Aerosmith rocks hard at KAABOO, where tense situation mars Ludacris show

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The second day of KAABOO Del Mar was marked by triumphs and tribulations.

Aerosmith, performing for the first time anywhere in a year, quickly knocked off most of the rust and rocked with palpable conviction at the sprawling Sunset Cliffs Stage.

Earlier in the evening, appearing on the same stage, Lenny Kravitz and his brassy band delivered a potent set of rock, soul and funk to a similarly enormous evening audience of well over 20,000. Their performance included an extended version of “Let Love Rule” and a rollicking “Are You Gonna Go My Way.”

The mood soured a few hours later when far more people than could be accommodated gathered in front of KAABOO’s indoor ENCORE venue, where hip-hop veteran Ludacris was scheduled to perform at 11 p.m. He did not take the stage until about 11:30 p.m., after police had dispersed the crowd outside in what some observers described as a tense situation and others as a near-riot.

Four arrests were made, according to San Diego Sheriff’s Lt. Jim Walker.

“The people who had attended the Aerosmith and The Chainsmokers (performances) were funneling into the location outside the Ludacris concert,” Walker said. “But that venue was filled to capacity, so that’s when the issue started and several fights broke out in front of that venue.”

Newport Beach resident Celeste Lehmann, 30, attended KAABOO Saturday with her husband. They were joined by her sister, who flew in from Chicago. After Aerosmith concluded its performance, she, her husband and sister walked to the Encore stage to see Ludacris, arriving an hour before his 11 p.m. performance. They never got into the venue.

In an email she sent to KAABOO’s organizers and shared with the Union-Tribune, Lehmann wrote: “It was by far the worst experience I’ve ever dealt with in my life. I’m still feeling very anxious and injured from waiting in a corral of people pushing my husband, sister and I into the maze of steel gates you had so ineffectively placed to get into the ENCORE stage. We were literally trapped for over an hour. We ended up having to climb over gates and push through an out of control crowd to get out. Not safe. Where was the security and crowd control?”

In a subsequent Sunday phone conversation, Lehmann said: “We didn’t even go today, because we had such a bad experience.”

In response to Lehmann’s email, a KAABOO spokeswoman Sunday told the Union-Tribune: “KAABOO and the Del Mar Fairgrounds apologize to those who were unable to enjoy ENCORE last night. The venue was at capacity. For the safety of our guests, security and the Sheriff’s Department dispersed an unruly crowd. There were no injuries. All experiences are on schedule as planned for today.”

The mood was far more festive when Aerosmith took to the stage 4 minutes before its scheduled 8:25 p.m. starting time Saturday The five-man band, augmented by a touring keyboardist, ripped into “Back in the Saddle,” “Love in an Elevator” and “Cryin’ ” with suitable gusto.

It was an impressive opening salvo from a band whose last performance was in Moscow early last September. Charismatic lead singer Steve Tyler bounded repeatedly across the stage, seeming very much like a man who was elated to be reunited with his band after a 12-month hiatus. He hugged bassist Tom Hamilton and lead guitarist Joe Perry, who collapsed on stage earlier this summer while performing with his new band the Hollywood Vampires and was hospitalized

Perry seemed fully recovered at KAABOO, delivering a series of sharply executed solos and periodically sharing a microphone with Tyler. Behind them, Hamilton, rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford and drummer Joey Kramer provided a rock-solid foundation.

The set alternated between such Aerosmith classics as “Walk This Way” and the concert-concluding “Dream On” and “Sweet Emotion” and rousing covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Stop Messin’ Around” (on which Perry contributed some of the lead vocals and Tyler played harmonica), the 1951 Tiny Bradshaw gem, “Train Kep A-Rollin’,” and The Beatles’ “Come Together,” which found the multi-generational audience enthusiastically singing along on the chorus..

At the conclusion of their performance, Tyler thanked the crowd. “We’ll see you next year,” he said.

Whether or not that is for the Aerosmith farewell tour Tyler announced a few months ago, much to the surprise of his band mates, remains to be determined. But the group’s often high-octane KAABOO performance, while not without a bump here and there, left little doubt Aerosmith can stay firmly back in the saddle for a good while to come.

By George Varga for

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