So no matter how insistently I refused to believe in them for months, I got first-person, eyewitness proof last night that a supergroup comprised of members of Cheap Trick, the Smashing Pumpkins, Fountains of Wayne and Hanson (!?!) does actually exist. When Tinted Windows, the weirdest musical marriage ever, played the Black Cat, it was positively surreal.
A friend, Jason, who's so in love with Cheap Trick that he had to see the drummer, Bun E. Carlos, in this group -- no matter what -- prompted this visit to the Cat. Much of the rest of the band in front of Carlos made sense. Guitarist James Iha's Pumpkins were never shy about their love for their late-'70s and early-'80s power-poppin' neighbors to the west (Rockford, Ill.) and shared the stage with them from time to time. Bassist -- and renowned ghostsongwriter -- Adam Schlesinger's Fountains of Wayne, one-hit wonders of "Stacy's Mom" fame, have crafted power pop that owes an even closer debt to Cheap Trick. But Taylor Hanson?
Immediately upon seeing him I thought of Cheap Trick frontman Robin Zander, one of the prettiest men ever to rock. Taylor's prettier -- and perfectly coiffed. When he spoke between songs, he sounded the part of an '80s glam-rock posterboy. But the music doesn't really follow any of the bands from which the musicians came. It was the sound of TV-ready '80s guitar pop idols like Rick Springfield. And if that's what they were going for, they nailed it. Hope that the guitars would be fuzzier, the music dirtier, quickly dissipated. It was as clean as one could fear. But strong hooks were abundant, even if the lyrics around those hooks were simple.
Taylor seems to still be adjusting to life in front of a real(ish) rock band. A tambourine was his best friend, giving him something to do as he shimmied around the mic and also keeping him within his sexy. He didn't try to run around the stage like an Axl nor stoop to choreographed dance moves like one of the boy bands of his prime. And he does have a great voice. Grant him that.
Despite all the records the other band members have helped sell in their respective pasts, the Hanson draw dominated the crowd. When was the last time you saw more women than men at the Cat, or any rock club? (At least it was a solid 50-50.) Some old-timers, likely Cheap Trick fans following Bun E., like Jason, were around -- there were quite a few balds and grays -- but the women in their late-'20s and early-'30s who've been wanting to sleep with Taylor since that was illegal were the rule. It was somewhat appropriate, then, that Taylor modeled the band's T-shirt, a white print of a cougar swooshing up on black with "Tinted Windows" covering the eyes in red.
During the encore, after Taylor had introduced the band, Schlesinger's introduction of Taylor drew shrieks from the crowd rarely heard at a rock show since those of the Japanese teeny boppers that colored Cheap Trick's breakthrough live album "At Budokan." Among Taylor's introductions was that of a second guitarist -- name didn't register -- who helped Iha fill out the guitars, likely bringing a smile to Billy Corgan. But forget about the past for a moment. Iha was having fun on stage. Something he probably rarely experienced as a Pumpkin. Bun E. smiled a lot, too. Schlesinger, likely the mastermind behind the supergroup, was the only one who kept a poker face.
Overall, the band seems to be more about the novelty than the music. Didn't love it, didn't hate it. But it was an interesting evening. Sometimes that counts as fun, too.