Upon middle age, it’s one’s civic duty to look frightening and tell as many untruths as possible to the young and easily misled. Cheap Trick’s From Tokyo to You is a rockumentary DVD to enjoy because they live it to the hilt, telling bizarre and amusing lies in hypnosis of the stupid.
In a reversal of cosmetic fortune, entropy and gravity have made Bun E. Carlos one of the “handsome” members of the band. Everyone else exploits the meaning of creepy: Rick Nielsen resembles someone’s dead grandma while sitting on a stool strumming a Telecaster; Tom Petersson’s more like a character from The Man With the Golden Arm. And to say nothing of Robin Zander is to say everything.
The concert is fine, but inseparable from avuncular interjections in which the foursome spin out their fictions. The best comes when Petersson talks about his job as a laborer at a chicken factory, sanding the beaks off birds at a grinding wheel so they wouldn’t peck each other to death on the egg production line. One suspects this might be one time there’s no dissembling, and then it’s back to the concert in front of very clean-looking Japanese. Campfire arrangements of “Fan Club” and “Lookout” and the unhinged shriek of “Best Friend” set the show apart sonically from the rest of recent Tricks. As a dry send-up of TV specials on semi-famously famous rock stars, From Tokyo is smashing.
It is claimed Cheap Trick took their name from seeing a flamboyant Slade show in Philadelphia. “Geez, they use every cheap trick in the book,” muttered someone, and “Eureka!” If so, maybe Slade was in Philly to support In Flame, the soundtrack of the band’s rock movie, never released in America.
Slade in Flame was the antithesis of on-screen rocker goofball-ism. It is black satire, a showpiece of urban squalor, stumbling corruption, appropriately unattractive groupie girlfriends, and sweating, horrid Englishmen, penny dreadful and pasty in the way that is the sole property of the British. The band vaults up the charts after the record company arranges a failed assassination attempt on them. Noddy Holder sings from a coffin, someone is thrown in front of a train, and “How Does It Feel”—a beautiful piano riff that was one of Slade’s most underappreciated moments—is a recurrent theme. At the end, the band breaks up.