cheap trick, the showbox, 7-24-2001
Cheap Trick has been seized by a recent bout of renewal and rejuvenation. I don’t know what it is; it’s been hard for the band lately, Bun E. Carlos had to drop out of the tour in order to have some major back surgery. He had gotten to the point where he could no longer make it through a full show and Rick Nielsen’s son had been filling in. It had to have been difficult for them as a band to face Bun E.’s difficulties with his back.
But even the Las Vegas show I saw a few weeks earlier (we took a girlfriend for her bachelorette party), which I originally thought would be much like seeing Spinal Tap performing “Jazz Odyssey,” turned out to be this completely musically valid performance. The best version of “Auf Wiedersehn” (an odd choice to even play in that kind of a superficial setting) I’d ever seen. Chad Smith from the RHCP as a guest drummer at the encore.
The setlists following Vegas were so non-standard and innovative — and even included new songs! — and the guys’ enthusiasm was shining through so much to even diehard fans, that I found myself eyeing the tour itinerary to see if I could get in another show besides Seattle. But then I thought, ah, one more show really is enough, it’ll be fine.
Having put in an extended sentence at the Showbox two weeks ago for a benefit show that went on for 6 hours, I was none too eager to be back at this venue. I certainly had no intentions to run for the front. But I found myself standing next to a door as it was being opened, and before I knew it, was standing in front of tom peterson’s microphone. Honestly, this was not planned, but was certainly much welcomed. Once again there was no big rock show crash barrier so we were right at the stage.
The show was even more wonderful than Vegas, featuring a truly spectacular
setlist. The band were really, really, smiling, genuinely beaming throughout the show — everyone, including Robin and Tom, were making eye contact. Even the crowd was great. The major assholes didn’t come into effect until later in the show when they realized they, too, could get a guitar pick if they moved close enough.
In the last 3/4 of the show, I am surrounded by friends, and friends of friends, and among some of those are all the members of the Fastbacks, and everyone is screaming and singing and laughing and yelling song requests. Rick is coming over and acknowledging folks and throwing picks especially at people.
And then it’s “Surrender,” the Shiny Happy People version of “Surrender” sung
by a chorus of hundreds at the top of their lungs, all bouncing and gleeful and utterly fucking joyous. Just when you think it can’t possibly get any better, on bounds one Mr. Mike McCready, who is grabbing Rick’s microphone and singing and jumping up and down in this frantic pogo, and playing air guitar. Someone brings him one of Rick’s Les Pauls and he starts playing – but he’s so hyper and excited that he can barely play, it’s more for show. He’s singing and running up on the platform and throwing Rick’s picks into the crowd just because he can, running around in those little roadrunner circles we’re all so used to by now.
I’ve got my arm around the friend who came to the show with me, we are jumping up and down like little schoolgirls screaming and waving and acting totally silly and not caring that we were, dammit.
Two more songs (“Can’t Hold On” and “Goodnight”) and that’s the end.
I’m talking to people after the show and I’m in a daze. Everyone is just so ebullient and silly and happy and talking really loud because they probably tore out their earplugs after the third song like I did.
I walk to my car in the cool summer night, the air making me realize just
How hot and sweaty I was in there. I get in the car, open the roof, and drive home listening to a Lou Reed show from 1972. There’s a big harvest moon sized orange crescent out over Elliot Bay which follows me all the way home, and shadows me through the window as I write this. It’s the kind of moment that I just want to freeze in time so I can replay it in my head forever.
Rock and roll is like that. When you least expect it, it can pick you up and shake you around and make you laugh and remember why on earth you do this in the first place. Thank goodness.
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