The sceptics lined up in their legions, thousands deep and half expecting one of the greatest frontmen in rock and roll history to fail.
But Steven Tyler was never, ever going to let that happen. Within seconds of Aerosmith’s singalong opener, the 80s anthem Love In An Elevator, it became clear that reports of this particular singer’s demise were premature.
The fact that he turned up at all surprised many gathered in front of the main stage to pay their final respects at Download 2010. That he not only showed up but went on to turn in one of the highlight performances of another thrilling festival proved there’s plenty of life in this old dog yet.
Tyler was, in a word, terrific. And while all may not be well between the notorious vocalist and certain members of his band it seems any differences with his fellow Toxic Twin have been well and truly settled. The chemistry with Joe Perry was clearly there, the knowing looks were exchanged like old times and the vibe shared by two of the most famous faces in rock underpinned a cracking festival-closing set.
Back In The Saddle was sleazy and sassy, Eat The Rich a hard rocking triumph and Livin’ On The Edge still sounds as good as any modern anthem you’ll hear. Squeezing uber-ballad I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing in between two blues-soaked interludes felt staged and uncomfortable within a setlist which, for the most part, oozed improvisation and confidence. But, just like Emile Heskey in the England team, it has to be there even if it’s not to everyone’s liking.
Even Tyler hinted that he’s no big fan when, after reminding the throng that the soundtrack single was the first to take Aerosmith to the top of the charts, he suggested Sweet Emotion should have beaten its successor to the punch. In reality there’s no comparison between a 70s classic and a 90s career-saver.
Encoring with Dream On and Walk This Way was both obvious and welcome. And on the former both Tyler and Perry excelled – the voice and the strings in perfect harmony to silence the doubters and delight their fans. If it seemed like Aerosmith were never really away then one things’ for certain: this band is back.