Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cheap Trick @ Coney Island

Cheap Trick
@ Coney Island
August 18, 2011

Cheap Trick is often a duality, a yin-yang unto itself. Back in the day, they were both a pretty-boy-pop-band and a classic rock n roll phenom. In the later years, this translated to being both a perceived-has-been-relic and a reliable-still-damn-cool-almost-punk-in-their-spirit legend. And let's not forget the time they did a hair band ballad better than any hair band could muster on their best day ("The Flame").

I used to hate this band. "I Want You to Want Me" was ruined for me by smug, suburban assholes of America. This was all I knew. Then in 2003, "Scent of a Woman" was released. Who would have thunk that not only did Cheap Trick make a song of the year, they made a song of my life? To this day and beyond, that recording will be one of perennial favorites. When that broke, I had no choice but to give the band a second chance. And it worked. They even made That 70's Show tolerable.

That duality remains. This is a band arrogant enough to come out on stage to the tune of their own music, but also a band humble enough to come out to the audio of all of the references made to the band on The Simpsons.

Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen hide behind sunglasses at night and their usual off-kilter fashion senses. Nevertheless, the pretension drops when the riffs wail, and the band pumps rock n roll like "Rocket '88" never went out of style.

Now a dose of reality: the truth on this August night is that Cheap Trick is freaked out. We nearly lost them at a storm-caused stage collapse last month in Ottawa. They made no bones about that in this abridged set, still feeling it from that incident (and not helped by last weekend's deadly stage collapse in Indiana and today's deadly stage collapse at Pukklepop in Belgium). "Union rules" caused the storm-threatened show to cut short (and there was no opener to boot because of the storms) but I gathered from Zander's emotional distance and Nielsen's "make the best of it" earnestness, that the band was a bit rattled. Also, no Bun E. Carlos on the drums. That doesn't help (not that Nielsen's son Daxx is a slouch). I briefly worried Bun was still in Tinted Windows. Someone assure me that is not the case.

So only a handful of songs. But there's that Cheap Trick duality. It wouldn't surprise me as I walked away that the band would come back for a full set. They are that kind of band. They always have been.

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