You just can't kill Aerosmith. You can shoot 'em up with heroin every morning, shower them in Jack and Coke every night and choke them with a pack of Lucky Strikes in between. You can do that for 20 years and, then, just as they clean up, you can crush them with disease. You know what you'll get? Their best new song in a decade: "Devil's Got a New Disguise," which sounds like an outtake from Toys in the Attic.
Drug and alcohol addiction aside, the band and tour mates Mötley Crüe can fill an appendix in the physician's desk reference. Bassist Tom Hamilton is recovering from throat cancer and isn't expected to rejoin the band until November at the earliest (Hamilton hand-picked David Hull of the Joe Perry Project to fill in). Steven Tyler recently disclosed he's got hepatitis C and, earlier this year, underwent experimental surgery to repair a popped blood vessel in his throat. And Crüe guitarist Mick Mars has a degenerative bone condition and has had a hip replacement.
"There's always a period when a tour starts when everything is kind of rough, but, frankly, these last few gigs have been going a lot better than I thought they would," says guitarist Joe Perry. "Steven's voice sounds great and David is fitting in well....
"This will work for a while, but it won't work forever without Tom."
It may seem strange that Aerosmith-the poster boys of rock sobriety-would pair with the depraved, debauched and decadent Crüe, but Perry doesn't see a conflict.
"I kind of stay out of what people do," he said. "What matters to me is that we put on the best show we can and that's what matters to those guys, too. Some of them drink, some of them don't. They've been through a lot of ups and downs as well, but they do what it takes to get on stage and put on the show that the fans expect and pay for."
But Crüe haven't been doing what it takes. Even with his litany of ailments-and a decade more hard living than Vince Neil-Tyler has made the Crüe frontman look like a tired, blotchy parody.
With a set that includes their best '70s material along with a few classic blues standards ("Baby, Please Don't Go" has been a tour staple with Tyler playing a blaring harmonica), Aerosmith is rockin' like men half their age.
In February, Perry and company return to the studio to finish their 15th studio album-hopefully they'll take their tour momentum with them. After decades of pumping out ironic riffs like the ones in "Walk this Way," "Back in the Saddle" and "Toys in the Attic," the guitarist says he's got plenty more.
"Sometimes I wake up and feel like there is nothing there," he says. "But I've been in that position so many times. Sure enough, I sit down and stuff comes out, and it's been that way for 30 years. I'll probably end up with 15 pieces of music that don't end up on the new record. Maybe they'll end up on another Aerosmith record or another solo record. We'll see what time allows."
Right now it seems like time is allowing for everything, even with the bumps in the road that come with aging. The band has already committed to playing Europe next year and will hit a bunch of the major festivals. Perry said they'll be taking some "major young bands" with them as a package tour but can't say who until the deals are inked.
"I still think Mötley Crüe is a young band, so I guess it's all relative," he says with a chuckle. "But expect a band that's been really popular in the last 10 years."
Aerosmith play with Mötley Crüe at Coors Amphitheatre on Nov. 9. Gates open at 7:30 p.m. $55-$125. 619-220-8497.