Bun E. Carlos Takes Chicago to ‘Bunezuela': Concert Review
In most cases, an exiled drummer of a classic rock band performing behind a solo album would appear to be a sad exercise in nostalgia. But then, not everybody is Cheap Trick's Bun E. Carlos, who brought an incredibly entertaining show in support of his first record, Greetings From Bunezuela!, to SPACE, a wonderfully intimate club in Evanston, Ill., just north of Chicago.
Adding to the possibility for disaster were the T-shirts, which found Carlos' name printed in Cheap Trick's distinctive logo, and the fact that half of the vocals were provided by Randy "Xeno" Hogan, Cheap Trick's original lead singer, who left the band in 1974. And yet, apart from an early performance of "ELO Kiddies" and a set-closing rendition of Cheap Trick's arrangement of Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame," his old band's music was conspicuous by its absence.
Those expecting a stream of Cheap Trick classics were instead treated to a start-to-finish performance of Greetings From Bunezuela!, a raucous blast of a record that seamlessly blends generations of garage rock and power pop. But where Bunezuela employs nine singers over its 13 songs, the bulk of the vocals in concert were handled by Xeno and Alex Dezen, whose band the Damnwells opened for Cheap Trick early in their career.
The paring worked beautifully, with Xeno, who also played guitar, contributing muscle and Dezen providing the soul, including a pleading take on the Rolling Stones' "Tell Me" and a poignant version of Alejandro Escovedo's "Slow Down," the only ballad in the set. Xeno, a legend of the Milwaukee rock scene, excelled on the heavier numbers, like the Who's "Armenia City in the Sky" and the Bee Gees' "Idea."
The other lead vocals were shared by the two guitarists, Nicholas Tremulis and Rick Rizzo, who traded rhythm and lead duties all night long, with Rizzo jumping up and down so much that the stand holding his spare guitar nearly fell off the stage at one point. With Carlos, they make up three-fourths of Candy Golde, who released an EP in 2011 and have a full-length on the way.
From his appearance in Cheap Trick's videos and concerts, you'd think Carlos was one of the last guys in rock to grow old gracefully, and yet he has. Once an overweight chain-smoker showing no emotion as he played, he's now slimmed down and was beaming from behind his Ludwig kit. If he wasn't wearing his trademark gloves and knocking out the signature pattern to "ELO Kiddies," you may not even know it's him.
Carlos recently told Ultimate Classic Rock that this show was the only one on his calendar, but if Bunezuela gains traction and there's a demand for more, he'd consider them. With any luck, he'll be out on the road soon. It may not have been the show people thought they would get, but it turned out to be much more.
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