Concert Review: Cheap Trick at the Arizona State Fair

Cheap Trick, Arizona State Fair 10/16/2013

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Cheap Trick still wants you to want them and, though they haven’t been on the charts in awhile, you still should, you really, really should!

I have to admit, the label “classic rock” has always annoyed me a bit, clearly it’s a genre created by the suits solely for the purpose of defining a specific radio station format, but for the fans it just makes us feel old. Even worse, it’s reasonable to believe the bands saddled with this dubious title may occasionally find themselves feeling a bit like second class citizens, has-beens struggling to survive in a youth obsessed industry. To my mind, there are rock acts that have recorded songs that could be considered classic but there is no such thing as a “Classic Rock Band”, (with the possible exception of a covers band playing in a dive bar somewhere in Toledo tonight). There is really only one way to define Cheap Trick; American Rock and Roll Band.

The Rockers from Rockford, (Illinois), show very little sign of the wear and tear that often comes from too many years on the road. Rick Nielsen’s playful and scorching leads are just as playful and scorching, Robin Zander’s high notes and power chords are just as high and powerful and Tom Petersson’s bass thunders and pounds just as brilliantly as it always has. Daxx Nielsen, (Rick’s son), currently fills in for the no longer touring Bun E. Carlos and does his father more than proud with some very solid work on the skins, (hate to tell ya Bun, but you aren’t as missed as you may think you are).  Early in the show, my friend, who accompanied me to the concert, commented on how impressed he was by the fact that the band has yet to lower the key for Zander’s vocals, as many acts of Cheap Trick’s generation have, (Sting, we’re looking at you buddy). At no point in the concert was this more obvious then when Zander, backed only by his acoustic, launched into “The Flame“, the band’s number one chart topping power ballad from 1988’s Platinum selling album, Lap of Luxury. With vocals as strong as Zander’s it’s shocking to think it’s been 25 years since the band first recorded that tune. Other highlights from the 90 minute set included the band’s master cover of Fats Domino’sAin’t That a Shame” and their super hits “If You Want My Love“, “Dream Police“, “Surrender“, “Tonight it’s You” and, of course, the monster classic “I Want You to Want Me“.  The encores included a solid, hard rocking “Gonna Raise Hell” that perfectly showcased Nielsen’s tear-ass guitar work, as well as the tight musicianship of the entire band, and had me banging my head so hard I am still feeling it 3 days later, (my rock and roll heart thanks you guys, not to mention my chiropractor).

Should the band find their way into your neck of the woods, don’t hesitate, there is no way you’ll be disappointed. Cheap Trick are as relevant today as they’ve ever been and they’re carrying the torch of true rock and roll high and proud. At some point in the show you’re going to find yourself chanting along with the band, “We’re All Alright, We’re All Alright, We’re All Alright…” and, the best part is, you’re actually going to believe it.

Cheap Trick Setlist, Arizona State Fair 10/16/2013 

Hello There
Elo Kiddies
California Man
Tonight It’s You
If You Want My Love
I Can’t Take It
Ain’t That A Shame
She’s Tight
I Know What I Want
That 70s Song
The Flame
I Want You to Want Me
Sick Man of Europe
Dream Police
Never Had A Lot to Lose
Surrender

Encores
Clock Strikes Ten
Gonna Raise Hell
Goodnight

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