August 5, 2009 – On a cool Wednesday night, two unique events combined to create perhaps the most memorable moments ever to occur during a Sturgis Rally. Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Aerosmith played to a crowd that was perhaps as large as 60,000, but before they could finish out what began as an adrenaline charged performance, lead singer Steven Tyler took a tough tumble off the stage thrust and it all ended too soon.
Before the fall, every element that goes into the creation of a tremendous live concert had fallen into place. Rain soaked the large crowd an hour before showtime, dampening clothing but not attitude. Campers and bikers joined forces with a parade of cars entering the Buffalo Chip Campground just for the Aerosmith concert and chatter was abuzz about the great night of rock that was just ahead. Those who had VIP tickets got the ultimate experience when they met the band backstage, and Saving Abel gave a rousing set of non-stop energy that provided a standard for the rest of the night. And the band from Boston. Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, and David Hull (filling in for a sidelined Tom Hamilton) worked to give Sturgis a show that reminded all in attendance of the fact that no band on earth can do it quite like Aerosmith.
The band’s entrance was anything but typical for a band with such stature. Instead of the usual curtain drop, Steven Tyler appeared anxious to get out and sing as he stood in the dark near the drum kit. The show was already delayed due to the rain storm, and finally he had enough and walked out to his mic stand. The crowd went wild, and although it wasn’t clear what song the band would open with as nearly a week had passed since the last show, the ominous guitar riffing made it clear that “Back in the Saddle” was up.
Tyler took the fans back to the ’70s, sounding solid and single-handedly creating his very own stage show with a tasseled mic, silver coat and matching hat. Joe Perry showed off the slick guitar perfection he is known for while flaunting his own unique stage presence. Just like the crowd, Aerosmith’s show took on a larger than life existence.
During “Ragdoll“, Tyler was having a great night as he scaled a side-stage ramp while singing the lyric “Yes I’m Movin‘” He spent some time near the drum set before coming down the other side to do arm curls with his microphone stand while Joe Perry worked the slide guitar. All the while a constantly cheering crowd hailed the reigning kings of rock and roll. “Dream On” and “Walkin’ the Dog” gave Tyler a chance to let loose on his raspy screams, which came through the speakers with stunning clarity. With the looks and voice still intact, the singer is still the ultimate frontman package.
Brad Whitford riffed away on stage right, and David Hull joined drummer Joey Kramer to complete the rhythm section. “Love in an Elevator” saw the band breaking further into a tight groove as Tyler went into a vocal freestyle and Perry electrified the crowd with a blistering solo. Just as the guitarist reached the peak of the solo, however, a chain of events began that would make this particular Aerosmith show one for the history books.
A fuse to the sound system became overloaded and blew, but behind all the technical information was the simple fact that the crowd could no longer hear Aerosmith. The band gathered near the drum set and shared the crowd’s confusion as they tried to figure out their next move. Steven Tyler had a plan as he walked out on the stage thrust to a roar of cheers – everyone was happy to see the singer coming closer. The encouragement continued as he began to dance, but his trademark moves quickly landed him off stage as his foot lost traction. Everyone’s heart seemed to stop as the reality of the situation began to sink in. Some 45 seconds elapsed before Tyler was finally lifted out of the crowd appearing visibly shaken but able to walk himself off stage with assistance.
A half hour later, Joe Perry addressed the crowd with the sad news that his brother in arms had been taken to the hospital and the show could not continue. And so ended the band’s performance at the Buffalo Chip, and perhaps the rest of the Aerosmith/ZZ Top tour. We wish Steven Tyler the very best in his recovery and encourage all of you reading this to leave a positive message here for the singer. The crowd in Sturgis got a taste of Aerosmith’s ability to deliver an intense and ground-shaking rock show, and fans couldn’t be more eager to see a recuperated Tyler regain his rightful place on stage with the band.