No Need to Dream On any Longer, ROCKS DONINGTON Delivers Aerosmith To Your Home

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Aerosmith Rocks Donington LP DVD review Critical Blast Dennis Russo

The ROCKS DONINGTON 2014 “Limited Edition” set from Eagle Rock Entertainment is a 3 LP/single DVD set of the live outdoor show Aerosmith performed in 2014.

The band consists of the familiar as family line up of:

Steven Tyler

Joe Perry

Brad Whitford

Tom Hamilton

Joey Kramer

This review posed some interesting comparisons for me. On the one side, I have the vinyl albums which I would review on my dedicated music playback system. On the other side, I have the DVD which I will review on my UHD TV/Soundbar set up. While the video will not have any comparison, the music portion will have a lot of comparisons, but obviously this will not be an apples to apples type comparison, because my stereo system is decisively more high fidelity than that of the sound bar/subwoofer set up that I have with my television. I will try then to keep the two separate, since the LP medium is far superior to that of any digitally recorded sound to begin with; it would be like bringing a knife to a gun fight.

The Limited Edition Set:

Everything is packaged in a beautiful gatefold presentation, very reminiscent of the original Woodstock gatefold. The cardstock is heavy, and the pictures rendered with utmost clarity and shine. This is truly a fine example of why album packaging is so much nicer than any other recorded media--there is more to see, it’s easier to see, and it is artwork in itself.

The albums are stored in 2 separate sleeves--two in one side and one in the other. The DVD is nestled in a cut slot on the center panel. Just holding the set gives you the sense that this was not something just thrown together, but thought out and done with intent and care.

The Records:

There are three heavy vinyl discs in this set that exude quality. The discs were clean, and free of any residue "stuff."

 

 

As a routine, though, I do always clean my records the first time before playing them, but I could detect no residue in examining the used cleaning fluid after a giving them a thorough cleaning on my VPI record cleaner.

What was also apparent was that songs were not crammed onto the platters. Some sides only had 2-3 songs on them, with quite a bit of space left towards the spindle. They could have easily squashed and edited the songs to perhaps fit them all onto just 2 LPs, but instead opted for quality cutting and editing. These LPs are in it for the long haul, so to speak, and were made to give years, nay decades, of good playback.

After cueing up the albums on my turntable, I took my seat in my sweet spot and wondered what I was going to be in for…

I bought my first Aerosmith album, TOYS IN THE ATTIC, back in 1975 not too long after it was released, and have been a fan ever since. The energy the band played with was one of several things that set them apart from all the rest; and apart from a spell where Steve Tyler and Joe Perry went their separate ways, they have been making rock and roll that has never stopped being distinctly Aerosmith. (Well, except when the awful rendition of Walk This Way was released with Run DMC…however it could be argued that that rendition brought the band back into mainstream listening. Thank goodness it never went any further than that!)

But that was then, and this was a live recording done by senior citizens. How much of the energy could there still be?

Let me tell you here and now: a lot! In fact I do not think that Tyler or the boys have lost a single stride!

There are few iconic front-men that can command a stage and work a mic stand and arena size audience the way Steven Tyler can, and he does it with aplomb here as he always did (made more evident on the DVD of course, but more on that later).

As soon as the first song ("Train Kept A Rollin") started playing, I was drawn back to Foghat’s LIVE album--an album to this day that I consider one of the greatest examples of a live rock concert ever made and played in front of an outdoor audience with equal the energy and excitement. It was very evident that this was an outdoor show, and the guitar work took prominence in the overall balance of the mix. Steven Tyler’s voice was spot on, but at many times gets lost in the sound of the guitars. There was more of a wall-of-sound than a true soundstage “imaging” in front of me, but I did not expect one with this type of recording; after all, this was a live show, done outdoors. All of the guitar work was mic’d very well, but bass could have (in my opinion) been mixed a little louder to compliment them. Drums and keyboards were mixed in well with the bass, but still took a backseat to the guitars. But this is a rock concert, and guitars and adrenalin rule, tonal balance be darned!

Vocal and instrument timbres were very good. All the instruments sounded like they should, and Tyler’s voice had that “feeling” to it, which made Joe Perry call him “the Demin’ of Screamin’.” His voice never showed any aural signs of strain; there are 20 songs on these albums, and his voice sounds as strong on the last as it does on the first without any signs of pushing it.

Each song flowed into the next smoothly, and the audience was mixed in about as well as an audience of this size outside could be.

All in all, while sonically the mixing of the album could have been done a little differently for my tastes, what was most important for me was there in spades, and that was the intensity and breadth of the live show that was captured. What more could you want from a live show? Plus, having Aerosmith on vinyl is just “right”--there was something internally magical about seeing a brand new Aerosmith album spinning on a turntable cranking out loud rock and roll. One might say all is right in the rock world.

 

DVD:

After a lengthy listening session I went right in and put the DVD into the player so that I could listen to the show while the aural history was still fresh in my mind.

As soon as it started, I was blown away. When you listen to the record, you don’t see the band members, you just hear them. The DVD starts behinds the scenes, just before the show begins, and I got to see the people I just listened to. For an instant there was a disconnect, because (I hate to say it) they are old-looking men! (Yes, Steven Tyler still has his “20-something” groupies with him, but they look like his grand kids.) I said to myself, “This couldn’t be the same people I just listened to, here displayed in 4K UHD!” with every wrinkle and crack (and there are many of them) visible.

All that pretense, though, melted away as soon as they started playing. Yep, it was the same band--and my goodness, seeing Steven Tyler up there on stage running around...it was as if he was 20-something again!

Joe Perry (although frighteningly reminiscent of Keith Richards in appearance now) played with equally as much energy as Tyler did throughout the show; the whole band, for that matter, was as if nothing ever changed. The polish to which they played their instruments while aurally apparent on the LP could visually be seen here as well.

Which brings me to the picture: amazing! The direction and camera work was absolutely stellar, the camera angles (and there are many here) were done in such a way that even though you bounce from one camera to another throughout the songs, editing was done in such a way that it was never dizzying or clunky. The images flowed smoothly and effortlessly from one to another as if a choreographed routine of their own.

The sound was much more cohesive on the DVD than it was on the albums--not better, just closer together. Guitars were a little less prominent, and Tyler’s voice a little more pronounced This could be a result as I said earlier of my soundbar/subwoofer combination not being as detailed and revealing as my LP set up. In any case it was still very good. This DVD was a non-stop roller coaster ride that hand me feeling I was there are the show.

What is great about the limited edition set is that you get the best of both worlds: you get LP’s that give you the sense you're listening to live people played before you, and you get the DVD that shows you things a regular recording can’t. For instance, when Joe Perry goes off on a Jimi Hendricks inspired homage during “Sweet Emotion,” while you can easily hear it, you can’t see on the album that Perry played it with a left hand guitar backwards. (Jimi played a right handed guitar upside down.) Brilliant on his part, which also leads me to say that Joe Perry to me is one of the best pure rock guitarists from this era ever to pick up a pick. I put him on par with Angus Young and Ted Nugent, just to name a couple. He is proof, like them, that it is not just how fast you play, but what and how you play that matters most. Yes, there are others you can put with him, but for me none that I would say are better. Even in his 60’s he puts many younger (and many of his contemporaries) to bitter shame. One could argue that Aerosmith is the consummate rock band, and the evidence from the audience, many of which you can tell were in their teens and twenties, shows I would get a lot of agreement from them. The group transcends age, proving that rock--real rock--doesn’t abide by the laws of aging. It's ageless.

This set too is one for the ages, and a must-have in my book. It has so many great songs on it that span the length and breadth of the band's history, and all of the songs on the album are on the DVD. Minor preferences aside, it does so much right in convincing and conveying emotion, energy, pace and rhythm in multiple senses, that why wouldn’t you want it?

Songs as they appear in order on the LPs:

  • Train Kept A-Rollin’

  • Eat The Rich

  • Love In An Elevator

  • Cryin'

  • Jaded

  • Living On The edge

  • Last Child

  • Freedom Fighter

  • Same Old Song And dance

  • Janie’s Got A Gun

  • Toys in The Attic

  • I Don’t Want To Miss Thing

  • No More No More

  • Come Together

  • Dude Looks Like A Lady

  • Walk This Way

  • Home Tonight

  • Dream On

  • Sweet Emotion

  • Mama Kin

 

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0