Cheap Trick has had something of a comeback over the last couple of years—playing Lollapalooza, recording a single with Steve Albini, and releasing its best album in over a decade—but the band is still known by many for its atrocious 1988 light-rock ballad "The Flame" and for its role as a perennial opening act for rock dinosaurs like Motley Crüe and Boston. Which is a shame, since during its artistic peak from 1976 to 1980, Cheap Trick was simply one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands in the world. It may not have invented power-pop, but with albums like the original Live At Budokan and In Color, it basically perfected it, effortlessly blending the melodicism of the British Invasion with the malevolent wit of New Wave and the assured bombast of arena-rock. Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the original Budokan recordings, Cheap Trick has just put out Live At Budokan: The Complete Concert, a specially priced, digitally remastered double-disc set that combines the original Live At Budokan with its delayed and under-promoted sequel, 1993's Live At Budokan II, while eliminating several songs from Budokan II and restoring the original order of the Budokan shows. And while The Complete Concert doesn't contain any new material, it's still a comprehensive souvenir of Cheap Trick's golden age. More so than either of the individual Budokans, The Complete Concert proves Cheap Trick to be equally capable of irresistible rock 'n' roll anthems ("Surrender," "Come On, Come On," "I Want You to Want Me"), punk aggression ("Auf Wiedersehen," "ELO Kiddies"), and jangling power-pop that recalls both Big Star and The Beatles ("Oh, Caroline," "Southern Girls"). And while Cheap Trick diehards probably already own both Budokan I and Budokan II, anyone who doesn't own them should seek out Live At Budokan: The Complete Concert as an essential document of one of America's most underrated bands at its creative peak.
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