Released and recorded at perhaps the apex of Cheap Trick's creative and commercial career, at Budokan served not only to document the raw power and songcraft that was Cheap Trick live, but also to dispel the notion that songs from a "live album" cannot sound as good as from their original studio form. Cheap Trick had already released "Cheap Trick" and "In Color" at the time of Budokan's recording, as most of their setlist culls tunes from those respective albums, but a few songs from their upcoming smash "Heaven Tonight" also appeared. Heaven along with Budokan would help to propel the band into the public consciousness, and now nearly 25 years later, we are left with this great piece of live music and rock history.
The following is a song-by-song review, on a 1-5 scale:
1. Hello There - The album opens to screaming Japanese girls and a raucuous intro to the band, who then tears into their common concert opener with no abandon. The song has an especially raw and punky feel that would characterize the rest of the album, and features a nice chromatic solo from Rick and bracing drums with segues into the next track. 4/5
2. Come On, Come On - Slightly slower number, a little more grandiose, with Robin's crooning and rockabilly punk guitar verses. The call-and-response chorus accentuates the heavy backbeat of the song and Rick throws another killer solo in there for good measure. 4.5/5
3. Lookout - Cheap Trick speeds it back up with "Lookout", an energetic number that doesn't really stand out until the chorus and sort of fades back into the rest of the album's sound. Solid, but weak by the album's standard. 3.5/5
4. Big Eyes - An already well known Cheap Trick song made better live. The almost hynoptic and minor-key vocals add to the allure of the track, which combines 50's style rock with a dash of psychedelia, Alice Cooper style. Very tight, and gives way to the best part of the album. 4.5/5
5. Need Your Love - A 9-minute sprawling, rocking jam with Robin's falsetto vocals in front and guitars churning everywhere, which turns into a bluesy chorus before returning to the vocal pattern of the verse. A long, mostly instrumental outro is the key highlight of the song, building up tension with solid dynamic precision by Rick, Tom, and Bun E. which testifies to how in tune Cheap Trick was with each other at the time of recording. 5/5.
6. Ain't That A Shame - One of two of the album tracks that made it onto the band's best hits package, "Ain't That a Shame" took Fat Domino's original blues opus and turned it upside down. Once again, an instrumental builds up the tension to the delight of screaming fans until Robin knocks it down with the immortal first verse. This song is bass-heavy with a much looser feel than most of the album and features a nice extended outro with tiny solos from each musician overlapping each other. A classic. 5/5.
7. I Want to Want Me - Perhaps the most notable track of CT's catalog, the live version of "I Want to Want Me" simply does everthing the studio version couldn't. Where the older version sounds over-processed, the raw emotion truly shines through in the live format. There is nothing really to say except this kicks ass; perfect dynamics, Robin's vocals, Bun E.'s rhythmic delights, easily the best song on the album. 5/5.
8. Surrender - Again, a looser and more aggressive version of the soon to be released Top 10 single. The synthesizer is played down in exchange for some guitar heroics. Solid backing vocals from Tom and Rick, this one goes straight for the gut. 4.5/5.
9. Goodnight - Basically the same thing as Hello There, only shorter and in this track, Robin's vocals crap out for a brief seconds perhaps adding to the rawness of the song but subtracting from the overall quality. The ending, "CHEAP TRICK SAYS GOODNIGHT!" along with a blaring chord and screaming fans signified the end of the first act for the band that night, but not before.... 4/5.
10. Clock Strikes Ten - A great closer, with Rick's harmonic mimicry of Big Ben weaving through a pounding barnburner that reminds me of Led Zeppelin. Probably the most punkish sounding track on the album and the end of the one great live album. 4.5/5.
Average = 4.5/5