Silver DVD Review

Cheap Trick Unlimited

Cheap Trick's been through it all: from barrooms to Budokan to barbeques to this birthday bash. A special limited pressing of the Silver show includes a bonus DVD. This extra is quite fabulous as it delivers a behind-the-scenes segment showing the band and crew setting up, appropriately scored with an otherwise unavailable live reading of lost chestnut "Takin' Me Back." The bonus also includes footage from Trickfest 3, a four day fan-gathering in Merrillville, Indiana, which climaxed with the anniversary gala thrown in Trick's hometown of Rockford, Illinois on August 28, 1999. At Trickfest, the band performed a smoking all-covers show (Where is that DVD?), and Cheap Trick's take on "Stone Free" is included here. Each member gave a technical clinic, which of course became a fan q&a, and brief bits of all four are shown. Cheap Track, from Japan, tears through "Auf Wiedersehen," the mind-numbing performance that led to the quartet winning the battle of the cover bands. The actual Silver concert was broadcast on HBO 2 early in 2001 and interspersed with riotous commentary from each member as well as clips from the heady Budokan shows, snips of the first album promos, and blips of the "Woke up with a Monster" video. Petersson's segments are especially funny, as he is filmed in the bathtub and bed, almost denying his involvement with the band. For some reason, music DVDs rarely offer anything beyond the VHS versions, so this bonus is most cool.

As for the show on the main DVD: the boys blow through their career catalogue, hitting the numerous high points of their 25 years as a group, and nailing each crowning achievement with the precision and confidence that could only come from rockin' the house together night after night. Several guests, some famous and some family, show up, but the true stars are, obviously, Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos. Cheap Trick is the brainstorm of colorful guitarist Nielsen, who is one of the most memorable wiseacres ever in rock, but, on this night, the Master of Ceremonies diplomatically steps aside (except for wartime valentine "World's Greatest Lover" and the spellbinding train-wreck "Gonna Raise Hell"), and lets his cohorts shine throughout the mammoth 29 song show. One of the greatest, but unsung, voices in rock, Robin Zander's singing never needs support. His tone hardened with age, but never lost an ounce of power, and still sets the standard against which all pop voices are measured. In fact, here he delivers the best version of "Voices" ever. Midway through the set, Zander proclaims he's sung enough ballads, and intently begins belting out the rocky stuff. Whether snarling the incomprehensive lyrics of "You're All Talk" (while playing a mean set of maracas), or crooning "Time Will Let You Know" with his daughter, Robin inadvertently blows away whoever's onstage with him.(A long-lost live version of "Johnny Be Good" reveals Zander could even out-scream Bon Scott.) Meanwhile, Petersson's full-bodied 12-string lays the bedrock for Nielson's flailing hot licks and Carlos' wavering big beat. Tom's turn at the mike on the immortal throw-away "I Know What I Want" is always a pleasure, even though Nielsen has tortured his once delicious solo beyond recognition. And in the end, as in the beginning, it all comes back to Carlos, and the "Tusk"-like chant "Who D' King." Odd-man-out Jon Brant shows up in some kooky headgear, working it on a couple of 80's killers he worked on. Shout-along should-have-beens like "She's Tight" and "Never Had a Lot to Lose" sound good, oh so good. The poignant pop perfection of  "Oh Candy" and "Tonight It's You" still resonates decades later. Like most great bands, Cheap Trick possesses two personalities, one in the studio and the other under the spotlight.  In the mid-90's, when Cheap Trick returned to the club circuit, the band didn't bring a keyboard player and each song benefitted highly from the bare-bones Live at Leeds powerhouse delivery that first broke the quartet back in the 70's. Such is the case with the opening numbers here, but the deadly keys of fifth member Tod Howarth soon crash into the set. Luckily, his big 80's chimes perfectly fit the wonderfully ridiculous "Can't Stop Falling into Love" and the Rockford Symphony orchestration accompanying grand opuses like "Stop This Game" and 'World's Greatest Lover" finally frames those works as the masterpieces they are. Although a few songs are missing on the aforementioned bonus version of the concert, neophytes need the comedy of the band's narrative to appreciate the irrelevance and ingeniousness that is Cheap Trick. Silver signals  the end of an era for one of the greatest live bands of our time and one of the greatest rock bands in history. This DVD works for the lucky people who were there and for the people who weren't. What more could you want?

-STONE, Cheap Trash NYC
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