Aerosmith’s Joe Perry knows something about getting lost in the moment. It happened for the latest time during the final seconds of his show this week celebrating the release of a new solo album at the Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood, where guitarists Perry, Slash, Johnny Depp and Dean DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots were raging through a supercharged “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” a song at the core of Perry’s musical life ever since he first heard the Yardbirds’ version as a teenager.
Perry smashed his guitar onstage. “It was a really a nice guitar, and the guy who made it for me was in the front row,” Perry says. “That’s why I’m feeling bad about it. It was not anything I planned. It was just that the energy was overwhelming.”
It was a ferocious finish to a two-hour performance of hard rock and muscular blues ahead of Friday’s release of Sweetzerland Manifesto, which features an all-star cast of singers including Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander, the New York Dolls’ David Johansen and U.K. veteran Terry Reid. Making the album was a long-term project, beginning with a recording of Sixties pop hit “Eve of Destruction” in 2012, but picked up steam last year. It was recorded at Depp’s home studio in the Hollywood Hills.
“It’s like an enclave that doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the world,” Perry says of the studio. “It’s like an artists’ refuge – he’s got writers up there, painters. There are comedians that come up. Oddly enough, not a lot of actors, other than Johnny. It’s a place where creativity is probably the most important thing. It’s a state of mind almost.”
“I love to record. I love to be in the studio. I love to experiment,” he adds. “This was just another way to go about it.”
While Aerosmith remains at the center of Perry’s career, the years between albums from the multi-platinum rock & roll band leave him restless. His solo career first erupted after he quit Aerosmith in 1979 and launched the Joe Perry Project with an album called Let the Music Do the Talking. The title song was a fired up statement from a lead guitarist stepping out on his own and leaving his need for a lead singer behind.
“It was the end of the Seventies,” Perry recalled of his abrupt exit from Aerosmith. “We were pretty burned out. We had been busting our asses for eight or nine years, playing everywhere, trying to make it. If we had been a little wiser, we would have just taken a vacation. We just kept going until basically we had a meltdown.”
“I love rock & roll, and it’s tough even for me to hear an instrumental version of the kind of music I like,” Perry says. “Once in a while I’ll do one. But people want to hear a singer, and I want to hear a singer.” His longtime creative partner and onetime “Toxic Twin” in Aerosmith, singer Steven Tyler, “is obviously one of the best to come down the pike.”
The album release show was billed as Joe Perry and Friends, and the guitar hero arrived onstage in classic style: layers of chains and scarves, in a tuxedo jacket and dark shades, a streak of white accenting a thick mane of black hair. The band included STP’s Dean and Robert DeLeo on guitar and bass, respectively. Later, they were joined on rhythm guitar by Depp (a member of the band Hollywood Vampires with Perry and Alice Cooper).
The band jumped into playing the new album in rough order. Reid began with the album’s “I’ll Do Happiness,” a cry of angry love that was dark and bluesy. Like most of the night, the sound was forceful, but not overly polished. “Won’t Let Me Go” shook to a bruising rhythm from the DeLeo brothers, leaving room for Perry to unfurl an aching rock solo.
The delivery was serious but never precious, at times coming off like a living room jam session. When Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson showed up bearded and feisty for “Fortunate One,” the song was over much too quickly for Perry, who immediately said, “Want to play it again?” And they did.
Robinson joined the album project late, after the CD was already mastered, so his song will be a bonus track exclusive to the deluxe vinyl version of Sweetzerland.
Perry’s guitar turned noisy and meditative for the instrumental “Spanish Sushi,” supported by some thundering beats from drummer David Goodstein. The crowd included Gene Simmons of Kiss, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and GN’R vets Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum.
Toward the end of the night, Zander delivering biting melodic vocals on two songs, including the vinyl-only “Countryside Boulevard.” For the set’s encore, he returned to shout the opening lines of the Beatles’ “Come Together.” Reid and Robinson took turns on the song, stepping back for Perry to take another molten lead.
Later in January, Perry says, he expects to be recording the next Hollywood Vampires album, and tour dates are booked with the band in May and June, with a few scattered U.S. shows. And with Aerosmith in their 38th year, they’ll likely to tour again late in 2018, as Perry pushes for another Aerosmith record.