|L to R, Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander and Pete Comita perform in 1981.|
For a band based in Rockford, Illinois, A lot of Chicagoans sure do consider Cheap Trick a hometown band. Maybe it was because the band cut its teeth in the gritty rock clubs of Chicago and surrounding suburbs and continued to do so as their national and international stature continued to rise.
In the wake of their successful 1979 live album At Budokan and follow-up studio album Dream Police, the band headlined the now-legendary Chicagofest two years in a row. Already a fan of the band, it was their 1981 performance at the Fest that I remember watching in absolute awe on the local PBS affiliate that confirmed their dominance as a live act, which I would ultimately witness for myself for the first time in 1982 and many, many times in the years since.
Still, it was the band's performance of "Reach Out" during their '81 Chicagofest performance that remains a personal favorite. The studio version, co-written by new bassist Pete Comita, had been a highlight of the two-LP "Heavy Metal" movie soundtrack that was still lodged firmly on the charts and signaled what many fans (myself included) had hoped to be a new sense of urgency within the band after the lackluster sales of All Shook Up and departure of original bassist Tom Petersson.
Of course, this was not to be as Comita left the band not long after this concert took place, replaced by former D'Thumbs bandmate Jon Brandt, thereby beginning a long stretch of under-performing albums and declining concert audiences that was finally reversed with the return of Petersson for 1988's Lap Of Luxury, which spawned two Top 10 hits in "The Flame" and "Don't Be Cruel" and returned the band to headliner status once again.