”STEVEN TYLER: OUT ON A LIMB” reviewed from the Nashville Film Fest!
Hey guys! Wheels here with a review, written by a new contributor, of a documentary about a rock legend that is opening the 49th annual Nashville Film Festival tonight! I'll get out of the way now and let "Dr. Grant" tell you all about it.
Living in Nashville for the past twenty years, reading about someone famous moving to town to make a country record is part of the norm. When that someone is Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, it takes a bit longer to process that information. In Casey Tebo’s new documentary, ”STEVEN TYLER: OUT ON A LIMB” we get a glimpse, albeit a one-sided one, of the effect the journey of making a “country record” has had on him and those around him. The concert footage was shot at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium and is intercut with interviews from various artists, songwriters, producers, and Adam Green (creator of the HATCHET franchise) but more on that further down.The film starts off with a very distorted, non-country sounding, charging electric rhythm while we get a brief synopsis of the mindset and decisions that have led to this point. It’s obvious we’re dealing with Steven Tyler’s version of country, and to be clear, this isn’t documenting a hero’s journey from point A to point B. It’s showing you point B and saying here’s how great everyone feels about being at point B. According to Tebo, the reason he agreed to do this project was because he has never seen Tyler so happy in the 15 years he’s known him. It’s up to your imagination as to what life was like before this moment but as the 69 years old Tyler eludes to while deftly working in one of the record’s song titles. “Maybe I’m my own worst enemy”.The main draw of the film is the concert footage and luckily that’s where it shines. The Ryman show opens with “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere” highlighting Tyler’s eclectic sound and backing band, The Loving Mary. The look and sound is top notch and Tyler seems to love being front and center singing the title track from his first solo record but he still struts around sharing the spotlight with the rest of the band. He just looks like he’s having fun and the more intimate venue allows for some fun banter with the audience.The interviews from musicians like Slash (Guns N Roses), Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), or some of the other people involved with the record don’t add a whole lot to the film except to bolster Tyler’s friendly hard working persona. Adam Green is the more off the wall inclusion but leave it to the horror director to bring the most emotional moment the film can muster with his personal story of Steven Tyler helping him through some dark times. Adam had nothing to do with the record, the concert, or the music industry in general, which he admits freely. He’s simply indebted to the friendship and support that he has with Tyler. It’s a theme echoed by director Casey Tebo (doing a spot on Ray Liotta narration throughout the film) who owes much of his success to Tyler who he considers a fun Uncle at this point. The time spent away from the concert is more about people paying tribute to who Steven is as a person and an artist, whereas the concert footage lets Tyler dole out the praise for Nashville and those that have helped him on this new adventure.For you Aerosmith fans, there are two Aerosmith covers, "Dream On" and "What it Takes", both getting a bit of the Nashville treatment. Neither rendition is worse for wear. What you lose from a more rock perspective, you gain from the rich texture of new instruments like the mandolin or the fiddle. It’s the emotion in Steven Tyler’s vocals that remains constant and why the change in style carries over so well.A few years ago, I would have thought it was a mistake to not display more conflict in order to keep the audience engaged, but in 2018, it was refreshing to see a revered musician/celebrity just be a nice guy for an hour and a half. The vibe of the show is so good that I wish they stayed with it longer. That being said, I wish there was a completely separate documentary on the actual making of the solo record this concert is in support of. What were those songwriting sessions really like? What studios did he use around Nashville and what were some of the low points during that process? Surely there was a point early on when he was questioning his decision, but this film is the celebration at the end of the journey. If you’re a fan of Aerosmith, chances are you will get something out of the music performances. Insight from the man himself is sparse but doing what you are passionate about and being willing to take risks are clearly the key takeaways from the film and Steven Tyler’s passion for music and his friends doesn’t appear to be diminishing anytime soon.STEVEN TYLER: OUT ON A LIMB will be released on VOD and Digital HD on May 15thIt will also have an encore theatrical showing at the NASHVILLE FILM FESTIVAL this Sunday, May 13th (https://nashvillefilmfestival.org/)
- Dr. Grant