Bun E. Carlos - drums; Rick Nielsen - guitar, vocals; Tom Petersson - bass, vocals; Robin Zander - vocals, guitar
A funny thing happened to American rockers Cheap Trick on the way to stardom in the U.S.: They went to Japan. In much the same way the Beatles were surprised by the overwhelming response of Beatlemania when they stepped off their British Airways plane at JFK airport in 1964, Cheap Trick received the same pleasant surprise when they landed in the Land of the Rising Sun to play the Budokan Arena in 1978. The result was a brilliant live album that documented just how big this band could become if American fans got it the same way the Japanese did. Live At The Budokan was a smash worldwide, led by their massive hit, "I Want You To Want Me" (originally a track on the band's 1977 studio album, In Color).
This short but highly energetic set from Cheap Trick was recorded for the King Biscuit Flower Hour just days prior to the release of the Budokon album, when Chaep Trick opened for The Cars at The Palladium in New York City. By this time, the band had perfected the material that would soon be immortalized on the Budokan album, and with several years of relentless touring behind them, they were tight as a drum. Guitarist Rick Nielsen was the Harpo Marx of this band, usually silent, but incredibly funny and enormously talented. He was Pete Townshend to lead singer Robin Zander's Roger Daltrey. But the band would never have seen the success they did, however, without the monster rhythm section of drummer Bun E. Carlos and bassist Tom Petersson.
The set begins by emphasizing material from the band's recent In Color album, with the triple whammy of "Hello There," "Big Eyes," and "Southern Girls." They follow with an extended romp through "Need Your Love," which serves as the centerpiece of this set and then their classic re-make of Roy Wood's "California Man," originally cut in the early 1970s by Jeff Lynne's old band, the Move. The former would eventually get the studio treatment on their Dream Police album in 1979, while the latter would soon be issued on the band's next album, Heaven Tonight, generally considered to be the band's strongest studio effort of the era, where their music culminated in some of the most perfectly realized hook-filled hard rock with plenty of attitude.
All of these songs, as well as the set-closer "Goodnight Now" and the encore "Clock Strikes Ten," would become critical elements in the success of the Budokon album, but fans will be delighted to hear these alternate live versions, when the group was forced to compress their monumental energy level into a half-hour opening slot performance. As one can easily tell from this high quality recording, the New York City audience, mainly comprised of fans of the headliners, The Cars, certainly embrace Cheap Trick. It is no wonder why, as the band gives a forceful performance that maintains momentum from beginning to end.
This same line-up of Cheap Trick has remained together now for well over three decades, and still tours the world to sellout audiences, a testament to their originality and longevity. Here listeners can enjoy the band when they were young and still hungering for success, literally days before the release of their big breakthrough, Cheap Trick: Live At The Budokan. As that album proved to the world, Cheap Trick was best heard live on stage and this KBFH recording proves that was the case right from the start.