Cheap Trick is a lethal fun-rock foursome who improbably sold millions of records in the late 70s, flirted with anonymity in the early 80s, had a string of hit singles in the late 80s, and now, after the major flop of the album Busted, find they need to pull something out of a hat to stay relevant. (Whether the upcoming release of a sequel to their landmark Budokan live record will provide for this remains to be seen.) The group’s latter-day singles success–songs like “The Flame” and “Don’t Be Cruel”–isn’t problematic save for the fact that they’re not written by founder-conceptualist Rick Nielsen; that’s a heavy concession to sales, and one that tarnishes the band’s reputation. On the other hand, this is all largely irrelevant to the band’s live presentation, which has never been anything but an aircraft-carrier-size juggernaut. Singer Robin Zander and bassist Tom Petersson, pretty boys to this day, nicely provide the style, while unquestioned pop-metal genius Nielsen, a grinning munchkin in beanie cap, even more nicely undercuts both their glamour and the rock ‘n’ roll realities that make him a clown instead of a god. Do you have something better to do on New Year’s Eve eve? The show’s supposed to start around 11:30 with Rodeo in Paris. Wednesday, Night, 223 W. Chicago; 280-0221.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Caroline Greyshock.