I've seen Cheap Trick countless times, among them: playing the State Fair of Texas, opening for Meat Loaf at Starplex, at Reunion Arena some time in the '86. No matter when, no matter where, the band never disappoints; there's a reason they're beloved by the likes of Steve Albini, the Toadies and Smashing Pumpkins (both of whom have covered "Auf Wiedersehen"), Colin Meloy (who does an awful nice "Southern Girls") and Green Day, among the multitudes to tackle the immortal "Surrender."
"Auf Wiedersehen" and "Surrender" close out Cheap Trick's May 27, 1988, appearance at the Tarrant County Convention Center Arena, one of its stops along the tour in support of Lap of Luxury. That, of course, was the so-called comeback that happened to become the band's most commercially successful record to date, in large part thanks to "The Flame," which, ironically, is among the rare Cheap Trick song not written by anyone actually in Cheap Trick. (Spyche, for those who've forgotten, did a remarkable cover for the Mike Malinin-assembled 1992 Heaven on a Stick tribute, which also featured, among others, that Toadies track and Course of Empire's "ELO Kiddies" take. Spyche's "The Flame" also ended up on the Observer's first-ever compilation, occasionally found at a Half-Price books near you.)
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There's a reason this hits-filled recording sounds transistor-radio fresh: It's a Q102 broadcast, as evidenced by the jock talk at the opening (" ... you can hear the crowd ... Cheap Trick, just about to play live for 14,000 Q102 fans ...") and the fact The Q102 Frontal Lobotomy Boogie Band opened, good God. Which reminds me: As much as I loved The Zoo, I was a huge early-days Q102 fan too -- card-carrying, matter of fact. Can be again too, for a whole $5. But Good Lord, has it really been 13 years?