Steven Tyler…country star?
That’s nominally the question asked by the new documentary Steven Tyler Out on a Limb, now available on video on demand. The film provides an onstage and back stage look at Tyler in concert promoting his new solo, country album in Nashville. As the title cards tell us, “We’re All Somebody from Somewhere”didn’t overwhelm the critics, but it did hit number one on the charts, resulting in a show at Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium.
Longtime Aerosmith chronicler Casey Tebo provided the cameras at the event, and Steven Tyler: Out on a Limb is virtually a cinematic love letter from director Casey Tebo to rock star Steven Tyler, but small wonder. Tebo, who was discovered by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler literally owes his career to the Aerosmith front man. Tyler spent a day with Tebo and reportedly told him “you need to be directing.” Since then, he spent six years working for the iconic band, eventually making his directing debut in 2011 which Rolling Stone dubbed “Fincher-esque.” Tebo also directed the 2013 documentary/concert film Aerosmith: Rock for the Rising Sun following the Fukashima nuclear disaster in Japan.
The show captured here is terrific. Tyler is backed by the Loving Mary Band, with three additional horn players added. The band kicks ass and the women in the band (Suzie McNeil, Rebecca-Lynn Howard, Elisha Hoffman, Sarah Tomek and Jenee Fleenor) are great vocalists in addition to instrumentalists. It isn’t really a country sound, not exactly rhythm and blues, but oddly appropriate for a great cover of the Janis Joplin song “Piece of My Heart.” Much of the music, from Tyler’s new album, is going to be unfamiliar, and Aerosmith fans may pine for some of the old stuff (some vintage Aerosmith does sneak in around the edges, and late in the show Tyler and the band do cover “Dream On”). The concert photography is absolutely great.
The backstage coverage and interview segments unfortunately slow the film down interminably, frequently coming off like DVD extras. Horror director Adam Green and guitarist Slash, among others, provide long monologues, insights and anecdotes that will certainly convince you that Tyler is a great guy, but only hardcore fans are going to be interested in this stuff. Tebo himself narrates the film with a similarly fawning tone that manages to be self-indulgent yet servile. Tyler emerges as, of all things, a cuddly rock star, equally at home onstage or a backyard barbecue.
There is an oddly voyeuristic aspect to the proceedings, like peeking in a motel window to watch an extramarital affair in progress, as Tyler clearly revels in working with a band of younger musicians while ostensibly cheating on Aerosmith. That actually adds some spice. Steven Tyler Out on a Limb could have been a tighter production, but the concert footage is worth it, and watching the sixty-nine year old Tyler go through his paces with no sign of slowing down is impressive as hell. He doesn’t seem to know he’s a senior citizen, thank God.