Old Aerosmith songs still passing for new

If Aerosmith makes it hard to decide just when to make a run for it Saturday — to get rid of the last beer and score the next one — Joe Perry might be happy to hear that.

It’s a testament to the band’s longevity, and to set-list science.

“We spend the best part of two hours before the show figuring out what the set’s going to be,” the guitarist said of the “Blue Army Tour” that brings the enduring Boston rockers back to the MGM on Saturday.

When you’ve been making albums since 1973, it’s hard to find room for new stuff. That’s one of the reasons it’s been three years since the last Aerosmith album, “Music From Another Dimension.”

“At one point I tweeted, after our last record, ‘What are some of the songs you want to hear off the new record?'” Perry says. “And the responses were, ‘What songs are you going to have to take out of the set to add a new song?’

“Oh, OK. I hadn’t looked at it like that.”

“We all love working in the studio and recording, but you have to weigh that against going on the road,” he adds. “Are we doing the record just to satisfy our own creative needs? Or are we doing it because we feel like the audience wants to hear some new material? There’s a lot of pressure to play our catalog when we get on the road.”

On the plus side, being a band longer than some fans have been alive can let you pull a fast one. Play a song so old that they think it’s new, while their dads smile with vinyl flashbacks. A song such as “Walkin’ the Dog” from the debut album in 1973.

Or “Stop Messin’ Around,” originally by Fleetwood Mac — the Peter Green blues lineup, not the Buckingham-Nicks. Perry says that one earns a place right in there with “Love in an Elevator” and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” because of the role it played.

“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I hadn’t had the influence of (Green) and his playing and the way that band worked. That had a big influence on what I envisioned Aerosmith should be,” Perry says.

“You can follow the trail back quite a ways and see where the influence comes from … we’re just one more part on the chain. There are bands that come up to me and say, ‘You are the first rock show I went to and I wouldn’t be playing guitar now.’ ”

So, yes, “It’s a real art to put together a very good set.” To make it even more of a challenge, the band deliberately sought out some places it has never played (Hello, Durant, Okla.!) for the summer’s relatively short 16-city tour. But the MGM Grand Garden is like a home away from home — at least until the new arena across the Strip is finished — and those annual stops “give us a little more leeway to throw something in there.”

Perry makes the band’s long-term planning sound less scientific than crafting a set list. “No pun intended, but we kind of play it by ear,” he says. “We’re just taking it from day to day, tour to tour.”

Without mentioning bassist Tom Hamilton’s cancer battle specifically, he says the factors range from “how everybody’s doing healthwise, to when everybody’s feeling like we might need a break, to when it’s time to get back on the road. You just get that feeling.

“This has been our life for 42 years or whatever,” he adds. “We can take being off the road for just so long and then it’s time to get back out there.”

The summer shows also come on the heels of singer Steven Tyler releasing a country solo single, “Love Is Your Name.” A solo country album from him will probably beat any new Aerosmith effort to market, but Perry sounds OK with that.

“He’s always exploring new ideas and new music,” Perry says. “It’s good because it brings new ideas back to the band.”

If you expected some familiar Aerosmith in-fighting, not this time.

“We’ve been through all that stuff. We’re at the point now where we get along pretty well. I can’t remember when we were getting along better,” he says.

And if Tyler’s working on a solo project, Perry says he never stops.

“I’m always in the studio if we’re not on the road,” he says of efforts such as last year’s Christmas EP, which he wants to expand for the next couple of years until it’s of album length.

“It’s hard to say where the solo project starts or stops and just a way of life starts. Part of my way of life is writing music. After I get enough material that I want to put out there, that’s when the solo record comes out.”

By Mike Weatherford for Reviewjournal