REVIEW: Cheap Trick/Soul Asylum/Cracker at the Taste of Chicago
Well, all fears of rampant hackery were dashed early in their set. They opened up with "Hello There", their classic "soundcheck this, Mr. Engineer-guy!" blast of rock, and then launched into "Big Eyes", not the most obvious of opening volleys. Between songs, I casually mentioned to my wife that there are two songs I'd love to hear tonight, but probably won't get the chance to hear: "Taxman, Mr. Thief" and "Oh, Candy", both from their mind-blowingly excellent debut disc (if you don't own this CD, what the hell are you waiting for, Halley's Comet??? The album is fuckin' amazing!!). No sooner had those words come out of my mouth than Rick announced that their drummer, Mr. Bun E. Carlos would be counting them off for this next one. Without further ado, they launched into a very tight, rockin' version of "Oh, Candy"!! Fuck yeah!!!! I then revised my list of two-wanna-hear-'em-but-probably-won't songs to "Taxman" and "Baby Loves To Rock" from their should've-been-great-but-fell-short 1980 release All Shook Up. Sadly, I was right about those two; I didn't hear them tonight.
I honestly can say that Cheap Trick mixed in both old and new songs, and even though they played obvious hits like "Surrender" and "The Flame" (yuck to that one), they also played "I Know What I Want" and even used the sinister "Auf Wiedersehen" as one of the encores. My wife was surprised by that choice as an encore; I had to say I agree with her, except I think I dug the song worlds more than she did. A highlight for me was during "I Want You To Want Me", when I was holding my 3-year old son and dancing at the same time; the sheer happiness and amusement he had of getting the crap shaken out of him by my dancing with him in my arms was worth the price of admission. For me, being able to be downtown in the finest city in the world, with my son behaving (nay, enjoying himself), with the weather cooperating in the fullest (hot, but not excruciating), life really doesn't get much better than that. All of us really enjoyed the night.
Cracker put on a good set, with few surprises. You can stone me all you want, but I've never been over the moon about them, and have never been compelled to purchase any of their full-lengths. They certainly didn't offend my sensibilities or embarrass themselves, and I wish them lots of happiness and wealth. But, meh. Soul Asylum also put on a good set, with both the obvious ones, but also a couple of happily surprising choices. The coolest moment in their set was a rather ironic aside, actually. Dave Pirner intro'd the song "Black Gold" with somewhat oblique but definitely present anti-war statements about how at some point his own son (sons?) would be eligible for the Army, and that in this current climate, (I'm paraphrasing here) that's a dangerous eligibility to possess. They then launched into their anti-war hit, but right before it, a rather attractive lady with a bullhorn who was hired by the U.S. Army just happened to be unenthusiastically telling the assembled Soul Asylum-listening crowd to stop by their recruiting booth, as they still had water bottles and T-shirts left. Shit, I better hop to it, especially after Pirner's ringing endorsement of this current war!! Thanks for telling me, ma'am!! Where do I sign? I wonder if anyone else caught that bit of fun coincidence.
It was really a good night, and when it comes down to it, you don't go to the Taste merely for the food (although there is a lot of it, and a VERY broad spectrum of choices, most of 'em good, and the requisite high prices and obligatory convenience fees); you go for the show. Rockford, IL's finest band gave all of us assembled a great show, and even though I've seen 'em four times now, the blush hasn't faded from the rose. Now I gotta put their latest CD RockFord on my want list, dammit... ;)