January 29, 2002
Georgia Theater-Athens, GA


Opening for Cheap Trick can't be an easy task. Harmony Riley did their best to make a mark on the Athens crowd, but while their rootsy '80s-style pop was solid and well done, they never could quite rile up the crowd into any sort of fervor. They graciously played their tight tunes and vacated the stage.


Cheap Trick:

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Cheap Trick, on the other hand, had the crowd flipped out from their opening one-two slugfest of "Just Got Back" and "Clock Strikes Ten." Proving that they're still the undisputed kings of power pop, the band veered all over their more than quarter of a century's worth of music. While the audience was instantly into it, Cheap Trick seemed to be holding something back until almost halfway into the show. Just after Tom Petersson's obligatory take on Dream Police's "I Know What I Want," the group kicked into high gear. "She's Tight" was devastating and only topped tonight by a particularly potent version of the more recent song "Anytime." Starting with a stuttering beat from thinned-down drummer Bun E. Carlos, the song built into a fury of vocal pyrotechnics from a teeth-clenched Robin Zander.

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Throughout the show, guitarist Rick Nielsen played to the crowd, flirted with the girls in the front and tossed handfuls of picks into the sea of upraised hands. It's always good to see the staid Athens crowd let go and enjoy a rock and roll experience of this magnitude and that's just what happened. The place was insane during "Hot Love." The show wasn't all full throttle, though. "If You Want My Love" and "Voices" balanced the proceedings somewhat. Surprisingly, the mid-'80s power ballad "Tonight It's You" had more teeth than I remember from the studio version and was closer to a headbanger than a lighter-waver on this evening. As always, the band satisfied the diehards with more obscure songs like "Borderline" and "High Roller" before launching into the hit heavy last section. Set closers "I Want You To Want Me" and "Surrender" (replete with Rick's monstrous 5-neck guitar) were everything that anyone could've ever expected from their rock and roll fantasies of youth. Everyone sang along and had a blast.

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Returning for their encore, the band began by playing a request. In Color's "Downed" was perfect and didn't sound at all like something that they didn't have worked up and ready to go. Next came "Dream Police," but the encore that really smoked was a full-length and infernal "Gonna Raise Hell." Under ominous red lights, Bun E. and Tom laid down the thick groove on which this song is built. Robin stalked the stage, free of his rhythm guitar duties, and waited for his cue. Following a meaty and extended drum break from Carlos, the singer unleashed some of the most ungodly shreiks ever perpetrated on an audience. These were primal screams that made John Lennon's vocals at the end of "Mother" and "Cold Turkey" seem like crooning. Zander held nothing back, eventually dropping to his knees for his final cries of "submission." After using the singer's voice to its fullest, the band ended with "Goodnight Now." Having seen Cheap Trick at least a half-dozen times, I can honestly say that I've never seen the band this intensely focused and powerful. Cheap Trick rocked...and they didn't forget to roll.

Chris McKay


Cheap Trick set list for Athens, GA (1/29/02)

1. Just Got Back

2. Clock Strikes Ten

3. If You Want My Love

4. Hot Love

5. Borderline

6. High Roller

7. I Know What I Want

8. She's Tight

9. Voices

10. Tonight It's You

11. Anytime

12. I Want You To Want Me

13. Surrender


14. Downed

15. Dream Police

16. Gonna Raise Hell

17. Goodnight Now