Review: Cheap Trick bring 'Dream Police' to life on New Year's Eve at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg
From the day I first commandeered it from my dad’s record collection to the many nights I spent DJing in downtown St. Pete (Gonna Raise Hell was in constant rotation), my Dream Police LP has seen a lot of action. No matter how old the record gets, it still sounds new and full of energy every time it hits the platter.
Watching Cheap Trick live in concert is a similar experience — the guys are a bit older each time, the material doesn’t get any newer; yet they always sound fresh, as if they just walked onto the stage from 1979.
That year marked the release of Dream Police, an album that marked a transition for the band from hard-working Midwestern rockers to international superstars. The album featured a more dynamic, complex approach to songwriting than the band’s previous three albums, and orchestration was added to the mix, resulting in a unique multi-textured album that went on to become the band’s biggest commercial success.
In the spirit of their more elaborate recent performances (such as their live reproduction of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Cheap Trick began performing the Dream Police album in its entirety a few months ago, to sold-out crowds and wide critical acclaim.
On New Year’s Eve, it was time for St. Petersburg to get a chance to watch the band blast through their landmark album at Jannus Live, complete with no less than a full backing orchestra named — no joke — the Bombastic Symphonic Philharmonic with the Rhythmic Noise Mind Choir in 4D.
The night started off a little rough, as doors were delayed by a full hour due to a “production issue,” which caused some grumbling amongst the fans in line, which stretched around two full blocks, ending halfway between Third and Second streets along Central. The $100 ticket price included the promise of an “all-you-can-drink” open bar, and people wanted their free booze!
But when the band took to the stage around 10 p.m., all was forgiven. A pre-recorded version of Heaven Tonight was the opener, after which the large curtain obscuring the stage (specially constructed for the evening’s show, in order to accommodate the orchestra) dropped, and the band launched into Dream Police’s titular anthem.
Drummer Bun E. Carlos is no longer touring with the band (despite remaining a permanent member for studio recordings); his replacement was none other than guitarist Rick Neilsen’s son, Daxx, who did a remarkable job of filling Bun E.’s shoes. The rest of the band, including vocalist Robin Zander, decked out in a white police uniform like the one from the Dream Police album cover, were at the top of their game, hitting every note and punching out the classics with an enthusiasm that would make you think they were playing them for the first time.
It was a treat to see the band perform songs from the album that don’t often appear in their live shows; and the big favorites, from Voices to Need Your Love sounded fantastic. Cheap Trick’s penchant for non-stop touring was evident, as the band was polished, energetic, and to-the-point.
The orchestra was a great touch, adding depth to the more orchestral moments from the material, while beefing up the sound of the more straightforward numbers. But Cheap Trick’s lean, muscular sound tended to cut through all of the other instruments at times, occasionally making you forget that an orchestra was even present.
After Dream Police, the band went on to perform classics from their back-catalog, from their early hit, I Want You To Want Me, to Surrender and mega-ballad The Flame. The show was so captivating that many had forgotten to watch the time, only realizing that the new year had arrived when the band launched into a rendition of Auld Lang Syne — no countdown, just Cheap Trick.
Despite some minor complaints about delays and long lines for the free drinks, I think it would be tough for anyone to feel let down by this show. Cheap Trick lived up to their reputation as a top live act, and then some. It was a spectacle befitting the celebration of the new year, as well as a testament to the legacy of a truly classic album and the band that made it.
— Justin Grant, tbt*