YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Truth in Labeling

Bored, Inconsistent and Playing Hard-Rockin' Duds, Cheap Trick Lived Up to Its Name at the Coach House


SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Who would argue that Cheap Trick was responsible for some of the brightest-sounding pop songs of the 1970s?

Remember singing "Mommy's all right, Daddy's all right, they just seem a little weird" whenever the catchy tune "Surrender" danced right out of the radio?

But this once-exhilarating quartet lost its way throughout much of the '80s, largely trading memorable pop for an inferior brand of arena rock and slick ballads.

At a sold-out Coach House on Thursday, these two clashing sides of the Cheap Trick legacy emerged over the course of the veteran quartet's inconsistent and uninspired performance.

Gone were the charm, innocence and unpredictability that were key elements of the band's shows when it still seemed caught up in a buoyant spirit of youthful rock 'n' roll.

Instead, the group--scheduled to perform Friday at the Galaxy Concert Theater in Santa Ana--slogged through its set with a ho-hum, workmanlike manner.

Lead guitarist and songwriter Rick Nielsen was the only one who generated any flashes of spontaneity or humor. But even his patter and oddball facial expressions were infrequent.

Lead singer Robin Zander was a chilly presence. The golden-voiced, blond-haired vocalist never smiled, but did frequently wander off to the side of the stage with his arms folded, often appearing uninterested if not downright bored.

Uninspired, the players bordered on parodies of themselves with a mid-set string of pedestrian rockers and Nielsen's shameless prompting for applause. His trademark flinging of guitar picks and constant switching of guitars were stale moves that only accented the rut the entire band is in.

Cheap Trick did soar, albeit briefly, when it stuck to what it does best. Several pure pop gems, including "I Want You to Want Me," "Dream Police" and "Southern Girls," were perfectly suited for Zander's elastic vocals and Nielsen's well-defined, highly melodic guitar lines. Echoing such blissful sources of inspiration as the Beatles, the Who and the Kinks, these catchy tunes have lost none of their appeal.

It's enough to make you wonder why other songs of the same ilk, namely "On Top of the World," "Tonight It's You" and "ELO Kiddies," were ditched in favor of such hard-rockin' duds as "Downed" and "He's a Whore."

Go figure.

After a dismal set of self-congratulatory posturing by local hard-rock band West, second-billed Suckerpunch served up 30 minutes of contagious, high-octane, pop-flavored punk.


Despite its highly derivative style--imagine a merger of the Pistols' Johnny Rotten and the Clash's Joe Strummer and you've got front man Paul Worden--the Los Angeles-based quintet's anthems of youthful apathy and self-loathing were just too forcefully played and hook-filled to resist.

Drawing material from its new debut album, "Suckerpunch," the group unearthed a ferocious dual-guitar attack set to Worden's screaming vocals.

The coarse but emotive singing and buzz-saw riffs made for grand noise, particularly during their set's high point, a Psychedelic Furs-like tale of missed opportunities called "Stagnation Street."

Los Angeles Times Articles