Cheap Trick: Silver

Cheap Trick: Silver (2001)
Image Entertainment
Cast: Cheap Trick
Extras: Bonus Commentary, Behind-the-Scenes Documentary, Photo Gallery, and more

These days, it’s become somewhat routine for wayward bands of past generations to sober up, reconcile their differences and reunite for a new CD, a reunion tour, and perhaps to make a last-ditch effort to beef up a 401k before it’s too late. One band that hasn’t gone the way of this "Behind the Music" ilk is Cheap Trick. Why? – because they never dis-banded in the first place, have been a "clean" band since the get-go, and simply never tempted to stop doing what they love most – recording and performing for their vast international following.

Long known for their unequaled work ethic and devotion to deliver 200% to their fans with every live performance given (and they do!), Cheap Trick have been hammering out their inimitable brand of power pop anthems, crunching guitar riffs, and incredibly introspective ballads for twenty-five years now. Thanks now to Cheap Trick Unlimited and Image Entertainment, this new "Cheap Trick: Silver" DVD captures the energy, passion, and non-stop action of a live Trick show, minus the delightful pelting of well-worn guitar picks.

This special anniversary performance, recorded on August 28, 1999 at Davis Park in the band’s hometown of Rockford, Illinois, was attended by 15,000 impassioned Trick devotees who literally came from all corners of the earth to experience this once-in-a-lifetime show. Boasting 29 tunes – at least one from each of the 15 albums in the band’s impressive catalog – the two-hour fifteen-minute show is a powerful yet very personal tour of America’s most consistent performers: ‘Man of a Thousand Voices’ Robin Zander, eclectic guitar virtuoso Rick Nielsen, inventor of the 12-string bass Tom Petersson, and drummer Bun E. Carlos, who incidentally has recorded and cataloged practically every demo, alternate cut, and live performance from the band for the last quarter century.

No doubt, you know most of these tunes by heart, many made world famous thanks to 1978’s landmark ‘Cheap Trick at Budokan’ LP (which broke all records as the top-selling import LP of its day, thus demanding a domestic release). With ‘Ain’t That a Shame,’ ‘Surrender,’ and ‘I Want You to Want Me,’ the band belts out these long-standing classics as if it were still ’78. And though the level of high power, high quality performance is what fans have come to expect, this show offers some incredibly intimate numbers in which the band’s own children take the stage alongside their elders to deliver some of the best renditions you’re likely to ever witness. (Robin Zander’s stunning duet with his daughter Holland performing ‘Time Will Let You Know’ simply has to be seen to be believed.)

Rounding out the silver celebration festivities are appearances by other special guests such as onetime Trick bassist Jon Brant, ex-Guns and Roses axeman Slash, Billy Corgan of the former Smashing Pumpkins, and Art Alexis of Everclear. And while these famous friends add further dimension and excitement to the show, it’s the added talents of the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, the Harlem High School Choir, and the Phantom Regiment Drum Corp. that propel the performances to the next level. Practically a musical orgasm, this show will thoroughly entertain anyone – from die-hard Tricksters to casual listeners. It’s that good.

With all this abounding musical delight, could there be a catch? Well, yes, kind of. Impressed with the nice animated menus on this DVD, my jaw dropped a bit when I saw the sometimes uneven video quality. From occasional graininess to moments of overexposure, I was stunned to see this DVD presentation lacking the sort of polish we’ve come to expect from the medium. Seeking enlightenment, I took the liberty to contact the DVD’s author, Sean Sutton of Chicago Recording Company, to find out what gives. Politely, Sutton explained that, though they did an admirable job, the camera crew was not professionally equipped to deliver the sort of pristine image quality we’d hope for. And while the result is certainly very watchable and a testament to Sutton’s skill in making the best of the source material provided, don’t expect a crystal clear picture that you’d find in an slick packaged music video. But, don’t let it be overlooked that the camera crew was undeniably successful in capturing the event from every practical angle, for which Sutton is most complimentary.

It’s a full-frame image that, though at first slightly disappointing, seems to somehow fit the event. That is to say, it accurately portrays the raw and sometimes gritty edginess of a real concert experience. And though at first I had wished for a flawless rendition, I quickly became enraptured at how well the visuals captured the look and feel of being at a actual Cheap Trick concert. If you’ve been, you know what I’m talking about – it really is magic – sometimes frenetic, often in your face, and always a blast. This video delivers all these qualities in truly authentic style.

And even if you’ll quibble over the image quality, forget about it because the audio will literally kick you in the a**. Engineered by veteran producer Harry Witz (who’s engineered past performances of Heart, REO Speedwagon, Triumph, and Kiss), the 24-bit audio was captured via 64 strategically-placed microphones and presented in what Witz calls a "true <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 mix>" that seems to place you right in the middle of the crowd. Rather than a phony 5.1 track that would merely separate a stereo mix and artificially insert crowd noises in the rear channels, this mix was digitally mastered by Witz in his state-of-the-art home theater-like studio where he could properly orchestrate the array of audio information in what is the most realistic sound I’ve ever heard from a concert disc – this, again, replicating the actual feel of a Trick concert. Though you’ll also find a 2.0 Stereo mix on the disc, don’t bother as it can’t even hold a candle to the 5.1 track. This one rocks!

But the celebration doesn’t stop there as this disc sports some terrific extras. First up is what’s called a Bonus Commentary which is a pseudo-documentary where the four band members comment on the origin and development of each of the songs performed during the concert. Rife with their inimitable and irreverent style, Robin, Rick, Tom, and Bun E. give insight into each of the tunes (with Tom emerging as truly the wittiest of the four). Next up is an interesting "Behind the Scenes" piece that is essentially a handicam document of the show’s staging and preparation. The "Photo Gallery" offers some great stills from the show as well. Finally, there are the "Discography," "Fan & Merchandise Information," and "Website" selections.

In all, "Cheap Trick: Silver" is an intimate excursion into the past, present, and unyeilding future of this unique band. Fueled by their commitment to their craft and audience, Cheap Trick notes they’re eager to perform an even more grand 50th anniversary event. And, seeing how these apparently ageless rockers have sailed through these first 25 years, I have little doubt they’ll make good on the promise. While you’re waiting, though, grab this disc and go completely wild.