By Nick McCabe – Front Row Photo
Cheap Trick owned the MontBleu Theater on Nov 21. The place was sold out and by any measure; they hit it out of the park.
Having formed in Illinois in the early ’70’s, Cheap Trick can honesty be touted as one of the most successful and iconic American rock and roll bands still in existence. Three of the four members (Robin Zander – Lead Vocals & Guitar, Tom Petersson – Bass & Vocals, and Rick Nielsen – Lead Guitar & Vocals) are original founding members, and drummer Daxx Neilson has been with the band since 2010, taking the place of the fourth founding member Bun E. Carlos.
I wanted to cover this show because I’ve been a passive Cheap Trick fan for years and I wanted to see what they were like live. They blew my socks off! The sound was perfect, their playing was flawless, and their showmanship was nonstop.
The stage set was filled with their checkerboard branded theme. The backdrop, the amplifiers, Rick Nielsen’s guitars, straps, picks, his riser, and even his ear bud where all checkered. They even poked fun at the very rock and roll that has made them successful with Rick’s over the top 5-neck, 36-string guitar, and his custom made double -eck guitar that is actually an upside down caricature of himself (the two necks are his legs, and his head is at the bottom of the body). Most guitar players have one or two dozen guitar picks stuck to their mic stand as backups, but Rick had three or four layers of picks going from his mic all the way down to the floor. His guitar picks and T-shirt even had cartoons of his head (as a young man) on them which he designed.
Whereas Nielsen fills the “comic relief” role in the band (and all that talent stuff, too), Robin Zander fills the heavy booted serious front man vocalist eye candy roll. That’s a lot of responsibility. For this show Robin wore an all black leather military police looking outfit complete with exaggerated leather hat (his hair tucked up under it) with a star on the front, and aviator glasses. On his sleeve was an arm band reading “Dream Police”. Toward the end of the show Robin changed into a white and silver sparkle jacket, removed the dark glasses, let his hair down and starting smiling a lot. Quite the morph.
Tom Petersson was much more subdued in his presentation, but had a very classy rock and roll look to him. He had the biggest smile off all and at one point he leaned forward into the first row and smiled so a fan could get a killer cell phone picture of him. Tom plays a bass guitar like no other I’ve ever seen. It’s a 12 string bass. Each of the four primary strings has two harmonic strings accompanying it. I’m guessing it takes so much hand strength to play it that Tom can probably open a can of spinach by squeezing it, just like Popeye. Daxx Neilson is a power house on the drums. Cheap Trick music requires a lot of power and energy on the drums, with flashy fills from time to time.
As soon as they hit the stage the crowd came to life and they were off and running. Earlier I said I was a passive fan. By that, I mean I have no Cheap Trick albums and only know their hits. Even with my lack of familiarity with most off their songs I loved all of them.
As they prepared to play “Heaven Tonight,” they said that it was Billy Gibbons’ (ZZ Top) favorite song. It has a very slow, foreboding, and threatening sound to it with what I would call undertones of a dark circus. Robin’s voice takes on the sound of a Theremin making it even spookier. It was absolutely hauntingly beautiful. When it was over Rick handed his guitar to an audience member. I didn’t see it come back to the stage, but I’m sure it did.
Each and every song was an adventure to hear. It was either at the end of “Need Your Love” or the beginning of “Waiting For the Man,” Tom Petersson played a magical bass solo on his 12 string bass. It was about here that you could feel the energy building and the crowd getting more and more into it.
The final volley that got the house on their feet and sweating like whores in church started with “I Want You to Want Me” and moved through “Dream Police,” “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Never Had a Lot to Lose,” and then the encore of “Surrender” and “Goodnight.”
This was a top notch show. Besides the great music you could see them all having a great time, and isn’t that what it should be all about? It’s rock and roll at its finest. Fun should be in great abundance. I can honestly say, I am no longer a passive Cheap Trick fan. Off to the record store!
Author Nick McCabe is the editor of the website Front Row Photo.
Photographer’s Notebook:Cheap Trick was featured Nov. 21, 2014 at the MontBleu Resort Casino and Spa. I hadn’t seen Cheap Trick since it opened up for the Heart/Journey Tour quite a few years back. At that time I was extremely disappointed on how their sound mix was. I assumed correctly that Friday’s show would be much better since Cheap Trick was ,the headliner. The show far exceeded my expectations! Yes, it didn’t start util over a half-hour after the scheduled time but for some reason the theater wasn’t even close to half full at the time they were supposed to start. The theater eventually did fill up. I only recognized a handfull of the most popular songs, “Dream Police,” “I Want You to Want Me,” “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Surrender,” but the whole show was still very enjoyable, entertaining and high-energy. The band has a great rapport with their fans, joking and taking selfies with the front row. All which makes for a great photo op, especially with Rick Nielsen changing guitars almost every song.
To see more Cheap Trick photos and to visit Kurt Johnson’s website, click here.
Nov. 21, MontBleu Theatre
Hello There, Hello Kitty’s
He’s A Whore
On Top of the World
Don’t Be Cruel
Need Your Love
Waiting for the Man (Cover of the Velvet underground/Lou Reed song)
Baby Loves to Rock
I Want you to Want Me
Ain’t That a Shame
Never Had a Lot to Lose