This past week, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, NJ, Cheap Trick kicked off the first show of their 38-date summer tour that runs from May 17th to September 23rd!
A key benefit of attending a Cheap Trick concert is their set-list. With 19 albums worth of material at the band’s disposal, you can guarantee that no two Cheap Trick shows will be alike. For the diehard fans who attend multiple shows, this is a dream come true. For the casual fan, they will either walk away slightly frustrated or leave with a profound respect and appreciation for the band’s vast musical catalog. Every show offers an infinite number of musical possibilities. It’s a testament to the band’s strength that they can easily pull off deep tracks or obscure songs.
The band consists of the band of Robin Zander [vocals], Rick Nielsen [guitar], Tom Petersson [bass], Daxx Nielsen [drums], and Robin Taylor Zander, aka RTZ [guitar and backup vocal]. The Rockford Rockers have dubbed themselves the best garage band in the world, but in reality, they are the very definition of a great American rock band. Their songs offer a tremendous variety from hard, fast, and edgy, appealing to their rock fan-base, or poppy and melodic, which can be heard on the radio. They are an iconic band that broke the mainstream music mold.
Cheap Trick engaged in a continuous 90-minute sing-along to an exuberant New Jersey audience. Did they deliver on the hard-rocking tunes? You better believe it by performing “He a Whore,” “Light Up the Fire,” and “The House is a Rockin”?. Did they give us ballads with lush vocals? Yes, indeed, as they gave us heartfelt versions of “Heaven Tonight” and “The Flame.” Did we get a cover tune that everyone thinks they wrote? “Ain’t That a Shame” hit the mark with its infectious opening drum beat.
Powerhouse vocalist Robin‘s hypnotizing voice filled the theater while pulling you into the songs. His inescapably cool, whether on guitar or with his strong vocal performance, elevated the show. In an era where you are unsure whether the singer is really singing, the band is using backing vocals tracks, or if the guitarist is really playing, rest assured, Cheap Trick is the real deal.
Rick had his jogging sneakers as he roamed the expansive stage, throwing picks out to the audience and delivering his quirky facial expression to the front row. His signature sound clearly comes from switching from playing with a pick to using his fingers to achieve the song’s rich tone. His solos were a mix of rhythms and tasteful blues runs played over the solid foundation that Tom, Daxx, and RTZ were laying down. Rick also brought an army of guitars which he changed for every song. Guitar favorite is always the five-neck checkerboard guitar that he used on “Goodnight” and his “Uncle Dick” double-neck guitar made in his likeness on “Auf Wiedersehen.” There may have been a new addition to his touring armamentarium: a gold sparkle Gibson Explorer that shined like a diamond to the last seat in the balcony. Other guitars that deserve an honorable mention were the Checkerboard Explorer and Flying V, along with his Beatles and Cherry Sunburst Gibson Les Paul.
Having Tom back in the fold after a brief hiatus due to heart issues was a blessing. Wearing a Stetson and keeping a low profile by the drum riser, he is single-handily responsible for giving the band’s songs their groove and swing. His hands moved in syncopated harmony on his 12-string Gretsch bass as he drove the songs home while playing perfectly in the pocket of Daxx‘s drumming. Daxx embellished the iconic songs with interesting fills and a genuine sense of rhythm while following the guitar’s melody. He has a swing to his playing style that serves the song yet is unique in his execution. RTZ took on the heavy lift of second guitar, backing his father on vocals/harmonies, and even took lead vocals on “Downed” off In Color!
Like death and taxes, you will always know their Cheap Tricks will perform their biggest hits, “Surrender,” “Dream Police,” and “I Want You to Want Me.” When the lights went dark, the crowd demanded more before they returned to reality. The whistles and cheers were relentless, so the band obliged with “Surrender,” “Auf Wiedersehen,” and “Goodnight.” Before departing the stage, Rick hinted at a new Cheap Trick album and quipped, “We’re too dumb to quit!”
To their credit, in 2016, Cheap Trick was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The band from Rockford, Illinois, finally got their just rewards for a triumphant career. This evening the band continued their tradition of giving everything they had, as it was all about having fun and enjoying some iconic classic rock. After rocking fans for nearly 50 years with 10,000s of shows in their wake, Cheap Trick remains strong as they delivered what people came for, a great rocking time. Tickets for their summer are available HERE.