Cheap Trick may be long of tooth, but there's still a bit of magic left

April 30, 1991|By Nestor Aparicio | Nestor Aparicio,Evening Sun Staff

"Whatever happened to them?" seemed to be the most popular reaction to word of Cheap Trick's coming to Hammerjacks for its first local appearance in six years.

It took only a peek into the club last night to find quick answers.

To tell the truth, as far as the band and the fans are concerned, not a lot has changed since its thrashing live version of "I Want You To Want Me" flooded the airwaves a decade ago.

Sure, the members of the classic Chicago quartet sport the look of an aging rock and roll outfit -- each now near or into their 40s -- but they certainly proved during last night's show that they are hardly headed for the geriatric clinic or the "where are they now?" columns.

Guitarist Rick Nielsen still wears a baseball cap, brings a couple of dozen guitars in funny shapes and colors, and throws several hundred customized picks into the crowd during the course of a 90-minute show.

Vocalist Robin Zander continues to maintain his long blond locks, svelte figure and vocal chords that soar.

Drummer Bun E. Carlos and bassist Tom Petersson, while perhaps less flashy than their counterparts, still lay down a groove that is among the best in the business.

Now all the band needs is another album that will put it back into arenas, much like 1988's "Lap Of Luxury," which spawned a trio of hits -- a remake of Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel," and a pair of ballads, "Ghost Town" and "The Flame," which hit No. 1 on the pop charts three summers ago.

Though Cheap Trick has encountered at best up-and-down success and now provides a set laden with nostalgia like "Surrender" and "Dream Police" for the 25- to 35-year-old set, the present stage show is anything but crusty and stale.

It was obvious during the 17-song set that the band still enjoys performing the old songs and doesn't much mind not having a platinum album to support.

Nielsen even joked about last year's flop album, "Busted," (which incidentally sold 350,000 copies) and its lack of a hit song.

"You might have heard this one on the radio a little bit," he said, introducing "Can't Stop Falling Into Love," one of last night's highlights. "A very little bit."

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