Heaven Tonight

Cheap Trick, w/ Superdrag
Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN
Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas came early for
pop nerds in Nashville this year, as one of the best double bills I've ever seen shared the stage at the legendary Ryman. Really, if you are a fan of rock and roll, you could not have asked for a better bill, or two bands more perfectly suited to be playing together. If you had been paying by the melody, tickets would have been five times the top tier price of fifty bucks.

Adopted hometown heroes
Superdrag took the stage promptly (and I mean promptly) at 7:30. They may have been playing to a half full house at the start of their set, but the guys were clearly pumped to be playing at the mother church. Kicking things off with "Slow To Anger" and "Keep It Close To Me," they delivered a 40 minute set that was heavy on their mid-nineties Modern Rock radio classics. "Do The Vampire," "Sucked Out," and their standard closer "Destination Ursa Major" were all present and accounted for. And though they were tearing up the entire time, their smiles seemed to grow with each song as more and more of the crowd filed in. Even if frontman John Davis hadn't made repeated comments about what an honor it was for them to be playing there, their demeanor on stage made it obvious that they were having one hell of a good time.

After a forty minute wait that was spent listening to fortysomethings explain to their significant others how great
Cheap Trick was when they last saw them in high school on the One On One tour, the house lights thankfully went down. An intro tape that featured an animated Japanese announcer, song snippets, and various quotes about the headliners from episodes of The Simpsons made it clear that yes indeed ladies and gentlemen, we were ready to rock. With a one-two punch of "Way Of The World" and "Come On, Come On," Rockford, IL's finest came out swinging and made it clear that they definitely belong among the greats who have played Nashville's most fabled stage. The set was heavy on the hits and surprisingly light on deep album cuts. I'd have gladly sacrificed any of the songs they played from their most recent album The Latest (although "Sick Man Of Europe" was a highlight) in order to hear fan favorites like "He's A Whore" or "Southern Girls." The pop purists among the crowd may have cringed when they broke out their 1988 power ballad "The Flame," but the song definitely highlights Robin Zander's still formidable vocals, and it gave the middle aged wives and girlfriends their "hug and sway" moment. When the band next tore into "Surrender" (the most perfect pop song ever written, says me), all was forgiven, although it seemed a bit early in the set to be playing their most popular song. As it turned out, it was the end of the main set already, just an hour into the show.

They kicked off their encore by reprising a song from their
Las Vegas Sgt. Pepper residency, playing an outstanding version of "A Day In The Life." The Beatles' classic made an impressively appropriate segue into a raucous version of "Dream Police" that featured a guest appearance from Journey's Jonathan Cain on keyboards. After that back to back powderkeg, and entire audience was floating on a musical high that seemed like it could last forever, which is why it was all the more surprising when Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos started off the intro to "Good Night." Surely the band wasn't going to call it quits after a mere 75 minutes? When Zander sang "That's the end of the show, now it's time to go," they meant it, and we got our unfortunate answer.

All though the concert was way too short, it feels like it's hard to complain. Yeah, it was brief, but it was also incredibly good. After over thirty years together, the guys have lost absolutely none of their ability to put on an utterly fantastic show. And frankly any setlist that includes "She's Tight" can do no wrong.

Cheap Trick - "Goodnight (Live)" bonus track from In Color

And since it's the holiday season, I'll throw this one up as a bonus...

Cheap Trick - "Christmas Christmas" (mp3) from Gift

photo by
Steve Cross, lovingly stolen from Nashville Cream. Read their review, or check out their show galleries of Cheap Trick and Superdrag.

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