Friday Night, August 18, 2017
Until the other night (August 18th), it had been almost 30 years since I last saw Cheap Trick in concert. The one thing I remember most about that last concert was my screaming the lyrics at the top of my lungs and being happy no one could actually hear me. The music was deafening. As I found out this time around, Cheap Trick concerts haven’t changed a bit. The music was loud. The band was full of energy (even 30 years later) and Cheap Trick had people dancing in their seats and the aisles as they sang to some of the groups’ biggest hits.
The night was hot and sweaty, with predicted heat index temps of over 100 at the start of their set. I was expecting to sweat off a few pounds and was happy for it. The heat didn’t seem to affect Cheap Trick at all. They didn’t even mention the heat or the sun as Jason Bonham had when he opened the night with his Led Zeppelin Experience. The sun was a direct hit on the opening band, but they sweated though their set like troopers with drummer Bonham and their lead singer sporting shades, and they weren’t doing so to look cool. Later, after Cheap Trick, Foreigner’s Kelly Hanson made some remarks about the sun, personally thanking it for finally setting. We were all thankful for that.
An aural kaleidoscope rang through the sound system just before Cheap Trick took the stage. I heard a partial intro in Japanese, a few seconds of many of their hits and a woman’s voice delivering an intro welcoming Cheap Trick and describing them as, “The best (bleeping) rock band in the world.” Yes, the bleep was their self-censoring, not mine.
Guitarist Rick Nielsen ambled on stage first with a shocking yellow guitar, his first of the night. I remember seeing about six or seven different guitars throughout the show. My favorite was his Beatles guitar. Next came lead singer Robin Zander dressed entirely in white… sports jacket, slacks, a t-shirt emblazoned with the all too true statement “Music Has Value.” He topped it all off with a white hat with with a pink or purple ribbon adorning it (can’t be too sure which color as my seats were not the greatest.)
Songs included their biggest hits but the first half of the concert included quite a few album cuts. First came “Big Eyes” from In Color and just before “Hot Love” from their debut Cheap Trick LP blared from the speakers, an introduction from guitarist Rick Nielsen informed the crowd of who the four men on stage were, “In case you didn’t know it, we are the one… and only… Cheap Trick.” The fans roared with approval. Robin Zander next belted out “On Top of the World” from Heaven Tonight, a song in which Zander reached deep into his soul to sing at its absolute best. It may have been a song nominal Cheap Trick fans hadn’t heard before, but the effort put forth in its singing must have garnered the song new fans this night at Starplex.
Rick Nielsen, who does most of the introducing of songs when it’s necessary, notified fans the next song, “Borderline,” was from the Todd Rundgren produced Next Position Please album, a song Nielsen said, “never got a lot of airplay, but a song we still love playing.” Their lone song played tonight off their 18th studio album We’re All Alright, which was just released on June 16th on the Big Machine label, was “Long Time Coming.” This tune was classic Cheap Trick with deep and grinding riffs heard throughout. “Long Time Coming” has got to be one of the best CT songs in years. Too bad radio isn’t rock friendly any longer. Years ago, this would be a monster hit. Here’s my rant of the review, WHY CAN’T CLASSIC ROCK STATIONS PLAY NEW SONGS BY CLASSIC ROCK ACTS (in heavy rotation)?
What I call Part II of the concert began with bassist Tom Petersson taking over lead vocals for “I Know What I Want” off Cheap Trick’s epic Dream Police album. While not a hit single, “I Know What I Want” does head up Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Insanely Great Cheap Trick Songs Only Hardcore Fans Know” list. Half the crowd began standing and signing along with Tom. Looking like a Texas outlaw from the old west, Petersson was decked out in what looked like a ten gallon Stetson hat (black of course), a bandanna hanging below his chin, partially covering up a cow skull t-shirt. He looked like he belonged on the Starplex stage in the Texas heat while fans sang along knowing exactly what most all of them wanted (CT’s biggest hits) and if they had looked at set lists from previous Cheap Trick shows, the crowd knew those were coming. Boom! Bang! Zoom! They came in a row. “Stop This Game,” “The Flame,” and “I Want You to Want Me,” which began with less of a rock n’ roll whinelike plea Zander exuded on the Budokan album 40 years earlier, but tonight, with more of a demanding grunt when he voiced that opening phrase. The crowd went crazy nonetheless. And believe it or not, the crowd seemed to grow even wilder when “Surrender” blared from the stage, complete with Rick Nielsen or maybe a stage hand, throwing a Kiss record out into the crowd. You know the lyric, “…. Got my Kiss records out.”
The highlight of the night for me was “Surrender.” This was a night I was able to share the love of my favorite band with my amazing son who is such a rebellious teen, he refuses to love rock n’ roll, but he went to the show anyway. He knows my favorite song from my favorite band is “Surrender.” He stood up with the rest of the crowd for the last few songs. During “Surrender” I sang to my son the lyrics, “Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright, they just seem a little bit weird…” He smiled. He looked around. Everyone was enjoying themselves on this very hot August night, singing songs, many of the songs over 40 years old. My son must have thought, “mommy and daddy aren’t the only ones weird.”
If weird means loving great music and watching a band that knows how to rock a crowd, my son is right on the mark.