Without Aerosmith, Perry’s guitar stars

Joe Perry (shown playing in Foxborough in September) has taken to the road with a five-piece band of his own. Joe Perry (shown playing in Foxborough in September) has taken to the road with a five-piece band of his own. (Gretchen Ertl for The Boston Globe/File
By Jonathan Perry
Globe Correspondent / November 16, 2009

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The title of Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry’s latest solo album, “Have Guitar, Will Travel,’’ couldn’t be more apt. While it’s still an open question (whose answer seems to change on a weekly basis) whether Aerosmith has its flighty lead singer, Steven Tyler, in the fold, the one sure thing Perry possesses is his guitar - and his irrepressibly stylish way with it.

Rather than wait around for Aerosmith to be (or not to be), Perry’s taken to the road with an outfit that replicates his longtime band’s five-piece setup, including an until-now anonymous German singer named Hagen, who - after being discovered by Perry’s wife, Billie, on YouTube - has landed the gig of a lifetime. Saturday night at the House of Blues, Hagen ably approximated Tyler’s upper register screech - most notably on a scorching “Walk This Way’’ - but his formidable pipes hewed closer to Sammy Hagar’s or Gary Cherone’s than Tyler’s raggedly bluesy yelp.

(For those in the audience hoping that Tyler might make a surprise appearance, as he did last week at Perry’s show in New York City, no such luck. On the upside, Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton did join his old bandmate on stage for the encore readings of “Walk This Way’’ and the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac chestnut, “Stop Messin’ Around’’.)

Wishing and hoping aside, from the greasy slide guitar that drove the night’s opener, “Let the Music Do the Talking,’’ there was no mistaking Perry as the focal point of Saturday’s show, and he quickly took command. Clad head-to-toe in black leather, and wearing ridiculously fabulous hair for age 59, Perry made his always inventive, blues-soaked solos look as effortlessly cool as they sounded.

The iconic guitar slinger bowed deeply to the musical past he clearly loves with a fiery reading of the Rufus Thomas R&B nugget “Walkin’ The Dog’’ (a tune Aerosmith covered 36 years ago on its debut album), and then reached back even further, transforming Woody Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man’’ into a Doors-esque psychedelic jam.

Even Perry’s new material hearkened back in style and sentiment to his other band’s classic-rock heyday, some garnering better results than others. “Scare the Cat’’ was a frothy kick-out-the-jams rave-up, all riffage and attitude. But on a cover of “Somebody’s Gonna Get (Their Head Kicked in Tonite) - another Fleetwood Mac track that Perry covers on “Have Guitar’’ - neither the song nor Perry’s expressionless lead vocal turn carried the bite its title suggested. If Perry’s modest voice didn’t project nearly as well - or as loudly - as his electric guitar, it didn’t really need to. Like the song said, Perry wisely let his Gibson Les Paul do most of the talking for him.

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