Too often, club gigs by major bands are little more than a promotional ploy when it’s time to get out and plug the new album, but not so in this case: This was to fill a page in the Cheap Trick touring history book.
It's been a little over forty years since Cheap Trick last – and indeed, first – appeared in Liverpool. Back in 1978 they were a last-minute addition as headliners for a local radio station’s Battle Of The Bands show at the city’s university.
Forty years. A ludicrous state of affairs when Cheap Trick's musical DNA is so entwined with that of city's most famous band.
Truth be told, there have been numerous attempts over three long decades to bring Cheap Trick back to the city to perform at The Cavern. For one reason or another it has never worked out, but now the stars have aligned, Rockford’s finest have returned to Liverpool, and people have flown in from all over the world to be part of the spectacle.
The evening opens with a surprise appearance by Smile, the three-piece band fronted by Robin Zander’s son, Robin Taylor. They offer up a brief and extremely enjoyable handful of tunes that have a trippy sixties' vibe, with a soupçon of Jeff Buckley thrown in.
There's still a sense of disbelief as Cheap Trick take to the sort of cramped stage they've long left behind, embarking on a powerful 90-minute set that leans heavily on their earlier albums, ranging from the visceral, punk power pop/rock of their debut album to the commercially rewarding output of the late 70s and early 80s.
Seasoned veterans they may be, but that doesn’t stop them attacking the evening with a vim and a vigour that puts many outfits of lesser years to shame. Augmented by RT Zander on backing vocals and additional guitar, the likes of He’s A Whore and Elo Kiddies sizzle as Zander Snr's voice continues to be a thing of wonder and joy. He roars full throttle through some of the band’s best known material, smiling and apparently having the time of his life as he belts out On Top Of The World and Baby Loves To Rock from the George Martin-produced All Shook Up.
"We’re not being sacrilegious, we’re just paying homage," says Rick Nielsen, sporting the Beatles-adorned guitar he used for the band’s Sgt Pepper shows, as they take a trip into Beatleland courtesy of a rampant take on Magical Mystery Tour, with Revolver’s She Said She Said slipped in alongside.
Tom Petersson gets his turn centre stage with I Know What I Want from Dream Police, which is twinned with a thunderous cover of the Velvet Underground’s Waiting For The Man. The songs segue with a thunderous solo section which swamps a room that knows a thing or two about signature bass sounds, with Sir Macca having taken the same stage some weeks before.
Nielsen – as you would expect – works his way through a selection of a few of his crazy guitars, excitedly riffing and soloing his way throughout the set. He ends the evening with a crowd walk, finally resting nonchalantly against the bar sporting his iconic five-necked monster, as the band close out a night that will live long in the memory of those fortunate enough to have witnessed it.
Superb and surreal in equal measure, it's finally done and dusted. Thank you gents. Not so long next time though, ok?