Cheap Trick in Riverside, CA

by George A. Paul

Photos by Ken Phillips.

On Dec. 16, the night before being announced as a 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Cheap Trick performed to a wildly enthusiastic crowd at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside, Calif. (located 60 miles east of Los Angeles).


The veteran Rockford, Illinois band delivered a rousing 95-minute, 19-song set that primarily concentrated on their platinum-selling late ‘70s LPs.

Cheap Trick’s first new studio album since 2009, provisionally titled “Bang Zoom Crazy…Hello,” will be released April 1 (a week before the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York City) on Nashville-based Big Machine Records. The musicians reteamed with producer Julian Raymond and have recorded 30 songs in Nashville and Los Angeles. Singer Robin Zander has described the new songs as having a “1975 flavor.”


Among the more influential and covered power pop/rock bands to emerge in the Seventies, Cheap Trick’s music frequently pops in TV and film (most recently in Adam Sandler’s “Pixels”). After 42 years together, the band still tours steadily.

Following an audio montage of notable moments in Cheap Trick history, the band launched the Fox concert with its signature opener, “Hello There” as Zander sang the question fans would answer affirmatively: “are you ready to rock?”

“Elo Kiddies” sounded thunderous, thanks to Daxx Nielsen’s molten drum work. “Hot Love” – another track from the self-titled 1977 debut – proved equally powerful. His father Rick Nielsen (who turns 67 this Tuesday) showed no signs of slowing down on guitar, especially amid the fast-fingered fretwork on “Hot Love” and chugging, spacey effects of “The House is Rockin’ (With Domestic Problems).” He frequently worked both sides of the stage, threw picks out to the crown and switched to more unusual looking axes as the evening progressed.


The group’s popular cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” was an early highlight; so was the sinister “Taxman, Mr. Thief.” Then “No Direction,” proved to be a promising new tune.  Bassist and Nashville resident Tom Petersson took over the lead vocal during an extended, laid back cover of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man.” It got an overwhelming response.

Zander’s vocals on chart-topping power ballad “The Flame” were as emotionally resonant as ever. Energetic singalong hits “I Want You to Want Me” and “Dream Police” closed the main set. For the encores, Cheap Trick played the title track to the forthcoming album, “Surrender” (a real crowd pleaser), a menacing “Auf Wiedersehen” and “Goodnight.”

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