Concert Review

Cheap Trick Checks All The Boxes at Talking Stick Resort

While we sometimes have to wait longingly for bands we love to visit for a live performance, the perpetually touring rock icons Cheap Trick seem to hit the Phoenix area on the annual. It's always interesting to see where they land. A few years ago, it was a makeshift room at the then-unfinished Talking Stick Resort; the next visit found them as part of the Arizona State Fair's lineup. Last night it was back to the aforementioned Scottsdale resort for the band, where they played the poolside stage as the opener for Peter Frampton.

The band hit the stage looking good and seemed a little more saucy, and with more spring in their step, than the State Fair show as they took the stage to blast out their beloved power pop and rock tunes, opening as usual with "Hello There," and following it with a couple of classics from 1977's In Color, "Come On Come On" and "Big Eyes."

As far as originals go, there were no real surprises in their set. I always hope that since they tour so often and see a slew of really devoted fans that they'd reach into their bag of tunes and pull out some deeper tracks, but they generally seem to stick with a core rotation. Most of their songs are just so goddamned good and infectious that it's hard to tire of them. Nostalgia aside, the songs themselves stand the test of time. The band's campy delivery is also still fun to watch. Singer (and guitarist) Robin Zander parading around in his glammy sailor-style outfit, and guitarist Rick Nielsen's mischievous nature kept the whole thing a lively and zesty affair.

All the favorites were there, "I Want You to Want Me," "Dream Police," and, much to my chagrin, though to the real happiness of most of the crowd, the '80s ballad, "The Flame." You don't need me to tell you the sing-along that ensued when they broke into that one. Some of the nice surprises were in the covers. Zander belted his way through the Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour," and the band took a little break and left bassist Tom Petersson alone on stage for a little solo work on his 12-string. When they came back to join him, he took over the vocal duties for a version of Velvet Underground's "Waiting for the Man." 

Though the three original members seem to be having a blast and exude the kind of chemistry that comes from true familiarity, it's still a bummer to not have original drummer Bun E. Carlos sitting behind the kit. These days, it's Rick Nielsen's son, Daxx Nielsen, banging the skins. The kid is a really great drummer, but it would have been nice to have the original manning the kit

Towards the end, the band took another rest and let Daxx solo out on the drums and reunited for "Ain't That a Shame." That one was followed by a rousing version of "Surrender," with Zander encouraging audience participation before wrapping the set up with "Auf Wiedersehen" and "Goodnight." The last few songs also saw Nielsen pull out both a 2-neck and a 5-neck guitar, which got the audience extra fired up. By now, the band could do these shows in their sleep, and even though it's a fairly predictable event, they continue to make it a damn good time.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Poolside Stage at Talking Stick Resort 

The Crowd: The kind of people that have $62-$100 to spend on Cheap Trick and Peter Frampton tickets. Loaded with bro's, both young and old. Also filled with an alarming amount of air singers, guitarists and drummers. For those who didn't play an air instrument, there were plenty of blow-up microphones and guitars being passed around.

Overheard in the Crowd: "I am totally going to cry if they play 'The Flame.'" I saw it. It happened. Tears were shed.

Personal Bias: Been a die hard Cheap Trick fan since sixth grade.

Set List:

Hello There
Come On Come On
Big Eyes
If You Want My Love
Need Your Love
Magical Mystery Tour
Baby Loves to Rock
Waiting for the Man
The Flame
I Want You to Want Me
Dream Police
Ain't That A Shame
Auf Wiedersehen

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Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young