The Low Czars as Cheap Trick @ High Noon Saloon
October 31, 2009
The Low Czars are masters of obscure 60’s psychedelic rock, so their decision to go as mega-popular 70’s power-poppers Cheap Trick certainly didn’t seem like an obvious choice. But what I should have learned from their appearance as the Kinks for last year’s celebration and their shows covering Love’s Forever Changes in its entirety is that they can do anything, and do it well. I’m just not sure I realized how well.
But what to do when the band you are portraying has four members, and your band has five? Easy, you have two Robin Zanders, of course. Aaron Scholz and Bob Koch split vocal duties in the Low Czars, so it made perfect sense that they would both play the Trick’s charismatic lead singer. Both sported the requisite white shirt and pants and identical blond wigs. They were convincing enough that after a few beers it seemed less like there were two of them and more like an extreme case of double vision. Bassist James Leaver slid into his role of the always-sexy Tom Petersson with ease, while drummer Larry Braun in a striped tie and baseball hat was a convincing Bun E Carlos . . . if the Bun had joined a Weight Watchers program.
They were all good, but absolutely nothing could have prepared me for Peter Fatka’s turn as over-the-top guitarist Rick Nielsen. The ridiculously talented, but normally quite reserved, multi-instrumentalist was so perfect, from his turned-up checkerboard cap to his five-necked guitar, that when I showed my brother a picture on my camera the next day he demanded to know where I had seen Cheap Trick. Even though only one-fifth of Fatka’s multi-necked guitar was functional, he’d done an amazing job of re-creating the look of the hydra-headed guitar. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Nielsen use more than two of the guitars of his monstrosity, anyway.
The crowning glory of his portrayal was the souvenir guitar picks he rained on the audience. During their shows, Nielsen flings handfuls of the Cheap Trick-emblazoned plastic triangles over the first dozen rows; anyone who goes home without a pick didn’t really want one. Though he didn’t quite have the distance technique down—the flimsy picks seemed to defy the laws of physics—he did use many of the tricks I’ve seen during a Trick show, including batting them with the neck of his guitar.
The set list could have been pulled from any show of the last twenty years. Emulating At Budokan, they started with “Hello There,” one of the most perfect opening songs ever, and ended with “Good Night.” In my opinion Koch had the superlative tunes to sing, his sometimes surprisingly high voice perfect for hits like “Dream Police,” “Southern Girls,” and the oft-covered pop anthem “Surrender.” On the other hand, Scholz got their biggest hits, the power ballad “Flame” and the timeless “I Want You to Want Me.” No matter who was singing, every song was played without a trace of irony. I can hardly wait to see what they come up with for next year.
The award for best overall costume goes to the Low Czars!