Share BUDOKAN! FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 1978 (CD+DVD) - Cheap Trick (Epic)
The Budokan venue was one specifically built for concert recordings – and when you'd recorded there in the late 70s or the early 80s, it kind of meant you'd "made it". Like Sydney's own Opera House, it was meant to have perfect acoustics – and based on Cheap Trick's career-defining 1978 monster breakthrough smash-hit, I certainly can't gainsay that.
When I last saw Cheap Trick live (and more than just a little part of me feels dirty for having partially funded Def Leppard's expenses in doing so) they were a well-oiled machine, seasoned by over 30 years of constant gigging into a precision-point power-pop band of awesome. It didn't hurt that their set was a collection of greatest hits (and when you're considering the Trick's back catalogue, that's gonna be a pretty darned impressive selection of songs) mainly culled from their first four studio LPs – the eponymous debut, the frankly stellar "In Colour", the equally amazing "Heaven Tonight" and the good, but a little too slick "Dream Police".
Really, the only thing that cramped my style that night was being in the presence of so many mullets and so much acid-wash in the one place at the one time (it was worse than my graduation 20 years ago – but that's a Def Leppard crowd for you), and the fact that the audience were complacent, bordering on the comatose until FM-hit "The Flame" was played. How anyone could remain arse-plastered-to-chair while this power-pop juggernaut are rip-arsing it up on stage – Rick "God among mortal men" Nielson is an absolute force of nature, distributing guitar picks to the audience like manna from heaven, and careening around the stage like he owns it – and from the time he's on it, he does.
When you bung the DVD component of this two-disc set in your player, you'll see what I mean. Cheap Trick in all their radiant glory are very much the Rick Nielson show (it's rare that a vocalist stands aside from front-man duties, but 70s pin-up Robin Zander knows who the consummate showman is), and rightfully so, given his lion's share of the writing credits for the bands' career. Please don't go in expecting the much tamer studio beast that the Trick would become – back in the day (the glorious 70s – the most awesome decade known to music), Cheap Trick were a rockin' force to be reckoned with. Nielson's blazing guitar, Tom Petersson's thunderous 12-string bass, and shyster-bookie lookalike Bun E. Carlos' whip-crack drums (definitely the Trick's secret weapon) formed a rock solid backdrop to Zander's swooning vocal – and the Beatles-with-a-raw-edge songwriting chops that were second to none.
For some reason, despite the band's first two LPs stiffing in the US, selling well below expectation and critical acclaim, the original "Budokan" live set (and obviously the tour it documented) was a massive hit with the Japanese public, and the import version of the record (and the monster hit single it spawned, "I Want You To Want Me") suddenly caught the broader public imagination. And a good job, too.
What you get in this two disc set is the full CD recording of the Friday set (two nights were recorded, but this was the one used in its entirety), and a slightly truncated DVD of the Japanese made-for-TV concert movie, with a bunch of extras thrown in at the end. In either case, you get a wall-to-wall slab of Cheap Trick goodness – the big hits of the day (and still concert faves to this day), "Surrender", "Auf Wiedersehen", "Southern Girls", "California Man", Fats Domino's "Ain't That A Shame" given a solid re-working, and the surprise Japanese hit "Clock Strikes Ten" (not-so-subtly referenced in Turbonegro's "The Age Of Pamparius", itself later given the treatment by Nashville Pussy). The CD has the full gig – 19 songs including encores; the DVD sadly omits four tracks, including two of my favourites, "Big Eyes" and the superlative "Come On, Come On" – strictly speaking, the latter is on the disc, but the middle minute of the song has the band speaking all over the top of it, and its only included as an extra. Booo!
Nevertheless, that's 85 minutes of one of power-pop's best bands – not to mention one of the best bar bands the world has ever seen this side of The Faces and the Flamin' Groovies (and I can't think of a higher accolade, seriously) – right there in your mother-lovin' living room at your convenience, pal, and don't you forget it. "Budokan!" is a constant re-watcher, for me. 2am, just home from the pub? Time to serenade my neighbours! I must say, the picture is very dark, but we are here for the music after all. And the music rocks.
In terms of the extra features on the DVD disc, there are a couple of tracks from the 30th Anniversary Budokan gig from 2008 – "Voices" and "If You Want My Love"; if you closed your eyes, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the then and the now. That may sound damning, but it's not meant to – the band now rock like much younger men, and the vocal harmonies are even stronger than they were back in the day, Zander and Petersson's voices particularly complement each other brilliantly – and as for Nielson's guitar playing? Fuhgeddaboudit! Your band wished it could age so well.
But the particularly interesting thing included here is the interview footage with the band reminiscing on those glory days thirty years later. Okay, there might be a little middle-aged spread present (hell, I've got it myself), but Cheap Trick's love for their music and dedication to their fans shines through at every moment. These are men who love what they do. And I love them for it. Some of the anecdotes really do boggle the mind – when the band were in Tokyo back in '78, they were told to stay away from hotel windows so that the legions of fans who literally besieged their hotel (seriously, they had to get to the gigs in fucking-fa-crissakes garbage trucks, smuggled out of their residences) wouldn't back into the street trying to take photos of them and get run over. No, really! The vagaries of rock'n'roll fame, huh? I'm sure there's only so many years I could deal with that…
If you love power-pop, this is your Holy Grail. Alongside Big Star's jaw-droppingly brilliant "Radio City", the Flamin' Groovies' "Shake Some Action" and Blue Ash's debut scorcher "No More, No Less", "Budokan!" is a rockin' slice of 70s goodness that you simply need to hear. And this release is the copy you need to hear of it. You will not be disappointed. - Mr Intolerance
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