January 28, 2002


Chicago's legendary Trouble is a band that has always managed to transcend the
times--something that hasn't always worked to its advantage.

When the quintet made its early '80s recordings, its backward-looking celebration
of classic heavy-metal values a la Black Sabbath and mind-blowing psychedelic
noise in the spirit of 1968 couldn't have been more of a contrast to the glam-rock
posing then prevailing in the world of hair metal.

By the time Trouble entered its second (and artistically superior) incarnation with
Rick Rubin's Def American label in the early '90s, grunge had picked up on the
Sabbath, but not the psychedelia, and the Everyman rockers still couldn't compete
as poster boys with the likes of alternative heartthrob Chris Cornell (a vastly
inferior vocalist to Eric Wagner, as the Trouble faithful well know).

Now, after a six-year absence from the scene, Trouble is making a comeback. The
group is gearing up to record once more, and it played a brief but intense and
hugely anticipated show Saturday night at Night Cap on the far Northwest Side.

Surprise: For once, the band seemed to be right on time.

In the so-called "doom" or "stoner-rock" movement, Trouble is now held in high
esteem as

prescient groundbreakers, their influence obvious on the likes of Kyuss, Queens of
the Stone Age, and Fu Manchu. During a potent 30-minute set, it showed that its
older material has lost none of its considerable power--and indeed, the old boys
could still warp headbangers' minds as thoroughly as any 20-year-old long-haired

There was a hint of trouble with a small "t" when the band launched into its sole
new offering and in place of the timeless, tuneful, big-as-Mount Rushmore guitar
licks, there was that awful but ubiquitous chunka-chunka rhythm that seems to
power every nu-metal band currently on the charts. But then the anthemic chorus
rolled around, the guitars returned to classic Sabbath/Judas Priest riffing, and all
was right with the world.

The quintet clearly hadn't anticipated the devotion it received from the sold-out
crowd--rather than a full-blown comeback concert, its appearance was a birthday
tribute to a friend, Scott Davidson of Chicago metal powerhouse Rebel Radio
(1240-AM)--but the group returned for an unexpected encore of Sabbath's
"Children of the Grave."

As it raced into the unforgettable chorus, suddenly there was--nothing at all. The
group blew all the fuses on stage, and the set ended in instant, ignominious silence.

The optimist in me will avoid the metaphor this accident logically conjures, and note
that instead, I'm hoping 2002 is finally the right time for Trouble. Lord knows heavy
metal and rock in general need it.