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KG: I don't normally post fan reviews other than my own, as much because my web space is limited! However, I'm making an exception for this exclusive review of a special unannounced show that the band played in Chicago. Wish I could have been there too...!

Christmas in August, and a Visit from Bun E. Claus

The Double Door, Chicago, August 20, 2001  (by Samantha Hamilton)

It was a tough call. The rumor was that Cheap Trick was playing as the Randy Men at Chicago’s Double Door. The speculation went that they were doing a "secret show" to try out new material for their upcoming album. Management was mum. The venue was confused. And I would have to commit a full tank of gas and a full day of traveling just to find out what was up. So… I did.

Arriving about 5:00 in one of those diverse Chicago ‘hoods where residential and commercial interests battle for each block, I located the venue by spotting merch-man John Candas by the back door. Round the corner, I found The Line – then mostly consisting of video and AMCT Tribute CD producer Ron from Milwaukee. It was a nice afternoon to be outdoors, and a growing knot of Chicagoland’s Usual Suspects chatted and speculated as the elevated trains rumbled by.

Doors opened on time, and after a serious security search, the Faithful in front found themselves propelled by the Faithful on their heels through a short hall and into a long, narrow room, dark as some pre-Christian netherworld, with a tiny stage at one end. Furthering the Stygian metaphor was a staircase, abruptly set into the middle of the room, that led down to hotter, redder recesses – a lower bar where those more serious about drinking could catch the show on TV monitors.

But I didn’t explore that until later. I was close to the low stage, where the only security barrier was the band’s road cases parked in front of the apron. The excitement level was somewhere between "WAY Pumped" and "Giddy;" the only "casual" Cheap Trick fans in the 300-400 strong crowd were local press and friends of invitees. Those of us who had staked our hopes on a rumor felt like kids on Christmas morning: something cool and unusual was about to happen.

And then it did. Drummer Bun E. Carlos, sidelined for most of the late summer and fall due to back surgery, walked on and waved a gloved hand before sitting down at his famous "frog-in-a-blender" green and red kit. The crowd whooped in surprise and welcome before bursting into applause. Then the rest of the band each took a moment to smile and acknowledge the crowd as he picked up his instrument… it was an oddly personal moment, like your local garage band sweeping the crowd hopefully for familiar faces at their first professional gig.

And maybe they felt that way, despite some three decades of conquering crowds of all sizes. The set list was 15 brand-new songs, which most of us had never heard before, some still in various working stages—topped off by two of their hardest-rocking standards. Robin used a music stand to keep track of all the new lyrics, doing double duty on guitar most of the way through.

The Fashion Report:

I don’t do fashion reports, okay? They just looked cool. I’ll make an exception for the nifty little lapel pin sported by Rick, and Your Correspondent will tell you how you can get one later.

Before the set list, an editorial note: There’s been some debate in Fanland about whether these new tunes belong in sets played on the County Fair circuit. Unless you think of Cheap Trick as some mothballed Oldies band – which, obviously, their fans don’t – a working band is supposed to play new material. Historically, the whole point of touring is to sell records. You can’t sell more records if you only play the stuff everyone already knows and owns. As for the new songs, I feel really invested in them – kind of like an auntie who knew them when they were just rugrats. But I also envy those of you who couldn’t make it to one of the new-material shows: you get to look forward to hearing it all for the first time completely arranged, studio mixed and fully realized.

Set List (annotated)

I-95 (instrumental intro)

Give It Away (A rocker, nice! One of my 4 or 5 faves from the new batch.)

Matter of Time (One of my heavy faves, getting raves from other fans I’ve talked to.)

Mondo Raga (I don’t remember much about this one, but then I have a bias: by me, rock’n’roll is supposed to knock the mud out of your cleats, and if I can’t dance to it, I don’t pay as much attention. My slogan: "Ballads?? We don’t need no steenkin’ BALLADS!")

Pop Drone (They had to start this three times, due to Rick’s getting, or not getting, the wrong guitar. On the second start, Robin and Tom petered out, looked over at Rick, and Robin said, "I guess we oughtta have Rick in on this one." "Oh, I dunno," countered Rick. "I think you guys sound fine without me. Apparently Dave [the guitar tech] agrees." Finally, Dave found the right axe, and that’s most of what I remember about this song.)

She’s So Bad (Another nifty little rocker. I think this was about the time Rick, in a play on his well-known patter, said, "In case you’re wondering, we’re NOT Cheap Trick tonight…" "Who are you?" someone yelled. "Well," he answered, "We thought of just playing as Arse Elves.")

My Obsession (It’s growing on me.)

Night Time World (Not bad, but I’m not as crazy about it as some other fans I’ve talked to.)

Special One (Reminds me a little of "Fan Club." See above note re: Ballads.)

She’s Alright (sic) (Spelling is awful, but boy, what a cool pop tune. I first heard this New Year’s Eve, and it’s been a strong fave of mine ever since.)

Decaf (Which I don’t remember much about, aside from the fact that it’s named for the first 5 chords of the song. Somewhere around here, Rick noted the naked light bulb suspended over each mic position, and pointed out, "This is NOT our tribute to Off Broadway." "Nah," said Robin, "it’s for this," and set his bulb swinging as a handful of fans started the "If You Want My Love" video sway, and Robin sang a line or two of that ‘80s hit.)

Words (Can Never Say It) (This is one of the few exceptions to my ballad rule. Sounds kind of Lennonesque to me, and I LIKE the break.)

Blues (Instrumental, and pretty self-explanatory! into…)

Sorry Boy (Wish I remembered more about this one.)

Scent of a Woman (Hate the title (because of the movie) but you can’t help rocking to it.)

Low Life (For some reason, no notes on this. Sorry!)

The House Is Rockin’ (Oh, boy!! The house was rockin’, too, at this powerhouse old fave.)

Hot Love (On the list, not played)

Gonna Raise Hell (Worth the price of admission any time they play it. This was an especially pyrotechnic rendition, with Bun E.’s drumming even crisper and more energized than we’ve heard it in a while. Not for the first time, it left much of the first few rows shaking and in tears.)

Those who had the presence of mind to check their watches noted that Cheap Trick had been on stage for nearly two solid hours. The venue didn’t boot us out right away, so fans stayed and basked in the glow of a one-per-lifetime show, chatted, and nodded to band members as they spoke to friends or left the building. Rick’s lapel pin turned out to be a subtle ad for a pizza parlor and brew pub he has an interest in, and a few of us decided to walk the couple of short blocks to check it out. "Piece," with its visual pun on the Peace sign for a logo, turned out to be a lofty, spacious place serving excellent thin-crust gourmet pizza, and, though the brewery wasn’t operating yet, a fine selection of local microbrews, imports, and okay, Miller if you really want it, but why? So next time you’re in Chi, stop by Piece at [1927 W North Ave, Chicago  (773)-772 4422] and ask for your cute white logo button as worn by Rick Nielsen.

Meanwhile, I’ll look forward to seeing my far-flung Trickfan friends again at the next opportunity!



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