Cheap Trick – [Boxed Set]

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

If the measure of a classic album or document is its seemingly complete integration into a cultural vernacular, it can only be said that Cheap Trick’s At Budakan! is one of the biggest, most enduring documents in the recent history of popular song. The name of the album alone has become synonymous with excellence; when Mike Myers (in the role of Wayne Campbell) was attempting to articulate how great he thought love interest Tia Carrere’s band was in Wayne’s World, he started referencing live album names to make his point. In that exchange, he mentions Ted Nugent’s Double Live Gonzo and “Intensity In Ten Cities” (by Chiodos), but he punctuates his ravings with “Live At Budakan!” There’s the enduring image, but it’s not like it has ever been an obscure one; the appeal of At Budakan! originally manifested right away upon the record’s domestic release in 1979 (it was originally released in Japan only in 1978) and made Cheap Trick the hottest musical commodity on Earth. Covers of Rolling Stone, Creem, Hit Parader and Kerrang! (among others) featuring the band members’ likenesses, critical and popular polls that found Cheap Trick upending such established names as Kiss, Van Halen and Led Zeppelin in the minds and hearts of everyone on the planet. Cheap Trick was doing pretty well before Budakan! came out, but the stellar reception of the record made them legends almost overnight.

Was all the hype deserved? It’s a fair question to ask and, thirty years after the fact, the one that the four-disc (1 DVD, 3 CD) deluxe edition of Budakan! seeks to answer from every possible angle.

The DVD portion of the set reissues Cheap Trick’s performance on April 28, 1978 as it was originally broadcast on Japanese television and, looking at it now, it’s actually kind of funny with the right set of eyes. The DVD presents Cheap Trick as an otherworldly phenomenon as hordes of screaming Japanese girls hang on singer Robin Zander’s every word  and gesture and guitarist Rick Nielson feeds off of and feeds into the hysteria.

Thousands  of screaming Japanese onlookers? Great big riffs and thunderous drums? A monster-sized stage presence? Sounds a little like a Godzilla movie doesn’t it?

The reptilian reference is actually pretty accurate as, looking at the scene, while classic bands including Led Zeppelin had played Budakan before, no one had done it with the same level of notice that Cheap Trick garnered – they were the biggest thing outside of Godzilla to hit Japan and they repay the grateful audience in kind with inspired performances of some soon-to-be-classic songs including “Surrender,” “Auf Wiedersehen,” “ELO Kiddies” and “I Want You To Want Me.” It does bear mentioning that it isn’t as if they’re running through the motions though; while, yes, Nielson mugs for the camera at every available opportunity and there’s both an excellent interplay between all the band members, more than that, there is also a recurring look cast back and forth among them when the crowd noise threatens to overtake the imposing wall of amplifiers on stage completely that says, “Can you believe this? I mean really – can you fucking believe it?”

The other three discs of the Budakan! set expand upon the audio content of the show with a couple of handy souvenirs and no letdowns. The original, ten-song release of the album is not included here, and in its place rests the uncut audio from the DVD; Disc Two reprises that content and adds the four songs – “High Roller,” “Need Your Love,” “Come On, Come On” and “Big Eyes” originally edited out of the broadcast. Even without the video, listeners can pick up on Cheap Trick’s disbelief and excitement at their reception. Comparatively, the final two discs of the set present “The Complete Concert” originally released in 1998. Now, some readers are thinking that the difference between the two presentations is negligible and that’s a perfectly reasonable assumption – even a fair one in a lot of ways. The difference is certainly in the minutiae of the concert and the production of it, but those are the little chinks in the armor that rabid super-fans go crazy for. They’ll sit for hours with their headphones on attempting to find every last difference between Disc Two and discs Three and Four (they’re there, they’re small, but it’ll thrill audiophiles to find them) and, in the choice to include such content, both Cheap Trick and their label betray their reasoning behind this release: at four discs, Budakan! was made for existing fans – not to draw new ones – and give them the show as entirely as is possible.


Cheap Trick online
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