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Riot Fest: Cheap Trick

Live Review

Venue: Humboldt Park, Chicago

Local heroes triumph with classic album performance

When the line-up for this tenth anniversary edition of Riot Fest was revealed it was also announced that ten bands would play ten classic albums in full by way of celebration. But until the day before the festival, only nine of those bands and albums had been confirmed.

Cheap Trick's Heaven Tonight was that final act to be unveiled and the Illinois band draw a huge crowd to witness them play that third record in its entirety.

The result is a set of good time vibes and goofy fun, something compounded by the entertaining array of odd-shaped guitars on display. Surrender is a blast of carefree classic rock, its catchy hooks sounding as fresh as ever, while On Top Of The World is similarly heady, the four-piece clearly having a great time as they revive songs - with impressive vigour - that are over 35 years old.

Unfortunately, it doesn't all fare so well. The bluesy rock 'n' roll of party anthem California Man is played well enough, but the disparity between this anthem of youthful, reckless hedonism and the old men playing it is slightly jarring, and its chunky, classic riffs also sound slightly dated. High Roller, too, suffers the same fate, chugging along with the enthusiasm of a local bar band, not international superstars. 

Thankfully, it picks up again. Takin' Me Back is a glorious dose of power-pop that soars high above the bustling crowd, and the ominous odd-pop of the album's title track is just as marvellous as it ever was, its sinister vibes even creepier today than on record. Stiff Competition, too, is a blast of old fashioned rock 'n' roll that noticeably ups the energy levels of the band before a jaunty, good natured run through of How Are You? sees vocalist Robin Zander and guitarist Rick Nielsen interact with each other as if for the first time. Of course, while Heaven Tonight is the band's most acclaimed album, their most well-known song is I Want You To Want Me, from the record before that. And while most of the crowd were probably hoping for it to make an appearance, when it finally does, at the tail end of the set, the response is massive. It might not have been on that record, but really, as the whole place erupts in a joyful singalong, it's clear that, whatever the album the set couldn't have ended any other way.

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