At Friday's sold-out 9:30 club performance, it was clear why Cheap Trick was the preeminent opening act of the late '70s. The band played a somewhat entertaining set, but ultimately failed to deliver the smash performance to be expected from a headliner. That so many people paid good money to see a five-necked guitar and hear a few arena rock hits serves as a vivid example of the lowest form of retro chic.
Drummer Bun E. Carlos and bassist Tom Petersson, tight and consistent throughout, were the show's strong points. Robin Zander belted out such anthems as "Surrender" and "He's a Whore," but for the most part his voice was not up to par. Rick Nielsen, a cheap trick in his own right, was more concerned with tossing picks than with playing a good show.
Many fans might have left after Guided by Voices' set had not front man Bob Pollard extolled Cheap Trick's virtues about a dozen times. In perhaps the band's strongest live lineup yet, GBV put some muscle behind Pollard's poetic harmonies while still complementing his thinking-alcoholic's warmth. The show included a deft combination of songs from the new release "Do the Collapse" and from Pollard's legendarily extensive canon.
If "Do the Collapse" is meant to be Pollard's ticket to greater fame, then perhaps he and Guided by Voices should have Cheap Trick open for them.