Cheap Trick Bring Budokan To L.A.: Concert Review

Robert Matheu/
The band thrills fans with a celebration, rather than a nostalgia trip, of its 1978 seminal live album.

The band celebrates the 35th anniversary of its seminal live album in an intimate show.

“Hello, Tokyo!”

So yelled Cheap Trick frontman Robin Zander as the quartet took the stage following a raucous intro by the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith. The venue was Los Angeles’ El Rey Theatre, more than 7,800 miles from Japan, but on this night, four of Rockford, Illinois' favorite sons -- Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Peterson and current touring drummer Daxx Nielsen (who is taking the place of original drummer Bun E. Carlos), were bringing a little bit of Budokan to the West Coast.

The occasion is the 35th anniversary of Live At Budokan, the album that transformed the group into arena rock headliners in the late 1970s and made fans of so many people in attendance, like Smith and Anthrax’s Scott Ian. Slash and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry have also been big proponents of the band over the years, and none of that likely would have been possible if not for the shows at Budokan on April 28 and 30 in 1978.

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Opening with, what else, but “Hello There,” the group brought the album to life, including crowd-pleasers like the pop-rock anthem “Surrender,” which incited a mass sing along and found Nielsen throwing vinyl into the delighted crowd as Zander delivered the lines, “Got my Kiss records out,” and “I Want You To Want Me,” from the songs that made them classic rock staples.

Having stood the test of more than three decades, those two tracks, which the band has said are part of the three "must plays" every night (along with “Dream Police”) deserve their place in the spotlight. But the real fun during this show for Tricksters was the opportunity to hear deeper album cuts like -- the extended “Need Your Love,” the energetic “Come On, Come On” and the atmospheric “Downed” -- performed live again.

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With Zander in full white attire, even busting out the captain’s hat at several points during the show, and Nielsen requisitely building to the four-neck guitar at the end of the night, the band did their best to bring the seventies back without sacrificing the true rock essence for nostalgia.

It was exactly what the crowd wanted, and when the band played the final notes of the ever-fitting closer, the glorious rocking “Clock Strikes 10,” Cheap Trick had succeeded not only in bringing Tokyo to L.A., but in a bit of time travel, too.

Set List:

Hello There
Come On, Come On
ELO Kiddies
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
Big Eyes
Can't Hold On
Oh Caroline
Auf Wiedersehn
Need Your Love
High Roller
Southern Girls
I Want You to Want Me
California Man
Ain't That a Shame
Clock Strikes 10

Twitter: @THRMusic