Cheap Trick, Download Second Stage, June 11 2011

Including Gonna Raise Hell in a festival set is always likely to raise a smile – or perhaps a sigh of resignation – from Cheap Trick fans old and new.

These days the band can barely rouse themselves, let alone raise hell, and an unconvincing Castle Donington performance appeared even worse when judged alongside fellow second stagers Mr Big, Alice Cooper and the energetic if one-dimensional Twisted Sister. 

I Want You To Want Me was, nevertheless, a genuine festival highlight. And when you watch Cheap Trick rolling out one of the most memorable anthems in rock – and do it with such passion and professionalism – it’s even more frustrating that the remainder of the set just doesn’t come close.

At times the US megastars look either jaded or, worse, complacent. A short festival set isn’t best showcase of a band – especially a band with Cheap Trick’s bulging back catalogue and familiar repertoire – but there was no attempt to up the ante or confound the critics.

Tune after tune was performed with all the energy of a Saga tug-o-war team and frontman Robin Zander is fast becoming a caricature of his intoxicating former self. His inane mumbling and bumbling might be part of some misguided act to endear himself to long-time devotees but for the rest of us it’s an embarrassing and awkward sideshow.

Zander and Cheap Trick were, for so many years, a must-see live act and a band commanding the respect of peers and fans alike. On this evidence they’re the fading lights of the classic rock scene and wholly unsuited to a festival of Download’s undoubted standard. Disappointing doesn’t quite seem critical enough.

Simon Rushworth