Decades after “Live at Budokan,” the men from Rockford still rock Japan.

It’s been an epic year for Cheap Trick. In addition to being inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame – and performing with (drummer) Bun E. Carlos for the first time in six years – they also released what critics have dubbed their best album in decades. Vocalist Robin Zander attributes a classic formula to their return to form. “We went through five years of lawsuits, and trying to clean up our closet. During that time we went through some emotional trials and tribulations. And, believe it or not, it’s fodder for some good writing.”

The album in question, “Bang Zoom Crazy Hello,” roars with the fierceness of catharsis. From the howling feedback that opens “Heart on the Line” to the relentless beat of “All Strung Out,” there are hardly any slow moments – and absolutely no dull ones. If anything, the band sounds sharper and edgier than ever. How do they stay relevant and fresh, when many newer bands already sound old? A balance of innovation and consistency seems key. “We decided to make a change, and revived our desire to work harder,” confesses guitarist Rick Nielsen, “Not to put anything bad on (original drummer) Bun E. but it was difficult to work with him, because he was set in his ways. And the only way the rest of us were set in our ways was that it was like we were still 19.”

Cheap Trick recorded their newest album with their guitarist’s son “Daxx” on the drum stool. Having covered for Bun E.’s touring duties since 2010, the band felt confident that he could help further their legacy. “He’s a good drummer, and he’s got a good feel,” his father estimates, modestly. “When we recorded, he was there the whole time and observed the whole writing and recording process. We didn’t use his opinions all the time, but we don’t use my opinions all the time either.”

Flashing back to their beginnings, however, the biggest questions in the hearts of many fans will almost invariably be, “What was it really like, to come to Tokyo, in 1978?” Rick Nielsen remembers it like yesterday. “When we came to the airport for the first time, we were really surprised at all the people standing on the tarmac. There were were like 5000 people standing there, and we thought it might be because of some president of a country visiting. There was all kinds of security to guide us through the airport and guide us into our cars, and on the way to the hotel there were hundreds of taxis following us, and it freaked us out.”

This is the stuff enduring legends are made of. And so, they return when they can, as much to perform as to give thanks. “Japan has been very good to us, and we totally appreciate it,” Nielsen admits. “It made our whole career.”

Local fans can hear new songs live for the first time at Shin-Kiba’s Studio Coast, on Wednesday, November 16 at 7pm. Some tickets are still available for the standing area on the first floor. The second-floor seating area is already sold out. For more info, check out our event calendar.