CHEAP Trick will not go away, quietly or otherwise.
"If you like our records, we're going to make more. If you don't like them, we're going to make more," says Rick Nielsen, whose checkerboard gear and stage garb remain trademarks of not only his durable band, but of the decade that spawned it. It's not a conceptual stretch for characters on Fox's "That '70s Show" to drop their occasional references to Cheap Trick, or for producers to get the band to record a new version of "That '70s Song," the sitcom's theme.
Along with its durability, Cheap Trick is notable as perhaps the most beloved opening act of its generation. Nielsen says he and his bandmates are forever accosted by younger rockers (recent accosters include Slash, Art Alexakis of Everclear and Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices) who want to recount the time Cheap Trick came through their respective towns. Inevitably, those conversations turn into name-the-headliner contests. "We opened for everybody," he says. "We were on the road with Kiss, with the Kinks, AC/DC, Rush, and, yes, even Foghat. We just wanted to play." (Tonight Guided by Voices opens for Cheap Trick at the 9:30 club, as the bands alternate headlining on this tour.)
Nielsen says he prefers not to look back too much, and the five-shows-per-week pace the band still keeps when on the road leaves him too busy to do laundry, let alone get nostalgic. But he had to face up to Cheap Trick's advanced age during the last week of August, when the band celebrated its 25th anniversary with shows outside Chicago and in its birthplace of Rockford, Ill., supported by the Rockford Symphony.
But then it was back to the future, sort of, as Cheap Trick went back on tour to support its 20th album, the new live collection, "Music for Hangovers," which is essentially a greatest hits album (late-'70s pop-rock chestnuts "Surrender," "Dream Police" and "I Want You to Want Me," among others) that ignores the band's 1988 power-ballad "The Flame."
When cornered, Nielsen will attribute Cheap Trick's longevity to a mix of nature and nurture. All four original members -- Nielsen, singer Robin Zander, drummer Bun E. Carlos and bassist Tom Petersson -- are sons of either touring musicians or traveling salesmen.
"We've missed one show in 25 years," Nielsen says. "If we say we're going to play, we're going to play."