Pop: The brothers formerly known as chemical

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The Independent Culture
YOU MIGHT have imagined that most British rock fans were taking the country air down Glastonbury way this weekend, but there were still enough left over yesterday to fill Wembley with 70,000 souls bent on more toxic entertainment. Indeed this show, at which veteran US hard rockers Aerosmith topped a bill featuring The Black Crowes, Lenny Kravitz and The Stereophonics, was actually called The Toxic Twin Towers Ball, a nudge- wink reference to the once prodigious chemical indulgences of bandleaders Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, the duo dubbed The Toxic Twins in imitation of Jagger & Richards' nickname, The Glimmer Twins.

For much of their career, Aerosmith have laboured cheerfully under Stones comparisons based primarily on vocalist Tyler's resemblance to Jagger (at full stretch his mouth is, if anything, even more capacious) and such unparalleled dedication to the rock'n'roll lifestyle that they would easily qualify for the drug-addiction clinic equivalent of a frequent-flier programme. Since their late Eighties comeback, the Stones' influence has been less evident than their even larger debt to Led Zeppelin, but playing Wembley a mere two weeks after the Stones naturally raises those comparisons again.

Set against the extraordinary excesses of the Bridges to Babylon show, Aerosmith's staging does come over as rather ordinary, for all the pyrotechnics, giant inflatable cobra heads and cantilevered light-booms crammed into the 10-storey proscenium - particularly when one of the giant screens goes on the fritz, bringing a few minutes of experimental video art to an evening otherwise unsullied by innovation.

There's no shortfall in energy, though, from the moment that Steven Tyler comes spinning on to the stage, whirling his mike stand around his head like some berserk kendo dervish as the band launch into "Toys in the Attic", the most enduring of their early successes. It's not until they start to run through more recent hits like "Love in an Elevator", "Janie's Got a Gun" and "Living on the Edge" that the crowd begins to get really involved, howling the choruses back at the stage.

Tyler and lead guitarist Perry play closer together than Mick'n'Keef do these days, working off each other with vaudeville flair and assurance. Perry's token showcase, meanwhile - a stalwart version of Fleetwood Mac's vintage blues-boogie "Stop Messing Around" - on which he duckwalks while playing guitar behind his head - has a drive and purpose largely absent from Keef's desultory solo slots in the Stones' set. The show ultimately builds to a finale in which a clutch of power-ballads like "Crying" are sandwiched between the more potent "Walk This Way" and "Dude Looks Like a Lady".

In time-honoured fashion, fans' lighters are hoisted aloft for the ballads, though only a few hundred among the huge crowd - heartening evidence, maybe, that their audience is, like Aerosmith themselves, putting a more toxic past firmly behind them.