Cheap Trick / Myrtle Beach, SC / April 2004

Whoever said Cheap Trick’s best days are behind them has been grossly misinformed. Sure, they haven’t had a major hit single since 1988’s sub par effort “The Flame,” but Cheap Trick is still without a doubt one of the greatest live bands…ever.

On an off night from their opening slot of this year’s Aerosmith tour, the band was firing on all cylinders Saturday night at Myrtle Beach’s House of Blues.  Kicking things off with “Just Got Back,” the band relentlessly rocked through a too short one hour and twenty minute set hitting nearly every corner of their 30 year career.

Lead vocalist Robin Zander’s voice sounds nearly as good as it did on the band’s breakthrough 1978 live masterpiece Cheap Trick at Budokan.  His screech can still rip the paint off of the wall.  The band’s rhythm section of Tom Peterson on 12-string bass and Bun E. Carlos on drums was rock steady all night long, but guitarist Rick Nielson is obviously the band’s energy.  He leapt around the stage oblivious to the fact that guys his age aren’t supposed to be able to do that.  He did it all without it seeming forced.  Nielson is also the band’s onstage spokesman, delivering all of the between the songs banter.  In addition, this guy throws out what seems like hundreds of guitar picks a night.  His aim was amazing, even hitting the back of the balcony!  It is not enough to throw them out one at a time while playing.  Nielson also threw out two handfuls over the crowd at one point.  Its pretty funny to see half the crowd dive on the floor at the exact same time.

Of course, we can’t forget his multitude of guitars.  Making an appearance was the double neck shaped like him, the “Gonna Raise Hell” Explorer and of course the gimongus 5 neck beast.  Nielson even gave a guitar to someone in the front row.  Of course, his guitar tech managed to re-acquire the instrument after several minutes of confusion.

Cheap Trick also managed to pull off a set list that made the die-hards and casual fans equally happy.  For the former, they got “Big Eyes,” “She’s Tight,” “Lot to Loose.” They also got two tracks from the band’s latest studio album Special One, “My Obsession” and an amazing version of the 3 chord dirge “Best Friend.”  The latter was treated to the hits “Dream Police,” “That 70’s Song,” “Surrender” and of course “I Want You To Want Me” which had everyone dancing, including several burly House of Blues bouncers.

The band ended their set with every Cheap Trick fan’s wet dream, a double shot of “Auf Wiedersehen” and “Goodnight.”  When the house music came back on, every one in the building had been completely satiated by the all out rockstravaganza they had just witnessed.  It’s a travesty that Cheap Trick remains the most underrated band in rock and roll.  However, on Saturday night, everyone in the building knew why Cheap Trick is one of the best live bands…ever.