While the county fair may not be the best place for a die-hard fan to take in a Cheap Trick show, it worked just fine for everyone else. In fact--and it somewhat pains me to say this, as I am indeed a die-hard--Cheap Trick just may be the ultimate county fair band. The reason is simple: Though in varying degrees, everybody loves Cheap Trick.
Anomalous for a band that began 30 years ago, Cheap Trick retains all four original members, who are as ageless as their version of punk-informed power-pop is timeless. From the teen boys in Germs T-shirts to the tykes on their parents' shoulders (and there were many), from the burly biker dudes to the past-middle-aged couple incessantly making out in front of me, Cheap Trick knew how to please all of them. While the parents screamed for "I Want You to Want Me," the kiddies dug the band's cover of Big Star's "In the Street," which they no doubt recognized as the theme song from That '70s Show. What they probably didn't realize is that the set the band played was a rather abbreviated one (though they didn't seem to care, either). Thus, there were none of the killer obscurities the band reserves for those shows where the audience actually pays to see them (the show was free to all who had paid to get into the fair)--no "He's a Whore," no "Downed," no "Auf Wiedersehen," no matter. The wildly diverse audience slurped up the hits--"Dream Police," "If You Want My Love," and yes, "The Flame," among others--like they were the remaining drops of milk in a bowl of just eaten cereal.
With so many families in the audience, perhaps the most fitting and well-received song Cheap Trick played was the band's biggest '70s hit, "Surrender." The song is sung from the perspective of a boy whose parents he views as a bit too overprotective. Mom, whose own checkered past is hidden from the son, warns him of the dangers of drugs and diseased girls, while dad dutifully backs her up. But at song's end, the son discovers his parents rolling joints while listening to his own KISS albums, thereby proving the generation gap nonexistent--exactly what Cheap Trick's performance last weekend did.