The Joe Perry Project was first formed in 1979 when Perry left Aerosmith. Over the years, Perry has reformed the Project with various members. The current version, featuring original bassist David Hull, vocalist Gary Cherone (Extreme), keyboardist Buck Johnson, and drummer Jason Sutter stormed into Foxwoods Casino with a show that will leave no doubt that Perry is one of the architects of America’s greatest rock n’ roll band.
The night opened with a set by Robin T. Zander, son of Cheap Trick frontman Robin Zander. Early in the set, Zander noted that this was the first show played by the currently unnamed band. They started a little tentative but caught their stride after a few songs. The influence of Dad’s band is obvious on Zander. With a record coming out shortly, they are certainly a band to keep your eye on.
Up next was an artist perhaps unknown to most of the crowd at the start, but with killer songs and a huge stage presence, Micky James will not be unknown for long. Prowling the stage as the product of an unholy alliance between Marc Bolan, Luke Spiller, and Harry Styles, James seems like someone born to be a rockstar. Backed by a sparse band featuring just guitar and drums, James certainly left the audience wanting more.
Joe Perry took the stage with a brief guitar intro that gave a glimpse into what was in store for the night. As the rest of the band joined him on stage, they kicked into the title track of the JPP’s 1981 second record, “I’ve Got The Rock N’ Rolls Again”. Staying with that record for “East Coast, West Coast” before thundering into the classic “Let The Music Do The Talkin”, provided for an opening threesome that whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
Cherone was at the top of his game, deftly guiding the band through early JPP songs, music from Joe’s Sweetzerland Manifesto LPs, as well as classic Aerosmith. Of course, it was those classic Aerosmith songs that were the backbone and highlights of the night. The tone was set fairly early with “SOS (Too Bad)” and “Chip Away The Stone” and continued throughout the night with “Lick and a Promise”, “Reefer Headed Woman”, “Bone to Bone (Coney Island Whitefish Boy”, and perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, “Lightning Strikes”, an Aerosmith song, as Perry said, he “had nothing to do with” as it was recorded after he left the band.
It was a little obvious that this was the first night of the tour. Midset, Perry attempted the instrumental “Spanish Sushi” but couldn’t seem to get on the same page as Sutter on drums, and the song was aborted. The 1950s rockabilly song “Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll” was played twice, back-to-back, and a few songs felt a little on the sloppy side, but at the end of the day, that’s what makes live rock n’ roll with top-shelf musicians so much fun. They can go off the tracks a little and still pull it back into an amazing song.
The set was a great mix of the aforementioned deep Aerosmith cuts, JPP classics, music from Joe’s upcoming record, Sweetzerland Manifesto MK II (including one of Cherone’s best performances of the night on the fantastic “Quake”), and covers, including a tribute to Johnny Thunders with “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory”. As the night drew to a close, a few Aerosmith staples, “Train Kept A-Rollin'” and “Walk This Way”, were also played.
As it has been quite a while since we’ve seen the full force of Aerosmith on stage, this was certainly a night for remembering. The massive entity that is Aerosmith has to cater to the majority of the crowd and play the radio hits. The tracks we heard here tonight simply couldn’t fit in a modern Aerosmith set but they remind you of what a killer rock n’ roll band they were. Gary Cherone is about to release the first Extreme record in 15 years, so this was also a reminder about what a tremendous frontman he is and the absolute strength and versatility of his voice. Joe Perry, Gary Cherone, and the rest of the Project certainly gave all of us the rock & rolls again!