“Can you honestly tell me that you forgot? Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander, or the charisma of Rick Nielsen? How about the tunes? ‘I Want You To Want Me.’ ‘The Dream Police,’ da-na-na-na-na-na-na.” Thus spake sleazebag ticket scalper Mike Damone in 1982’s iconic Fast Times at Ridgemont High, hard-selling the iconic appeal of Cheap Trick. Thirty years hence, the fab foursome from Rockford, Illinois, have, if possible, become even more beloved, influential and rockin’–if underrated.
Cheap Trick plays Madison Square Garden November 20th, with Aerosmith.
– Live: Squeeze And Cheap Trick Revel In Their Ridiculousness At Radio City Music Hall
– SXSW 2009: Meet Tinted Windows, the Taylor Hanson, James Iha, Cheap Trick, Fountains of Wayne “Super”-Group
The band’s return to New York City, opening tomorrow for Aerosmith at MSG, may be slightly bittersweet for bassist Tom Petersson, who was an appreciative New Yorker for a decade. The current Nashville denizen misses his favorite neighborhood haunt, The Pink Teacup; not so much seeing Sigue Sigue Sputnik at Studio 54, though he still loves his Mets.
Cheap Trick’s romance with the Big Apple began in 1976, when they recorded their self-titled debut at The Record Plant. Several of those tunes are still likely to show up on current setlists–perhaps “Mandocello,” “He’s a Whore” or “ELO Kiddies.” But it’s a crapshoot, as Petersson explains: “We have so many records out; we forget what the hell we’ve done. We just go in and wing it. We don’t have a set list ’til about 15 minutes before we go onstage. It drives our crew crazy,” he laughs. “We’ll be like “ok, do you remember this?”
Then there’s always a chance Trick will tackle a set list chosen by tour mate Steven Tyler, who favors “Heaven Tonight.” “We have every song we’ve every done right there, so if we have to relearn something we can,” assures Petersson. (For the record, there are 16 studio albums and six live records including the band’s breakthrough, 1979’s Cheap Trick at Budokan, which turns 35 next year.) As for the legendary Japanese concert album that thrust Cheap Trick into the ether with “Surrender” and “I Want You To Want Me,” Petersson has a confession to make: “I don’t even like live records. I don’t know how the hell that even happened.”
It happened because somehow teenage Japanese girls were the first to realize Trick are easily one of the best live bands in existence–thanks in part to Petersson’s own invention: The 12-string bass. When he’s onstage with chatty, cartoon-ish guitar god Rick Nielsen and one of his five-necked guitars, the pair have 42 strings between them. And they know how to use ’em. Dreamboat frontman Robin Zander has lost none of his soaring vocal ability, and though the lineup is currently sans heavy-hitting drummer Bun E. Carlos, Trick is still something to behold: Memorable, timeless, often poignant power-pop purveyed by three discrete yet incredibly cohesive players. Paired with Aerosmith, it’s truly two of the best American rock bands in history on one stage. Leave early if you have to, but don’t arrive late: Cheap Trick will take you to heaven.