CHEAP TRICK: SILVER (2001)
1) Ain't That A Shame; 2) I Want You To Want Me; 3) Oh, Candy; 4) That 70's Song; 5) Voices; 6) If You Want My Love; 7) She's Tight; 8) Can't Stop Fallin' Into Love; 9) Gonna Raise Hell; 10) I Can't Take It; 11) Take Me To The Top; 12) It All Comes Back To You; 13) Tonight It's You; 14) Time Will Let You Know; 15) World's Greatest Lover; 16) The Flame; 17) Stop This Game; 18) Dream Police; 19) I Know What I Want; 20) Woke Up With A Monster; 21) Never Had A Lot To Lose; 22) You're All Talk; 23) I'm Losin' You; 24) Hard To Tell; 25) Oh, Claire; 26) Surrender; 27) Just Got Back; 28) Day Tripper; 29) Who D' King; 30*) Daddy Should Have Stayed In High School; 31*) On Top Of The World.
Two live albums in a row? The easiest thing is to interpret this as a sign of senility, but, in all fairness, post-Budokan Cheap Trick only really put out live albums for special occasions — thus, Music For Hangovers celebrated the re-release of the «classic four», and now, a year later, comes this posh, almost luxurious celebration of the band's 25th anniversary, staged by the band in style, as they return to their native town of Rockford, Illinois (probably the only place in the world where they can still sell out the largest venue without any problems) and, local royalty-style, not only surround themselves with a pack of illustrious (and not-so-illustrious) guests, but also insist on presenting a panoramic view of the band's entire 25-year old career.
Among other things, this means revisiting every single Cheap Trick album ever — yes, even including The Doctor and Busted. With thirteen studio albums behind their belt already, this is not an easy task, and even given the mammoth duration of the show (almost two and a half hours), they are unable to tackle all the highlights, especially since they are so obsessed with completism here, they even perform one song from Robin Zander's solo career (ʽTime Will Let You Knowʼ), as well as the theme song from That 70's Show (a reworking of Big Star's ʽIn The Streetʼ), and two Beatle-related tunes: ʽDay Tripperʼ, which they sometimes did in concert in the old days, and even Lennon's ʽI'm Losing Youʼ — a song on which they almost got to back John back in 1980, even though their version ultimately did not make it onto the final cut of Double Fantasy (but you can still hear it on Lennon's Anthology boxset: I like its hard-rocking crunch, but I can also see how the sound would be considered too harsh and too «retrograde» for John's New Wave-leaning tastes circa 1980).
The good news: this ensures that Silver is at least not completely expendable, coming right off the heels of Music For Hangovers — this is an entirely different concept, and although there is, inevitably, some overlap with the old numbers, there is a whole ton of live stuff here that you have never heard before unless you were an avid concert goer or bootleg collector. (Even in terms of the old Seventies' stuff, you still have performances of ʽVoicesʼ, ʽI Know What I Wantʼ, ʽYou're All Talkʼ, and, tacked on as bonus tracks on the 2004 re-release, ʽDaddy Should Have Stayed In High Schoolʼ and ʽOn Top Of The Worldʼ that were never previously available live). The bad news: do we really want to sit through an endless set of reminders of how subpar the band's 1980s — 1990s material was, compared to the classics? Even if they really go all the way to weed out the embarrassments and concentrate on the decent stuff, there's no way you could shove Silver into somebody's face as an introduction to Cheap Trick. It may be historically truthful and all, but it just isn't really that fun.
There does seem to be a certain ideological point here: it's as if with this release, Nielsen and the boys are trying to officially legitimize and redeem all of their past. Case in point: having carefully back-scrutinized The Doctor and extracted what is almost certainly the best-written song on there (ʽTake Me To The Topʼ), they perform an exuberant acoustic performance of the tune to a seemingly enthusiastic audience, upon which a cockily satisfied Nielsen goes, "now who said The Doctor was a bad album? Only every critic in the United States, but what do they know?" Some rather crude revisionism out there, Mr. Nielsen — now go ahead and stun your listeners with a kick-ass version of ʽMan-U-Lip-U-Latorʼ, I dare you. But the illusion cannot be held forever even by the band members — at one point (right after the conclusion of ʽThe Flameʼ, a song that Rick himself never seemed to have much love for), Nielsen states that "okay, we've had enough of these ballads", and eventually the band gets back on track with some real good stuff.
The guest stars do not make that much of a difference: many are just relatives (like Robin's daughter, Holland, and Rick's son, Miles), some are old friends and colleagues (Petersson's former replacement on the bass, Jon Brant, makes a guest appearance on two of the songs he originally played on), and then there's the ever-present Billy Corgan (ʽJust Got Backʼ) and Art Alexakis of Everclear (ʽDay Tripperʼ). The biggest star of 'em all is Slash, who gives a dutifully ecstatic solo turn on ʽYou're All Talkʼ, but I am not sure that Cheap Trick done Guns'n'Roses style is a particularly thrilling idea — serious generational gap out there. Now if only they could get Angus Young, we'd be talking! But it's a long way from Australia to Illinois.
Other than that, what is there to say? The band remains in very good form (ʽGonna Raise Hellʼ is especially diagnostic for all members of the band, from vocals and guitar to bass and drums, and here they pass the test with flying colors), Nielsen's sense of humor is intact, and, after all, it does make sense to give those subpar songs an extra chance when they are separated from crummy Eighties' production and transferred to a healthy live environment (also, despite the hoarse overtones, Nielsen turns in an impressive vocal performance on ʽWorld's Greatest Loverʼ). There is also a DVD release of the concert, but I'm not sure if you should go for this — Nielsen was still in his ridiculous braided beard and dark glasses stage at the time, and it just don't work that well without the bowtie and baseball cap delivery body image. If it ain't broke, don't fix it — good title for a potential Cheap Trick hit, by the way.