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More than longevity 

Current work puts Aerosmith, Cheap Trick above the usual 'classic rock' group.

For the youngsters who discovered Aerosmith in the past 15 years or so, their song "Walk This Way" was not first recorded with Run-DMC. Some of us can remember its first incarnation, as maybe rock music's first real "rap" song, in the mid 1970s. But what's made Boston-based Aerosmith a viable touring act now in another century is that they didn't live on hits such as "Dream On" and the original "Walk This Way" but reinvented themselves - "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," "Just Push Play," etc. - throughout the next 30 years. Though I couldn't have imagined saying this 30 years ago when they first were rocking the airwaves, this puts Aerosmith up with such legends as the Rolling Stones as true rock survivors. Steve Tyler and Joe Perry could be U.S. parallels of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The same can be said of Rockford, Ill.-based Cheap Trick, which in this writer's view had better songs in the late '70s and early '80s than Aerosmith. Those songs - for example, "I Want You to Want Me," "Dream Police" etc. - translate into today's terms; they don't sound dated. Cheap Trick continues to produce new material, though they set a high bar with their earlier stuff that probably can't be topped. The bands are together at 8 p.m. Friday, March 19, at Alltel Arena. We were unable to get an interview with any of the Aerosmith boys, but Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen (a personal hero, in fact) gave us a ring a few weeks back. Nielsen and the band had just played at the National Hockey League all-star festivities, as well as for the PGA Tour at the Phoenix Open. They were supposed to play the Super Bowl but security reasons forced a cancellation of their part. "No wardrobe malfunctions for us," Nielsen said. Nielsen, as Cheap Trick followers know, has been a walking wardrobe malfunction for three decades - the goofy baseball hat, wild coats and slacks, the checkerboard flying-V guitar. He and drummer Ben E. Carlos were the unserious side of the band. Pretty boys Robin Zander and Tom Petersson on guitar and bass completed the team. They proudly acknowledge their "Big in Japan" legend, which jump-started their American success after their "Live at Bukodan" record was released in 1978. "Japan has been very nice for us," Nielsen said. "They like us and we like them. We are one of the few companies in America that is importing money this direction, trying to help the U.S. government's deficit. Not enough people are giving us credit for that." Cheap Trick takes the spot that KISS occupied on the Aerosmith tour last year. "They're a great band, "Nielson said. "We've been paired in the past with stuff that would be a bad match, but it's like they have good songs, play well and are always entertaining. What's not to like? "I grew up a fan of Aerosmith. It's cool you get to play with some of the guys you actually like." Those chart-busters of yesteryear that Nielsen penned were enough to probably retire on, or certainly not to beat the touring bushes again like a young band. But somehow bands like Cheap Trick and Aerosmith stay motivated - Aerosmith's 2001 visit to Alltel remains one of the best shows the venue has seen. Cheap Trick, not looking or sounding a bit different than 1980, put on its usual wild stage show last year at Riverfest. "I don't know what the motivation is," Nielsen said. "It's a good band. We play well. Musicians like us. Non-musicians seem to like us. I don't know. I've never seen us, I've always been on stage. I've heard some times it's good. It's four great guys, three great chords. That's Cheap Trick." Nielsen has owned a couple of thousand guitars in his life; his collection is down to about 300 now, he said. "Wanna buy one?" he asked. He's playing his iPod a lot now. "I'm a fourth-generation iPod man. What I have mostly is oddball tracks. I was an Outkast fan years ago. One of my favorite tunes is 'Bombs Over Baghdad.' I've always liked tracks rather than whole albums." He reels off titles and artists in his iPod that range from ACDC to Andrew WK to Dylan to the "Moulin Rouge" soundtrack. Of course there's some Jeff Beck (his favorite guitarist), Lucinda Williams, the White Stripes. The "Essential Cheap Trick" CD was released this month with 36 tracks, pulling together work off some of the more recent albums. The show Friday, an hour, will feature old and new, Nielsen promises. "We're not crazy to play just stuff no one has ever heard," he said. They're not crazy?
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