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Aerosmith proves they're natural rockers

MANSFIELD -- The National Geographic Channel picked a good night to capture Aerosmith in its natural habitat.

Steven Tyler's revived voice. Bassist Tom Hamilton's surprise appearance on ``Sweet Emotion." A shiver-inducing ``Seasons of Wither" complete with gently falling faux snow. Joe Perry's shockingly extroverted singing. The fact that they didn't play the execrable ``I Don't Want to Miss a Thing."

You can take your pick from any of those reasons to explain why the Aerosmith show last night at the Tweeter Center was near perfect.

The hard-rocking hometown boys rarely disappoint but last night's performance ( the first of two, with the second tomorrow) was touched with a little pixie dust. The near-capacity crowd seemed to sense it, giving as good as they got throughout a 90-minute show that the cable network was taping for a piece on Tyler's experimental throat surgery.

It was most assuredly a success. The serpentine frontman -- who for the purposes of the TV show was wired into a contraption that ran from his throat to his snazzy red trousers -- ran a slew of old songs through those new pipes, and his wails and whispers and grunts and growls were robust, especially on the peaks of ``Dream On," ``Wither," and ``Draw The Line."

Hamilton, who is undergoing treatment for throat cancer, was given a hero's welcome and the band fed off his joy. David Hull ably filled his shoes the rest of the night.

Fans of the band's post-comeback material may have gone home a bit blue, but a smoking treatment of ``Baby, Please Don't Go," the way-old-school sass of ``S.O.S. (Too Bad)," and Perry's amped-up version of ``Dirty Water" felt like more than a fair trade-off for say, ``Pink" (but not ``Janie's Got a Gun.")

Motley Crue's Vince Neil might want to get the number of Tyler's doctor, as his voice was in a sorry state.

During the course of the veteran Los Angeles metal quartet's disjointed 75-minute performance, Neil's voice went from disappointing to downright pitiable as the singer -- who apologized a third of the way through, saying he was doing the best he could -- struggled to deliver the hit-filled set .

The crowd took over on the first verse of ``Home Sweet Home" and the look of gratitude on Neil's face elicited more sympathy than when he lived in ``The Surreal Life" house. Unfortunately his croaking on ``Same Ol' Situation" and ``Girls, Girls, Girls" tempered that compassion.

No amount of hissing serpents, ostentatious pyro, or scantily clad dancing girls in cages could distract. Guitarist Mick Mars may have looked frail -- he suffers from a degenerative rheumatic disease -- but it was his impressive soloing -- truly fierce and liquid -- and drummer Tommy Lee's Tasmanian Devil pounding that rescued the Crue's portion of the ``Route of All Evil" tour.

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