Radio City Music Hall
Tuesday, July 13
It’s old-timer’s power-pop night here at Radio City, where success is measured entirely by when and how often the crowd deigns to stand up (Cheap Trick: only for “I Want You to Want Me,” “Surrender,” and “Dream Police”) or sit back down (Squeeze: only for the slow, boring cabaret tunes or after any utterance of the words “solo album”). Both have ridiculously good songs (Squeeze especially) and aren’t at all afraid of looking ridiculous (Cheap Trick especially). Which is good news for everybody.
Particularly great news, actually, if you wanted a souvenir — I conservatively estimate that Cheap Trick clown prince Rick Nielsen flipped roughly 200 guitar picks into the audience over the course of an hour. (There were a couple 50-count bursts right at the end.) Verily, Rick is the Stephen Colbert of guitarists, appealingly obnoxious and egomaniacal and overblown, prancing about the stage in a tux, stepping up onto a ludicrous two-foot-high checkered riser for additional solo oomph, and being generally impossible to stop staring at. (Plus his son’s filling in for an ailing Bun E. Carlos on drums.) As shameless, butt-simple, blaring-guitar power pop comes, it doesn’t really get any better: “Surrender” is pretty shambolic tonight, but they do a pretty mean “Magical Mystery Tour.” Representative lyrics: “The more I think, the worse it gets.” They do a good job of preventing you from thinking.
Squeeze are more dignified, unfortunately: five English blokes on a job interview, or possibly serving as Frasier extras. But though they do get a little smooth/jazzy/slick in their idle moments, it gives us a chance to sit down between alarmingly resilient monster hits like “Goodbye Girl” and “Cool for Cats” and “Up the Junction” (a lightning-quick relationship montage to rival the first 10 minutes of Pixar’s Up) and the mighty electro-funk epic “Slap and Tickle,” featuring karate-chopped synthesizer action. Glenn Tilbrook can still wail in that erudite English way of his, even when he’s wailing stuff like “Loving you tonight feels good.” As an exercise in pure nostalgia, it was all a wild success; the less you thought about it, the better it got.