Twenty-five years ago tomorrow–on February 24, 1989–Cheap Trick played Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum on a bill with Eddie Money, so, obviously, I went.
Even with Eddie Money on the bill.
Here’s my review from the following week’s issue of the Georgia Straight newspaper. Check it out while you’re waiting for the hockey game to start maybe.
Back in the late ’70s, one of this scribbler’s favourite pastimes was throwing Cheap Trick’s In Color album on the turntable and cranking ‘er up. The band’s thoroughly rockin’ power-pop was just the right brain lube between heavy bouts of exam cramming.
At the Coliseum last Friday it was great to see that the band’s beautiful noise still exists.
After a forgettable opening performance by Eddie Money that featured crummy musicianship, weak vocals, and zilch energy, the Tricksters got things on the right track with the first one off their latest album, Lap of Luxury. Guitarist Rick Nielsen–with his wild antics, goofy looks, and powerful licks–is still the star of the show even though he lacks the sex appeal of singer Robin Zander and bassist Tom Petersson. His nifty harmonic tolling-bell effect sounded great as the intro to “Clock Strikes Ten”, a tune that Bun E. Carlos pounding steadily along to with rapid-fire drumming. Carlos still looks like a bad accountant, but has given up the rotten habit of chain-smoking on stage.
Like other supergroups from the ’70s such as Aerosmith and Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick went through a down period when their albums weren’t up to snuff. They had essentially faded from memory before storming back with the hit ballad, “The Flame”. And judging by the band’s latest single, “Never Had a Lot to Lose”, Cheap Trick has returned somewhat to that winning sound of old. But it was still the crusty faves like “Dream Police”, “California Man”, and especially “Surrender” that garnered the most cheers from the 4,300 fans in attendance.
At one point Rick Nielsen asked the crowd what video station they watched up here in Canada, and learned that it was MuchMusic. Then he asked why people watched it, and answered himself: “It’s because once in a while they play good stuff like Aerosmith, Motley Crue, and Cheap Trick, right? Debbie Gibson and Tiffany can go back to K-Mart.”
The crowd liked that, and they also liked it when three Motley Crue members–in town recording their fifth album–strolled onstage to take part in an encore of AC/DC’s ode to the fast life, “Highway to Hell”. The two bands joined forces on that song again later that night at Club Soda, where they also jammed on the classic “Train Kept a Rollin”, Motley’s “Girls, Girls, Girls”, and Cheap Trick’s version of Elvis’s “Don’t Be Cruel”.
Cheap Trick is still at it–without Bun E. Carlos, though. In fact they play Richmond’s River Rock Show Theatre on March 1. If you look closely at the Ear of Newt banner you can see Rick Nielsen’s autograph at the bottom left of that wacky custom pickguard.
For some reason he just felt drawn to the volume knob I guess.