Saturday, April 12, 2008
River Rock Casino
Richmond, BC Canada
***Live Review By Lord of The Wasteland (Photo approval was not granted for this show)
When it comes to hard rock/power pop bands, no one else touches Cheap Trick. Bursting out of Rockford, Illinois in the late seventies, the band drew upon its Beatles influence and almost trademarked the three-minute, AM radio pop hits of that decade. Guitarist Rick Nielsen, with his garish stage outfits and equally eye-grabbing arsenal of custom guitars, has guided Cheap Trick since 1977’s self-titled debut through the ups and downs that come with the genre. Despite a brief surge in popularity with 1988’s LAP OF LUXURY album fuelled by the worldwide hit “The Flame,” the eighties were not kind to the band as album after album fell upon fewer and fewer ears. After dispensing with the traditional record label route following 1994’s poorly-received WOKE UP WITH A MONSTER, Cheap Trick found a new life with a trio of back-to-basics, musically-sound releases—CHEAP TRICK, SPECIAL ONE and ROCKFORD, the last two being released independently by the band. With the classic lineup of Robin Zander (vocals), Tom Petersson (bass), Bun E. Carlos (drums) and Nielsen intact, Cheap Trick visited Richmond before embarking on a huge amphitheatre tour with Heart and Journey that runs from July through October.
Sparked by the hyperbole-filled intro of “Please welcome the best band this town has ever seen…CHEAP TRICK!” the band charged out with the fiery tandem of “Hello There” and “Big Eyes” from 1977’s IN COLOR. For ninety minutes, the band trudged through a set heavily weighted towards the late seventies powerhouse triumvirate of IN COLOR, HEAVEN TONIGHT and DREAM POLICE albums and with the exception of two tracks “The Flame” and “If You Want My Love”), completely ignored their eighties releases and all of their nineties releases. Even SPECIAL ONE and ROCKFORD only got a song a piece (“Best Friend” and “Welcome To The World,” respectively).
This oversight seemed to have no bearing on the crowd, though, as “Surrender,” “I Want You To Want Me” and “Dream Police” had everyone singing along. Even the lesser-known album cuts like “California Man,” “Voices” and “Oh, Candy” were met with a warm response. The inclusion of the dreadful Petersson-sung “I Know What I Want” and a totally bizarre “Best Friend” with Nielsen supplying falsettos stalled the momentum but Nielsen’s between song banter was light and amusing. Whether he was launching guitar picks at the crowd like Rip Taylor throws confetti or displaying his power-chord prowess while perched atop his checkered, light-up guitar podium, the 61-year old Nielsen still commands the stage at every moment. Nielsen’s guitar collection was on display and a different model was used for each song, including one on loan from Jeff Beck just for the evening. The eye-catching five-necked behemoth came out for “Surrender” and a replica of the ROCKFORD album cover—which at first glance resembled SpongeBob Squarepants—was used for “High Roller,” while another model featuring a shaped cartoon-image of Nielsen was used for “Auf Wiedersehen.” As a frontman, what Zander lacks in charisma is more than made up for with a still impressive voice, as the timeless pop of “Surrender” was just as easily matched with the rock and roll boogie of “California Man” and the torch-song balladry of “The Flame.” Zander even teased the crowd with the opening bars of “Ghost Town,” a song from LAP OF LUXURY that Nielsen remarked the band shot a video in Canada for that no one saw. For his part, Carlos—one of the most underrated drummers in rock and roll—keeps it simple with a drum kit consisting of merely one kick, one bass, two snares, a hi-hat and two cymbals. Less is truly more for Carlos and he does more with this stripped-down setup than some of the guys who are dwarfed behind gargantuan kits.
Welcome To The World
If You Want My Love
I Want You To Want Me
I Know What I Know
“That 70s Show” Theme
While not without its petty faults—the theme from “That 70s Show” should be dumped and a setlist without “Southern Girls,” “She’s Tight” or “Tonight It’s You” just seems inadequate—Cheap Trick’s performance was spot on. It turned out that a fellow sporting a red cowboy hat flew all the way from Germany just to see this show, so it goes without saying that thirty years in, Cheap Trick still has a devoted following. The band seems to make annual stops in the Vancouver area, so anyone who missed this show can probably count on Cheap Trick hitting our neck of the woods sometime next winter or spring again.
***Thanks to Donnie at Great Canadian Casinos for the press pass.
Cheap Trick—Official Site