A bit after 8 p.m., what sounded like an automated female voice said over the Hard Rock Live loudspeaker, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage the best fucking rock band you've ever seen — Cheap Trick."
That might be a bit of hyperbole, but last night, the aging Midwestern rockers with their tongues often planted firmly in their cheeks did indulge a hearty crowd with flashbacks of four decades of high-quality rock 'n' roll.
The four-piece pull a Van Halen in that they are comprised of three-quarters of their original lineup: singer Robin Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen, and bassist Tom Petersson, with the one replacement member, drummer Daxx Nielsen, being Ricks's son.
Over the course of a little over 90 minutes, they played all their hits, from the 1980s power ballad "The Flame" to the anthems "Surrender" and "Dream Police." They also found time to cover songs that influenced them, like The Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" and Fats Domino's "Ain't That A Shame," (though the less we say about bassist Petersson's singing lead on a Velvet Underground medley of "I'm Waiting For The Man" and "Heroin," the better, as Lou Reed may still be rolling in his grave from it).
Singer Robin Zander, clad in a white hat and suit that was later replaced with a sparkling jacket with a Dream Police armband, could still hit the high notes even at 62 years of age. And guitarist Rick Nielsen, even without his trademark bow tie, was the goofy master of ceremonies, throwing his guitar picks into the crowd with reckless abandon. When he asked, "Does everyone feel like singing tonight?" he received a predictable roar of cheers. "Good," he quipped back. "Here's a song you've never heard."
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Though they've been a staple of classic rock radio for what feels like forever, Cheap Trick have never really been a critics' darling, as evidenced by at least one fan in last night's crowd holding up a sign pleading: "Vote Cheap Trick in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." Still, they've been an obvious influence of much of American rock that came after them, from the Smashing Pumpkins to Kings of Leon.
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In a show of love from rockers of a younger generation, five members of the Rob Thomas Band (though not Rob Thomas himself, who's playing the venue tonight) came on stage at the beginning of the encore to sing back-up for Cheap Trick's new, unreleased song, "Bang Zoom Crazy Hello."
Cheap Trick might not officially be Hall of Famers (yet! They were just nominated this month), but toward the end of their set, when fans got out of their seats to sing along to "I Want You To Want Me," you could be forgiven for thinking that they were. In fact, by the end of that song, many in the crowd would gladly admit Cheap Trick are the best fucking rock band they've ever seen.
Ain't That a Shame
Magical Mystery Tour
On Top of the World
Daddy Should Have Stayed in High School
I'm Waiting for the Man/Heroin medley
I Want You to Want Me
Bang Zoom Crazy Hello