Cheap Trick

Various Live Albums

img_6735Cheap Trick – Various Live Albums

I’ve been a huge Cheap Trick fan for a long time. In this blog that’s only a couple of months old I’ve written about their new album, a biography on them and a couple of their studio albums. I have always enjoyed their records but when thinking about the band recently I realized how much I love them live. This is really no surprise, they are known as a superb live band and a live album, Live At Budokan, was their break out success. So I decided to check out a bunch more of their live records to see how well they capture the essence of seeing and hearing Cheap Trick live.

Two of the CDs I received are official Cheap Trick releases.  Their second live album after Budokan was 1998’s Music For Hangovers. It is a pared down selection of tracks from the band’s four nights at Chicago’s famed Metro, where they played each of their first four albums in their entirety, one per night. While the CD sounds great it’s hard to get very excited about this album knowing how heavily edited it is. I very much would have preferred a box set with all four complete shows. Silver is their third live album, taken from a 1999 show in the band’s hometown of Rockford, IL where they were performing in celebration of their 25th anniversary. This release comes in several versions. I got the CD/DVD combo.

The remainder of the discs I ordered are all, shall we say, “unofficial”. They cover many different time periods and range in quality greatly. They are all taken from radio broadcasts so while the sound is never terrible it’s never quite as pristine as the official releases but honestly that’s ok with me. In my book Cheap Trick are always better with a little buzz and hum than slick and clean. Here is the rundown of the releases –
Rockford Armory – Rockford Armory, Rockford, IL 1977 (edited show)
Raising Hell – 4 discs, Rockford Armory, Rockford, IL 1977 (full show) / International Amphitheater, Chicago, IL 1979
On Top Of The World – Capital Theater, Passaic, NJ 1978
Auld Lang Syne – Forum, Los Angeles, CA 1979
Turn On The Radio – 2 discs, Alpine Valley, East Troy, WI 1982 / Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI 1987
Live In Wisconson (yes it’s misspelled for some reason) – Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI 1994
In The Joint – Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas, NV 1995
So the shows represented here run from the year of their first album all the way through to their twelfth. They are great documents of some incredible concerts and an amazing addition to my Cheap Trick shelf.

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Mystery Science Theater 3000

Live Tour Items

img_7100Mystery Science Theater 3000 – Live Tour Items 

Recently I had the amazing fortune to enjoy Mystery Science Theater 3000 Live as a VIP. Previously I had seen Cinematic Titanic four times, The Mads (Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff) six times and Joel Hodgson’s Riffing Myself twice. While not actually in person I have also seen Rifftax live remotely via their Fathom events 24 times so I have a lot of experience with the original cast alums doing live shows. This however was my first time to see MST3K proper live and of course also the first tour for the new cast. I’ve already established my absurd fandom for movie riffing in discussing my 17 years of nightly viewings and my posts on the Cinematic Titanic Complete DVD Set and the upcoming Mystery Science Theater 3000 Trading Card Set. So this was in a silly way a major event in my life.

Before the show proper we were treated to a small VIP gathering that consisted of a Q&A session with Joel. We also got a little inadvertent set tour where we checked out the stage, a bunch of props and some costume racks, etc. Then a quick handshake meet and greet was followed by about 100 photos with the full cast on the set. It was a lot of fun and some nice icing on the cake that was the incredible riffs of two amazingly bad films. They were the MST classic Eegah! with all new riffs (plus a few choice throwbacks) and the mystery film which turned out to be the Italian/English superhero James Bond mash up Argo, The Fantastic Superman. Both were nothing short of hilarious and the live presentation was perfect for MST, part community theater DIY, part creative genius-level professional.

But In The Mail Today isn’t supposed to be about the concerts, movies, and theater events that I attend. Its about the stuff! So the VIP experience came with a cool laminate featuring Jonah and the bots being pelted with spring snakes (it was the Watch Out For Snakes Tour) on a custom lanyard. We also got a nice MST logo tote bag and a sweet live show poster. Of course they offered lots of additional merch as well. I opted for the tour photo book which photographically takes you through the creation of the tour from conception to writing sessions to green screen filming to live show pics. The Script book for Eegah! was a unique item that was made all the more interesting by Joel’s reluctant introduction which is featured in the photos here.  In total these are some fantastic souvenirs from an amazing night.

*full disclosure – these items did not come in the mail. I picked them up in person at the merch booth when I saw MST3K live recently.

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Van Halen

Live Tokyo Dome

Van Halen – Live Tokyo Dome

Well here it is, sort of … the only official live album of (close to) the real Van Halen. Who’s with me that this thing is overdue by about 35 years? I was incredulous that at a time when these guys were one of the greatest and most fun live bands around that they never released something like this. 

But now here we are, original bassist Michael Anthony given the boot in favor of Eddie’s son Wolfgang, the band on a tour to support an album of newly reworked demos of rejected songs from their early days, re-formed for what is hard to describe as anything other than a cash grab, playing together onstage but not seeing or speaking to each other otherwise. So how could I have expected this to be any good?

Alex and Eddie, while not as nimble as in their youth do still thunder and erupt, Dave’s never great vocals have lost much of the swagger and style that used to make up for his lack of pipes and while Wolfgang is obviously full of enthusiasm and quite accomplished on the bass he’s not the guy who wrote these songs and is notably absent on those key backing vocals. In the end Van Halen come across as what they have transformed into, a giant party-rock band. Me, I’ll stick with my bootlegs from ’81/’82 preferring to remember them back when they were the dangerous and exciting slap-in-the-face game changer that guitar driven rock needed.