Cheap Trick - Live at The Whisky 1977 Music Album Reviews

Cheap Trick - Live at The Whisky 1977 Music Album Reviews
This four-disc set recorded just before Cheap Trick’s ascent to stardom captures the power-pop icons at their most manic and muscular, sounding more like hungry punks than arena-ready heartthrobs. 

Cheap Trick built their legend on a live recording: 1978’s At Budokan, a single-LP distillation of two Tokyo performances that transformed the Rockford, Illinois, quartet from power-pop pranksters into classic-rock icons. Originally intended as a limited-edition promo souvenir, At Budokan sparked a shockwave of Japanese adulation that reverberated all the way back to America, where an official release eventually racked up triple-platinum sales. But the snapshot of Cheap Trick that At Budokan captured was highly selective, if not a little misleading: Its taut 10-song tracklist presents a showbiz-savvy act complete with their own readymade entrance theme and rollicking old-time rock ‘n’ roll covers to complement a bounty of crowd-pleasing pop singles. The truth is Cheap Trick was also the strangest and surliest band to sneak its way into the ‘70s arena-rock pantheon. The new four-disc box set Live at the Whisky 1977 highlights the freaky flipside of their split personality, making the case that these FM-radio heroes were more like a nihilistic punk-rock band in ’70s-heartthrob clothing.

Two years before At Budokan lodged them in the Billboard Top 10, Cheap Trick were upstart Epic Records signees with one commercially underperforming album under their belt, but enough word-of-mouth clout to land the opening slot on KISS’ 1977 summer tour. To get into road-warrior shape—and to test-drive songs from their next two studio albums, In Color and Heaven Tonight—the band booked five shows over a single June weekend at L.A.’s fabled Whisky-a-Go-Go, four of which were recorded on a mobile studio provided by the Record Plant. But the tapes were put on the back burner once At Budokan blew up.

Though some of these recordings have already turned up on a 1996 box set and a 2020 Record Store Day release, Live at the Whisky 1977 is the first set to reproduce the residency almost entirely, complete with wildly varying setlists, guitarist Rick Nielsen’s peculiar stage banter (sample: “This is a real sad song about a friend of ours who killed the shit out himself”) and repeated drunken audience requests for first-album favorite “He’s a Whore.” Short of a time machine or costly VR headset, these ferocious recordings offer the most vivid experience of what it might have been like to stand directly in front of a PA speaker while Cheap Trick laid waste to a small venue in 1977.

Cheap Trick would introduce refinements like piano and harpsichord on their next studio albums, but the band onstage at the Whisky was still running on electric-guitar malevolence and adrenaline, prioritizing bravado and intensity over proficiency. Even as they were testing out certain setlist strategies that would soon become permanent features of their playbook—like combining the swaggering “Hello There” and the swooning ”Come On Come On” into a one-two opening hit of anarchy and ecstasy—they were still figuring out how the songs actually go. On its journey to power-pop immortality, the latter tune soars skyward only to briefly nosedive with a flubbed first chorus. If the Cheap Trick heard on At Budokan was a well-oiled machine, this version of the band ran so hot, they frequently overheated the engine: Each of the Whisky shows is dotted with extended between-song pauses that are long enough to necessitate their own track designations.

But these sorts of gaffes are small prices to pay for the illicit thrill of hearing the Trick in their primordial prime, rampaging through the darkest and most deranged songs in their repertoire: the psycho-glam boot-stomper “ELO Kiddies,” the paranoid lonely-boy blues of “Ballad of TV Violence,” the perverse suicide-encouragement anthem “Auf Wiedersehen.” Recorded before the radio-friendly likes of “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender” made their way into the repertoire, the Whisky sets capture a band forging the missing link between the scathing satire of Sparks and the gnarly essence of the Sex Pistols. None of the band’s studio recordings truly capture the muscular menace that bassist Tom Petersson and drummer Bun E. Carlos display here. Occasionally, they even teeter on the brink of post-punk: Where the album version of “You’re All Talk” is steeped in southern-rock boogie, the frenetic versions heard here have a serrated disco edge that’s closer in spirit to ESG than ZZ Top.

At the same time, Live at the Whisky also highlights the qualities that kept Cheap Trick at a remove from their punk spiritual kin: namely, a genuine appreciation for old-school rock ‘n’ roll showmanship and craft. While Cheap Trick’s original songs depict a post-hippie generation of teens stoned on television and corrupted into degeneracy, their cover selections betray a nostalgic reverence that defied punk’s nihilist year-zero ethos. Certainly, a group eager to jam on songs by Fats Domino (future Budokan centerpiece “Ain’t That a Shame”), Dylan-via-Manfred Mann (“Please Mrs. Henry”), and Jeff Lynne’s pre-ELO psych-pop combo the Move (“Down on the Bay”) weren’t all that concerned about scoring cool points with the CBGB set.

And even in those moments when the Whisky sets threaten to fly off the rails into noisy chaos, frontman Robin Zander activates his inner McCartney like an emergency brake: amid the sludgy spasms and theatrical vocal contortions of “Daddy Should’ve Stayed in High School,” his melodious “ooohs” instantly soothe. Likewise, the sugar-coated pre-chorus hook he drops into the pugilistic “He’s a Whore” is almost enough to make the song’s contemptuous sleaze-bag protagonist seem sympathetic. More than a decade after these recordings were made, Cheap Trick’s effortless fusion of classic pop melodies and roughed-up hard rock would make them heroes to grunge titans like Nirvana and Melvins. After listening to Live at the Whisky 1977, the distance between ’60s Liverpool and ’90s Seattle has never seemed shorter.
Share on Google Plus

About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Cheap Trick - Live at The Whisky 1977 Music Album Reviews Cheap Trick - Live at The Whisky 1977 Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on January 02, 2023 Rating: 5


Post a Comment