SHOW REVIEW: Cheap Trick: Bohagers, Baltimore, MD (Sunday, June 8, 1997)
By: The Mellster
"...and then, it started raining these little white plastic things. I had 'em in my hair, in my clothes, I was slipping all over the floor, there were so many..."
In case you hadn't figured it out, 'these little white plastic things'are guitar picks. They'll rain on you courtesy of Rick Nielsen, if you're every lucky (and brave) enough to catch Cheap Trick live. Nielsen, the band's resident guitar guru, must order them by the metric ton!! They're imprinted with his face on either side--cool souvenir, like you could ever forget what he looks like...(no room on the pick for that nifty little braided tail hangin' from his goatee, though!) Alas, Cheap Trick's recent show at Bohagers in Baltimore proved once again that Rick and Co. do not really need any gimmicks to keep the die-hards screaming for more. But darned if it isn't fun to try to catch one of those buggers anyway!! Trick is on the road again, supporting their most recent release, their second self-titled cd in (gawd, it just can't be) twenty years. Their current live set showcases 7 out of those 11 tracks, as well as the good old hits (prom fans be advised, they aren't doing 'The Flame'). Some advice to those who are new to the band, or are checking them out while they're supporting ZZ Top at the larger outdoor venues: Cheap Trick is a band best seen in a small, intimate setting. They're loud, they're looking SO fine, and they just want you to have fun! Somehow, they always seem to lose a little bit of that in those yucky ampitheaters. Anyway, time has been no enemy to the band-Nielsen, resident singer/guitarist Robin Zander, bass king Tom Petersson, and, as it was once written elsewhere, 'the 18-wheeler of drummers', Bun E. Carlos-it still seems as though they are enjoying themselves and work very well together. And they look pretty good for a bunch of forty/fifty-somethings: no easy feat for road-weary rock gods, just ask Steven Tyler! No egos were apparent, just top-notch musicianship all the way. The hits covered, 'I Want You to Want Me', 'Surrender', and 'Dream Police' still sound as catchy and memorable as always. There was no fiddling with the arrangements: hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?? Trick also treated the packed house to 'He's a Whore', 'Come On, Come On', 'Heaven Tonight', and a sweet acoustic version of 'Ghost Town'. Robin Zander fans, take note: the guy is a veritable nicotine chimney. How he does that, and still manages to utilize the hottest pipes in rock-n-roll, is incomprehensible, but he pulls it off. He can sing a ballad like his heart is going to break ('Shelter', a new tune), or he can scream a flat out rocker with perfect pitch (witness 'California Man', a Roy Wood cover, or 'Wrong All Along', another new song). The new songs are well represented, from 'Anytime', the greatest grunge recorded since anything Nirvana ever did; 'Carnival Game', which they also performed on VH-1's 'Live at the Hard Rock' show a couple of months back; and another vintage Trick pop classic, 'Say Goodbye'. The latter, their first single from the new release, seems to be going nowhere fast, despite a big push from their new label, Red Ant Records, and a fair amount of rotation on both VH-1 and M2. Pity, since it's so damn catchy-a great summertime cruisin'-with-the-top-down tune. And, don't you know, every last person at Bohagers seemed to know all the words to it, singing along to that and to 'Yeah Yeah', the standard audience participation number. But, let's talk about guitars for a minute, shall we?? Rick Nielsen is, first and foremost, a complete guitar GEEK! He had quite an array to choose from; the 5-necked checkerboard model; the one that looks just like him; and the one that says 'you know you like it' on the fretboard. He had about 8 or 9 other ones, and he played all of 'em at least once or twice, handing them off in turn to his apparently full-time guitar roadie, who was just off to the left of the stage. And, then, there are basses, and then, there are Tom Petersson's basses! For the uninformed, Petersson invented the 12-string bass guitar, which contributes to Trick's signature sound. It gives the music a real harmonic, heavy-duty low end, which sounds like nothing else on this earth, and was very apparent on 'You Let a Lot of People Down', and '8 Miles Low', both new tracks, and most notably on 'AufWiedersehen', part of the only encore of the evening. You can't appreciate how difficult it must be to schlep around with this monster until you see him playing it-he must be hellishly fit to even pick it up! Once he hit those strings, though, he made it look childishly simple. It did seem to be a technicians nightmare during this particular show. Petersson was having some mechanical problems with it, and had to take a short break. However, that ended up contributing to one of the high points of the evening, a Ricksolo of the first verse and chorus to 'She's Tight'. That tune probably stands out as one of Cheap Trick's finest politically correct lyrical contributions to music (insert big italic 'sneer' here!), and a charming moment of improvisation! Throughout the evening, Bun E. Carlos never missed a beat, never said a word, never broke an obvious sweat, and will wonders never cease, seems to have given up on the trademark ciggy-butt hanging from his lips. He did have an ear-to-ear grin pasted on his face during the whole show. Maybe it was the crowd; this audience was wild, despite the dearth of bald pates scattered about, or well, maybe he's just as happy as a pig in shit to be the backbone of one of the world's greatest live rock-n-roll bands 'Who 'D King', indeed! It isn't Tommy Lee, folks! Why these guys don't sell zillions of discs is just beyond the pale. But catching them on this recent tour should send you straight to your local retailer for some cool additions to your collection. If it doesn't, go straight to the doctor. You have no blood pressure and no pulse, which means you are clinically DEAD!!
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