Cat In The Hat Steven Tyler of Aerosmith helps rock the house at a sold-out Joyce Center on Sunday night. Aerosmith Pleases Mixed Crowd

By Miles White, Tribune Staff Writer

"Oh, my God," a young woman screamed as Steve Tyler shook his rail-thin moneymaker in silhouette behind an elaborately painted streamer

"Come on, Baby," he teased the crowd, milking the thunderous applause before -- amid explosions, smoke, and piercing guitars -- rock supergroup Aerosmith launched a full-scale assault on the University of Notre Dame's Joyce Center on Sunday night in what has to be on of the best live musical performances here in recent memory.

The 28-year-old band put most contemporary rock groups to shame, putting on a vigorous two-hour glam rock spectacle that didn't slack on the music. From the outset, the band set a pace that didn't slow through the first five songs, careening from "Love in an Elevator," "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)" "Eat the Rich" and "Rag Doll" before stopping to draw breath while Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry worked both sides of the stage-in-the-round. One of the triumphs of the evening for this group was in the multi-generational crowd it drew to the sold-out show -- youngsters in their teens, families and graying baby boomers were on their feet through most of the show. Many knew the songs and others did not, but the enthusiasm in the arena was as infectious as Tyler's childlike effervescence.

Tyler, in fact, seemed to gain strength as the night wore on, strutting and pouncing from one end of the high-tech stage to the other, in a show of seemingly endless energy. On ballads like "Dream On" and "What it Takes" Tyler demonstrated remarkable versatility and emotional range, with his powerful, piercing falsetto intact, while on up-tempo numbers he screamed and shouted well above the band.

An hour into the set, the band launched into a scorching Joe Perry blues vocal, with Tyler contributing more than credible harmonica backup. The band threw the audience a curve with a spirited version of the James Brown tune "Mother Popcorn," and with hardly a road marker, segued into "Walk This Way" while pyrotechnics shot into the air.

Critics of the band's recent $30 million deal with Columbia/Sony Records five years ago may have underestimated the band's ongoing musical appeal and live popularity. Collectively, Aerosmith is younger than the Rolling Stones, a band they are often compared to, have a stage persona that is arguably fresher, and a front man who manages easily to be more engaging and entertaining than Mick Jagger.

If this concert was any indication, Aerosmith will be making better music when the Stones have long since folded their tents and left the game.