A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed For All
Sgt. Pepper Live featuring Cheap Trick
Las Vegas Hilton, Las Vegas, NV
Thursday, September 17, 2009
There was pretty much no doubt I was going to enjoy this show. I love Cheap Trick. I'm a HUGE Beatles fan. So put the two together and it's beer and pizza... how can you go wrong?
The night started out on a bit of a dubious note. The lights dimmed and from behind the curtain the orchestra started playing a medly of early Beatles hits that sounded a bit too close to Muzak for my tastes. But once the curtain came up and the show proper started, it was just ever increasing doses of awesomeness. The evening began with a seven song set of Beatles classics played by the house band (led by Nashville's own Bill Lloyd) and a couple of guest singers. Joan Osborne kicked things off with "Can't Buy Me Love" and "The Long and Winding Road," followed by an instrumental version of "Eleanor Rigby." Next up was Rob Laufer for a utterly faithful and fantastic version of "Across The Universe" that was accompanied by a children's choir. An instrumental take on "Something" and a gang vocal rendition of "Drive My Car" preceded what almost could have been the highlight of the entire show... Gomez singer Ian Ball leading the band through an incredible version of "I Am The Walrus." Hearing the psychedelic classic played with an orchestra was just amazing.
With an undercard as impressive as the first few songs of the evening were, expectations were even higher for the main event, and Cheap Trick came out with guns blazing. From the first notes of the album's title track, they were nailing every note with both passion and precision. Each song was true to the original, but they definitely added a bit of power to the Fab Four's pop. You'd think a song as perfect as "With A Little Help From My Friends" simply couldn't be improved on, but the extra bit of oomph they provided made the performance simply a magical experience. If it weren't for getting engaged this summer, hearing Robin Zander belt out "Lovely Rita" would be the highlight of my year.
With sound production overseen by former Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick, the sound of the album was faithfully recreated, right down to the barnyard noises on "Good Morning Good Morning" and the circus carousel sounds of "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!" Several members of the shows prelude made cameos during the main set as well. Laufer spelled Cheap Trick halfway through, performing "Within You Without You" along with a six piece Indian orchestra, Ball sang John Lennon's chorus vocals on "She's Leaving Home," and Lloyd stuck around to play rhythm guitar the entire time.
Once they put the finishing touches on "A Day In The Life," the show closed with a absolutely killer take on the closing medley from Abbey Road before bringing out all the evening performers for a rousing and joyous romp through "All You Need Is Love." The audience stood up and sang along, confetti cannons blew pink paper hearts throughout the theater, and anyone who left the showroom without a smile on their face was surely among the world's most hardened cynics.
Cheap Trick have long been among the world's finest purveyors of power pop, and their own catalog is a veritable treasure chest of classics. They've worn their love for the Beatles on their sleeves for most of their career, so it's no surprise that in this setting they can easily claim the title of world's greatest tribute band. As Rick Neilsen put it himself mid-show, "Cheap Trick have a lot of great songs, but it's a real treat to be able to be playing these." It was a treat to see them played as well.
Sgt. Pepper Live is playing at the Las Vegas Hilton through this Wednesday, September 23. If you're not able to make it to Sin City on short notice, you can relive last year's performance at the Hollywood Bowl on both CD and DVD. For another take on the show, check out Tyge's review at The Opening Acts.