CONCERT REVIEW: Once a Rocker, Always a Rocker – The JOE PERRY Project Live at Webster Hall (April 18th, 2023)

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Joe Perry has fired up The Joe Perry Project for six solo shows this April. These solo dates come after three shows last summer and five years since he toured in support of his 2018 album, “Sweetzerland Manifesto”. Throughout his career, whether with Aerosmith or his solo projects, Joe continues to propel contemporary blues onto the hard rock music scene. This night, The Joe Perry Project owned Webster Hall in downtown New York City.

There’s a reason why Joe has survived a 50+ year career in and out of Aerosmith, the pandemic, and the industry’s ups & downs because he knows how to give his fans legendary songs and superb blues bravado guitar playing performed by world-class musicians. Joining Joe on these six shows are Extreme‘s Gary Cherone on lead vocals, Aerosmith‘s Buck Johnson on keyboards and vocals, Jason Sutter on drums, and David Hull on bass.

As soon as Joe walked on stage, he went straight into a blues warm-up, a tease of things to come. The band then appeared and launched into a riotous rendition of “I’ve Got the Rock n Rolls Again,” Aerosmith‘s “Somebody,” and “East Coast, West Coast.” Joe trusted himself to pick some of his favorite musical gems to perform on this tour. A total of 20 tried-and-true songs showcased his guitar chops, as well as songs that you might never hear Aerosmith play, like “Lick and a Promise,” which he pointed out, “He wished his other band would play it!” These are the songs fans came to hear!

Joe got down to business and started serving one tasty riff after another, like “SOS (Too Bad),” which gave way to “Aye, Aye, Aye,” an up-tempo rocker from “Sweetzerland Manifesto”. Mid-set, he put on his leopard smoking jacket, grabbed his red Gibson 355, and turned up the blues while taking lead vocals on “Flying Sauce Rock n Roll.” He loved it so much he asked the crowd if he could play it again and the fans obliged with a large cheer. He’s Joe “f**ing” Perry; he can do whatever he wants, and fans would love it! This seamless transition from straight-up rock to more conventional blues came to light with tributes to Jeff Beck on “Beck’s Bolero” and Johnny Thunder‘s “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” two songs that further illustrate his incredible musical range.

Joe‘s approach to playing guitar has always been described as “tight yet loose.” To perfect his signature technique, he was tight with grooves while being loose and relaxed. Even his solos have a slippery feel with pull-offs, slides, and string bends, yet they are highly rhythmic. All the riffs on the Aerosmith songs played this evening, including “Chip Away at the Stone,” incorporated swing, funk, and soul elements. This may be why Gary is the perfect vocalist to cover these songs, as Extreme‘s music has a similar vibe to Aerosmith. While Joe was blazing through songs and riffs, Gary was capable of taking these lyrics and making them sound as if they were coming from his soul. His voice filled the venue while his rhythmic aerobics entertained and captivated the audience. He carried a microphone on a pole that he treated as a vaudevillian’s cane, an air guitar, and, of course…. a pool queue. He was a rock star playing a rock star!.

 His stage presence has been honed to perfection through decades of shows, and tonight he was on fire. He is one of the best singers and front-man, hands down, and showcased his vocal strength on the surprise Aerosmith song of the night, “Lightning Strikes.” In an atmosphere charged with the electricity of seeing Joe and Gary, they worked on their individual parts perfectly, like a finely tuned Ferrari speeding down the track.

The band debuted two new songs from Joe’s upcoming solo album “Sweetzerland Manifesto MK II”, “Fortunate One” and “Quake,” both hard-rocking blues tracks. This updated album LP will be released on May 26th and includes six songs with alternate vocal appearances and different mixes from Joe‘s 2018 release of the same name.

Before the show, I asked Joe if he would like to be better known as a songwriter or a guitar player? He responded, “Probably a little of both at this point in my career. I’ve had ebbs and flows in my guitar playing, but my songwriting always seems consistent. Songwriting goes hand in hand with playing, as it’s where you have to shine and get to show off your stuff. That’s the art of it. There are so many licks and riffs that can be turned into songs. If you can create something with these riffs, that’s when a great tune happens. Being a guitar player/songwriter is how I would like to be thought of.”

Gary‘s soaring voice and Joe‘s titanic guitar buildups were the cornerstones of the songs, but his talented band of David, Jason, and Buck maneuvered, navigated, and kept up with the hard rock blues stylings. They were the unsung heroes of the night, allowing Joe and Gary to soar.

Joe and his bandmates are a raucous, maximum-blues-infused quintet that explodes with rhythm and grittiness. There was a distinct stage chemistry and camaraderie between the band members, as I can see why he assembled such a great group. Together they provided an evening filled with tremendous flashbacks from the 70s and 80s, excellent guitar playing, and created some fantastic memories with his solo songs and yet-to-be-released songs.

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