There's a growing trend in live music these days for bands to perform one album in its entirety. It's not a new concept, but it's one that seems to be taking over a handful of summer tours — Mötley Crüe and Dr. Feelgood, Public Enemy and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and now Aerosmith with Toys in the Attic.
The band's second-best selling CD -- behind Get a Grip -- has sold more than eight million copies since it was released in 1975 and features the classic tunes "Sweet Emotion" and "Walk This Way."
"We were talking about Rocks and Toys in the Attic a few months ago," bassist Tom Hamilton says by phone from Cape Cod, Mass., during a recent day off. "The one that worked out to be the right one was Toys in the Attic. Once the band all got in a room together, that was the preference."
Hamilton says the band has considered performing an album in its entirety for years, but always pictured it as a smaller tour of theaters. "We didn't think a big amphitheater or arena audience would be into it that much," he says. "We thought it would be for a small minority of rabid fans. Interest outside of the band has grown in the last few years and younger fans are seeking out music from the '60s and '70s."
He said while the band is having fun with the performances, they're also watching to gauge fan reaction to the songs. One band member that's missing so far on the tour is Brad Whitford, who was replaced by Green Day and Weezer collaborator Bobby Schneck. Whitford, who is recovering from an unspecified surgery, is expected to join the tour in July.
"Bobby's doing a great job," Hamilton says. "He was Brad's choice. Bob has gone and worked his butt off on the new material. He's got it down. He's rockin' out up there. He's not jumping up on the drum riser -- he'd probably get reprimanded -- but he's putting his heart into it. He's got a great work ethic."
The band is sticking to the arrangements that were on the album for the tour performances. Hamilton says it only took one or two run-throughs to knock the rust off of playing "Sweet Emotion" and "Walk this Way." The others required a lot more rehearsal -- three weeks -- than they usually require.
When looking back at the making of the album, Hamilton says the memories are right below the surface because it was "such a exciting, fun time."
"I remember doing the rehearsing for the record outside of Boston," Hamilton says. "We would just play and laugh. Joe (Perry) and Steven (Tyler) were coming up with great material. It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun and enjoying each other and grooving on how everything came together. There are good albums that were a bitch to do, and albums that were easier. That one was kind of easy -- it has an easy flow to it."
One of the album's biggest hits, "Sweet Emotion," is written around Hamilton's bass line, something he had carried over from the previous album's recording sessions. "I kind of had that for the Get Your Wings album," he says. "It wasn't developed much. I had started to bear down on my playing and writing between those albums so I could bring more to the table. I wrote guitar parts to go along with the bass parts, but I have always been kind of shy about bringing material in.
"We had cut all the tracks for the record, but we had an extra day in the studio. I stepped up and showed Brad and Joe the guitar parts and Steven changed the intro riff a bit from playing it in A to playing it in E to make it a more climactic ending, which was a really cool idea. It was a simple arrangement and there wasn't extra time to complicate it. It stayed in a simple form and I think that was an asset. Steven stayed to record lyrics so I didn't hear it finished until a month later."
Hamilton says including the album in its entirety makes creating the set list more of a puzzle for the tour. They have to figure out how to include enough of their hits while still keeping some things static to go along with an extensive light show that's planned for the tour.
Aerosmith made the decision to hit the road this summer toward the end of last year. While waiting around getting ready to get into "tour mode," the band decided to hit the studio and see "how deep we could get."
"We've got a bunch of material ready to be recorded, but it was wishful thinking that we could finish anything before the tour came up," Hamilton says. "There's no law that says you can't make a great record in three months. We have a pile of stuff that everybody brought to the table. But when we decided it was time to switch to tour mode, it wasn't a bummer. We'll finish it when the tour is over."
Hamilton says there are no current plans to perform any of the new music on the tour, but that some of the songs are ready to go and could be brought out if the band is in the mood.
The album should be released early next year, which is also the 40th anniversary of the band's inception. Don't expect a celebration though, Hamilton says. "There's not going to be any party or press release," he says. "That number is pretty mind-boggling. It's almost a big enough number that my mind doesn't want to think about it. People are always asking how we lasted this long, but we don't really know. We don't question it so much because we don't want to consider it an issue. It's an adventure."
Aerosmith will perform at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on July 9 with ZZ Top. Tickets range from $29.25 for lawn four-packs to $181. (This show has been postponed and will be rescheduled.)