If you thought Cheap Trick was a dinosaur buried in a long-lost musical era called the 1970s, think again.
Cheap Trick has just scored two straight No. 1 singles, their album is hotter than a space shuttle launch and the band is enjoying its best commercial and critical success ever - all of it 10 years after the band's last "successful" album.
You might say Cheap Trick has made an amazing comeback. But if you talk to them, they'll tell you they never left in the first place. Just because people weren't listening doesn't mean Cheap Trick wasn't alive.
About 1,000 Salt Lake fans were listening Tuesday night as Cheap Trick made its first Utah visit in about five years. It was not a big crowd, but it was certainly a dedicated one.
And what they saw was a band that is as good, if not better, than ever before. They aren't dinosaurs; the eggs may have just hatched.
Cheap Trick's longevity _ or recovery, if you prefer _ can be attributed to their basic attitude that the best rock 'n' roll is played in a simple, straightforward, hard-drivin' manner.
And Cheap Trick is a basic, old-school rock band: drums, bass, lead guitar, rhythm guitar. No synthesizers. No keyboards. No percussion. No fancy stage shows or stunts. No frills. Just old-fashioned rock 'n' roll.
There's nothing wrong with old-fashioned rock 'n' roll. Certainly not the way Cheap Trick does it. This band has a knack for dusting off old gems like Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame" and Elvis Presley's "Don't be Cruel" and giving them a whole new dimension. The result are hard-edged covers that are every bit as good as the originals (Elvis and Fats would have been proud).
The evening's best, though, were the sensational ballad "Ghost Town" and the megahit "The Flame," undoubtedly the band's best and soon-to-become-trademark song.
Throw in Cheap Trick standards like "Dream Police," "Surrender" and "I Want You to Want Me," and you have the recipe for first-rate rock 'n' roll party. Which is exactly what the band delivered.
Then again, that's what Cheap Trick always delivered in the past. Only people forgot about them until the monster hit "The Flame" came along and reminded them.
Holding down center stage for Cheap Trick is Robin Zander, one of the finest vocalists in the business. His chameleon-like voice enables him to growl like a punk-rocker, howl like a metal maniac or croon like Roy Orbison. He even sounds like Elvis Presley on "Don't Be Cruel."
While Zander has center stage, the crowd's attention, as always, was focused on guitarist Rick Nielsen, the virtual Pee Wee Herman of rock 'n' roll guitarists.
He may be eccentric. He may wear funny clothes and play funny-looking guitars. But first and foremost he's an exceptional guitar player _ even if he is playing a twin-necked guitar shaped like a human, or a five-necked guitar or anyone of the dozen other guitars.
Despite the band's current success, some may say Cheap Trick are nothing more than has-beens. But judging from Tuesday night's show, rock 'n' roll simply wasn't ready for them in 1979. And 10 years later, they are once again reminding us that the best rock 'n' roll is the simple, no-frills variety.
Opening for Cheap Trick was Jetboy, a hard-rock band hailing from San Francisco. For that matter, they could have been from Anytown, USA.
Their 3-chord power rock was monotonously repetitious, the lyrics indecipherable and their stage show laughably predictable. In other words, they are basically cardboard cut-outs of any of five dozen or so hard-rock bands currently trying to break into the big time.
The only redeeming characteristic of Jetboy was vocalist Mickey Finn, an eclectic performer with a distinctive blond mohawk reminiscent of the Plasmatics Jean Beauvoir.
The band actually showed promise with a couple of bluesy numbers, as well as a hard-rockin' version of "Great Balls of Fire." But for the most part, the five-man band churned out routine ear-crunchers like "Make Some Noise."