singer stepped out and said “We’re Seven Mary Three from Virginia,” and kicked into the band’s hit song “Water’s Edge.”
I instantly recognized the song from the radio and a huge smile came over my face. Seven Mary Three put on a great show and really warmed up the crowd, playing about eight songs before saying “Thanks for the warm welcome, Aerosmith is up next.” The audience went wild and started to push forward. They knew in a few moments they would be graced by rock legends.
As the lights came up, a crew of stagehands went to their coordinated positions putting up lights, rigging cords, curtains and checking instruments. When the preparation was complete, the whole stage was covered with Aerosmith curtains prominently featuring artwork from their new album “Nine Lives.” There were giant cats pictured to look like they were giving an evil hiss. It was awesome! As the house lights went out, the sound of a cat going “Reeeeeaaaaaarrrrrr” came over the speakers.
With a loud bang, sparks flew, and the curtains dropped to reveal the legendary Aerosmith!!!!
They opened with their title track “Nine Lives,” and the crowd erupted, bouncing around causing the whole floor to sway back and forth, like waves in a sea of people. For a moment, I was glad we were in the stands and not squished between all those crazy fans.
People danced and sang along to every word like we were all part of a rock and roll choir. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. On stage, the band had so much energy! Steven Tyler jumped around, swinging his signature hankerchiefed microphone stand and swaggering back and forth like a fancy peacock. Joe Perry proved his virtuoso status early on in the set, as he wailed away on solo after solo, and Joey Kramer brought the house down with his pummeling drum rampage.
About halfway through the show, during “Pink,” a fan threw a bra on the stage. Security quickly tried to grab it, but rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford stepped on it until the song was over. After the song, he held it up, and the band all had a good laugh. Ah, the crazy world of rock musicians. I really enjoyed seeing how much fun they were having, and that they didn’t take themselves too seriously.
After a small break, the band came back out for an encore starting with “Mama Kin” (my Mom’s personal favorite) before soaring through “What it Takes” from their 1989 release “Pump.” As Tom Hamilton started laying down the smoky bass line from the last song “Sweet Emotion” I stood in awe of what had transpired over the last two hours. The band took a bow and mentioned how nice the people of Omaha were. The crowd cheered and chanted “One more song!”.
As the house lights came up, we stopped by the crowded merch booth. My Mom bought me an official tour shirt (black, of course). I felt excellent walking into school the next day. Many people commented on the shirt and asked about the show. After saying “What?” a few times from the severe amount of hearing loss, I told them,
It was one of the greatest experiences of my life!
Love in an Elevator
Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)*
Eat the Rich
Livin’ on the Edge
Taste of India*
Janie’s Got a Gun
What Kind of Love are You On
Rats in the Cellar
Draw the Line
Stop Messin’ Around
Walk this Way
I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing
Dude (Looks Like a Lady)
What it Takes*
Written by Spencer Fleming