Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Cheap Trick satisfies U. P. fans

Cheap Trick vocalist Robin Zander and guitarist
Rick Nielsen rock out during their show at the
Island Resort and Casino on Oct. 29.


Rock band Cheap Trick, known for their legendary live shows, played to an appreciative audience on Oct. 29 and 30 at the Island Resort and Casino in Harris.

Touring almost constantly since its formation in 1974, Cheap Trick is known for such hits as "I Want You to Want Me," "Don't Be Cruel" and "The Flame."

The band features original members Rick Nielsen (lead guitar), Robin Zander (vocals and rhythm guitar ), Tom Petersson (bass) and Bun E. Carlos (drums). Nielsen's son Daxx has recently filled in for Carlos as the band's touring drummer, while Phil "Magic" Cristian added keyboards at the U. P. shows.

Originating in Rockford, Ill., Cheap Trick issued a self-titled album in 1977 and followed with "In Color."

The band enjoyed modest success in the U. S., but was lionized in Japan, leading Epic Records to release the "Live at Budokan" album in 1979.

As my wife Sue and I settled into our second row seats for Friday's show, the band opened with "Ain't That a Shame." The Fats Domino gem began side two of their break through live album, recorded at Budokan concert hall in Tokyo, where the Beatles played during their first world tour.

Zander tore into the Top 40 hit from center stage with Nielsen positioned to his right and Petersson on his left.

"California Man," from 1978's "Heaven Tonight" album followed. Although not a hit when originally released, the song has since become a concert staple.

Playing before a giant checkerboard backdrop, the band returned to their first live recording for "Clock Strikes Ten" and "I Want You to Want Me." The songs were paired as a single in 1979, with the former song reaching the top spot in Japan and the latter registering at No. 7 in the U. S. Both songs were written by Nielsen, the band's main composer.

"We're Cheap Trick. It's great to be here," Nielsen announced.

With the crowd suitably warmed up, the band performed "These Days," one of the stand-out tracks from their newest CD. Imaginably titled "The Latest," the disc was released on the Cheap Trick Unlimited label, the band's own record company.

Cheap Trick kept the energy level high with the trio of songs "Borderline," "Oh! Caroline" and "On Top of the World."

The veteran rock band paid tribute to the Beatles with their interpretation of "Day Tripper," first issued on 1980's "Found All the Parts."

Next up, the group saluted Elvis with "Don't Be Cruel," Nielsen telling the crowd that Cheap Trick was the only band to have a Top 5 hit with a Presley song.

A theme song called "In the Street" followed. From 1999, the tune may be better known as "That 70's Song" which opens "That 70's Show," a situation comedy which enjoyed an eight season run on broadcast television.

The band returned to "The Latest" for two selections, "Sick Man of Europe" and "Closer, The Ballad of Burt and Linda." Fans will know "Sick Man of Europe" as the name of a band which preceded the formation of Cheap Trick, which included Nielsen, Petersson and Carlos, then known as Brad Carlson.

To end the program Zander belted out "Surrender," Cheap Trick's first hit and another track featured on "Live at Budokan."

Knowing an encore was coming, many fans crowded the stage for the evening's final three songs.

The rockers delivered a riveting take on "The Flame," a chart-topping single from the "Lap of Luxury" LP, reminding some fans of Cheap Trick's appearance at the Upper Peninsula State Fair in 1988. Prior to booking that event, the band hadn't had a hit in nine years, but by the time of the Escanaba grandstand show "The Flame" was a smash.

British composers Nick Graham and Bob Mitchell wrote "The Flame," which turned out to be a perfect vehicle for Zander's voice. It became Cheap Trick's only No. 1 single.

Nearing the end of the casino show, Cheap Trick returned to 1979 for "Dream Police," the title song off the album of the same name.

One fan near the front held up a prosthetic leg, moving it in time to the music as the band performed.

To wild cheering from the crowd, the band said goodbye in German with a rousing version of "Auf Wiedersehen," the flipside to the "Surrender" single from 1978.

During the evening, Cheap Trick faithfully recreated material from the 70s, 80s and 90s while sounding completely contemporary on songs from their current disc.

The concert program was augmented by a creative light show, giving an added dimension to many songs.

Always a showman, Nielsen played a variety of guitars including a unique but odd-looking five-necked instrument.

The charismatic Zander, 58, and Nielsen, 63, moved about the stage with the energy of younger men while 60-year-old bassist Petersson anchored his position with a big bass beat.

Zander's vocals were uniformly strong and expressive, while Nielsen's lead guitar work continued to impress fans.

The band's arrangement's were tight without superfluous jamming and Daxx's exuberant drumming propelled the band's sound.

The audience showed its appreciation by standing and cheering through most of the show.

Following Saturday's casino date, Cheap Trick heads to Europe for a brief tour of the United Kingdom.

Among those following the band overseas will be Grace Loucks of Buffalo, N. Y., who just happened to be sitting next to me at Friday's show.

The young fan has seen Cheap Trick 75 times and plans her vacation each year to see as many concerts by her musical heroes as possible.

She told me a man from London was in the house, although he could have waited to see the band closer to home when they play Glasgow, Wolverhampton, Manchester and London in November.

Wanting to share her enthusiasm for the band, Loucks gave me a red guitar pick featuring a drawing of Nielsen on one side. I grabbed two different custom picks the guitarist tossed into the audience during the encore.

Together, they'll serve as mementos of when Sue and I saw Cheap Trick, one of rock 'n' roll's legendary live bands.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve! A well written article on Cheap Trick. If I hadn't known how good they were already, after reading this, I'd want to see them. Thanks for sharing this with us. ~Bud~