Mountain Winery, Saratoga, California
Rocktober 8, 2010
Umlaut is old and I grew up in a time before Iron Maiden... and before Metal there was Cheap Trick. Cheap Trick are one of Umlaut's all-time favorite bands, but I didn't know they were playing this show until 4 days before. To be honest, I generally ignore the annual schedule at The Mountain Winery because it's the type of venue that just isn't my scene: expensive tickets in a beautifully expensive location. However, The Rock Godz work in mysterious ways and 48 hours out I unexpectedly found myself with comps to the show.
Back in August, The Mountain Winery was the scene of a bizarre suicide by an audience member during a set by the band Swell Season (Click HERE for the full story). Morbid... but also pretty Metal as well. Just saying... According to the Umlaut Archives, this was my 9th time seeing Cheap Trick dating back to my very first concert in 1979. Here in the 21st Century I'm a jaded old fart... but Cheap Trick are the one band that I still become a complete dork over... and I broke the unwritten concert code and wore my weary Cheap Trick shirt to the show.
We thought we'd run into nightmarish South Bay Friday, holiday weekend, commute traffic but the run down to Saratoga wasn't that bad. One thing I didn't take into account was that even though The Winery is one of those enclaves of yuppie hoity-toity entertainment, that also means it's not run like your usual concert venue. The security search at the entrance was beyond polite and couldn't even be called a "search"... and Will Call took literally 10 seconds. I'll think fondly of this the next time the security dude at The Regency is grabbing my ass checking for a shiv or a contraband pack of gum.
For the newbies: Back in March, Cheap Trick announced that Bun E. Carlos had retired from touring. He's still a member of the band but drumming on the road is now handled by Rick's son Daxx. This was a huge bummer because part of the ongoing magic with the band was that it was still the original lineup AND they were still great. So, going into tonight I was prepared to be distracted by Bun E.'s absence... but I ended up being pleasantly blown away.
The time machine kicked in right at 8:30pm as Rockford's finest bounced onstage and slammed straight into an opening Power Pop punch of 'Way Of The World' > 'California Man' > 'Clock Strikes Ten' back to back to back. It's always amazing when songs instantly transport you back to a specific time in your life; I was a 15-year old Cheap Trick dork again in a flash.
I feel weird saying this, but I kept forgetting that Bun E. wasn't behind the drums. Daxx Nielsen NAILED it and his playing was dead on with the songs and the band. At the conclusion of 'Clock Strikes Ten' I expected Daxx to pull out the giant baseball bat-sized drum sticks like Bun E. used to do back in The Day. Daxx's drumming was a clone of Bun E.'s and all he needed was a cigarette between his lips to make it complete. You have to admit that it's pretty cool that Rick's son is enabling Cheap Trick to keep their flame alive... Mommy's alright, Daddy's alright, etc.
As far as the rest of the band: Robin's voice was amazing and he was the star of the performance for me and worked the stage like it was 1979. How old is that guy!? As always, Tom held down the bottom end with his 12-string bass as the not-so secret weapon of Cheap Trick; they're a Power Pop band driven by the firepower of 3 bassists! HEAVY. Rick was rock solid as always and played a different guitar for every song as usual... Although he kind of fucked up the solo during 'The Flame' he saved his 5-neck guitar for 'Goodnight Now'.
Tonight was a robust 90-minute, 20 song set and, while the 3 new songs were good, it was scary how I can still identify an old song within seconds... My Inner Teenage Cheap Trick Dork instantly recognized the start of the extended intro to 'On Top Of The World'... How do I still have that in my head?? Time Machine stuff, man...
These days Cheap Trick pull out an obscure old school rarity each night... and tonight it was 'The Ballad of T.V. Violence' from their 1st album and my Inner Teenage Cheap Trick Dork jumped up and down like a little school girl. After the set closing 'Surrender' the encore sprint to the finish surprised me by how lengthy it was... 'The Flame' > 'Dream Police' > a GREAT extended version of 'Gonna Raise Hell' > Goodnight Now'... During the encores Tom and Rick came out wearing San Francisco Giants caps! NICE... even though the Giants had blown a 4 run lead as they played their set. Then my childhood heroes were gone and my time machine journey ended and my head returned from 1979 back to the 21st Century. Bummer.
No one committed suicide during the set... and if anyone was considering it they should have done it during 'Auf Wiedersehen' but (for better or worse) that song was not in the setlist tonight. Unfortunately, there was a tight photo policy in effect so Umlaut doesn't have access to any killer shots from the show... So this will have to do:
An original At Budokan 2-sided, promo, cardboard thing (17" x 13")..."The Biggest Thing Since Transistors".. I need to get it framed.
This was the 3rd consecutive year that I've seen Cheap Trick and it's the first time I've followed the band this closely since my Salad Days. Here in the 21st Century, most Rock bands of Umlaut's generation are considered "oldies" bands. For most of them that title is warranted; the relentless march of time as aging Rockers play for aging Rock fans. It's the way of the world. However, an exception to this is Cheap Trick; tonight they were as energetic, engaging, spry, and GREAT as they ever were when I first saw them as a pimply-faced teenager! Cheap Trick are the one band who still makes me want to wear their concert shirt to school the next day after their show. Hope I die before I get old.
If you bought one of every Cheap Trick merch item you would have paid around $400. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. On the drive out of Saratoga we listened to the closing moments of Game 2 of the NLDS as the Giants lost in extra innings... Buzz kill... but me still love Cheap Trick long time.
Click HERE to see Photo Ray's shots from the night!