Cheap Trick, a band that's been 190 proof since its late '70s beginnings in Illinois, hasn't watered down its sound in 25 years. Full of raging hormones, Ted Nugent-esque guitar-god solos and a cutthroat pop sensibility, Cheap Trick's sound captures the adolescent energy and lustiness that made rock so engaging to begin with.
Of course, the band's live show has a lot of expectations to meet. Cheap Trick first came to prominence with a bootleg-turned-bestseller At Budokan, making its live shows legendary. And the band would not be upstaged Monday night, not even by nostalgia-seekers in the audience, sound system glitches or its own reputation.
Although sound problems plagued the set and tested the band's patience, the band was ultimately unfazed. The menacing guitar drone of "Elo Kiddies" sounded even more devilish and charismatic live than on the original self-titled album, providing a solid backdrop for Robin Zander's gotten-better-with-age vocals.
Of course, the music is only half of the show. Nielsen's madman energy kept the audience enthralled during the technical problems, singing an impromptu "Bite It." Throughout the show he threw guitar picks to the audience and eventually poked out a portion of the Cradle's ceiling tile during a solo, flinging insulation and plywood into the front row -- all with a tea bag tied firmly around his long, braided beard.
An instant roar erupted from the audience during the first riff of "I Want You To Want Me," and although the band performs its most famous song constantly, the song had a swagger and charm that sounded as fresh as the At Budokan version, minus the screaming Japanese girls.
Once the PA problems were fixed, the band segued into a pseudo-acoustic version of "The Flame," a mediocre power ballad from its misbegotten '80s period. Zander's acoustic guitar and fiery vocals turned the song from a sing-a-long monstrosity to a touching ballad.
The band ended the set with a spirited rendition of "Surrender," complete with Nielsen's five-headed guitar, making an inspiring end to an entertaining but technically flawed show.
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