It was business as usual at the Arizona State Fair when Cheap Trick took over the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Last night, the band that recently crossed over the 40-year mark of life in the rock 'n' roll business played nearly 20 songs with all of the expected energy and sass that has kept them alive in fans' hearts since their first full-length release in the later part of the '70s.
Their iconic power pop has not only stood the test of time with all those longtime admirers, but the band continues to pick up new fans on their continuous journey and their timeless classics will forever be inspiring to young musicians.
I could see Cheap Trick 1,000 times in any venue -- last time it was in a weird conference-y room at Talking Stick Casino -- and hearing the audience anticipation and chatter be broken as they bust into "Hello There" would never stop being exciting. That rang true last night for me, my posse, and the few thousand folks who came out to the show, judging by the cheers and screams that abounded as they kicked it off with that one and went right into "ELO Kiddies," followed by "California Man," more '70s favorites. The set comprised mostly '70s and '80s tunes.
The band played through some crowd pleasers like "Tonight It's You," and "If You Want My Love," before a lengthy drum solo joined up with an extended guitar intro to "Ain't That a Shame." Another nice treat was when bassist Tom Petersson pulled out his 12-string bass (which he's credited with inventing) to play and sing "I Know What I Want," putting a nice piece of hearty, low fuzz onto the evening's affair.
Let's face it, three-fourths of the band -- original members Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, and Tom Petersson -- could play these songs in their sleep, but they don't ever make you feel like that's happening. They keep it fun and lively, probably as much for themselves as for the audience, either way, win-win. Nielsen's continuous guitar changes alone are as exciting as his hooky and driving finger work.
Rumored to own more than 2,000 guitars, some highlights last night were one that was built out to look like him and of course his ubiquitous five-necked monster. Robin Zander's voice still has the power -- he sounded great, so great that we could only get so bummed having to hear "The Flame."
A few Bic lighters flew high for that one (isn't there an app for that, yet?) And truthfully, as much as many diehards don't dig that tune, it is probably responsible for getting them noticed by plenty of folks who never had 'em on their radar.
The guys wrapped it up with "Dream Police," before coming back out for encores "Never Had a Lot to Lose," the brilliant "Surrender," "Clock Strikes Ten," and "Gonna Raise Hell." The encore set was full of high energy, solos -- including an extra-long breakout on the drums -- that kept the crowd's excitement at a maximum.
If there's one sad thing to be said about last night, it's that it is always a bit of a bummer to not see Bun E. Carlos behind the drums. No offense, though, to Rick Nielsen's son Daxx, who is currently filling that slot. He is pretty outstanding and he seemed truly happy to be there, a smile hardly left his fact the entire night.
The whole damn arena, in fact, was lit up with grins for the extent of this good time soiree. Nielsen said at one point during the set, "We are the one and only -- accept no substitutes -- Cheap Trick." Yep, we got just what we wanted!
For the setlist and more photos, click to Page 3.
Set List: 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 70's Song) In the Street The Flame I Want You to Want Me Sick Man of Europe Dream Police
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Encores: Never Had A Lot to Lose Surrender Clock Strikes Ten Gonna Raise Hell Goodnight Now