Words and Pictures by Dave MacIntyre
Illinois rockers Cheap Trick stormed the stage at Toronto’s Sound Academy Thursday night, putting to rest any doubts that there’s life after 50. The Rockford quartet—consisting of front man Robin Zander (lead vocals and guitar), Rick Nielsen (lead guitar and backing vocals), Tom Petersson (12 string bass and backing vocals) and Bun E. Carlos (drums)—put on a show packed with more zeal than most artists half their age can summon. Visually the band is stunning, donning rock star duds and flashy instruments, but it’s the crowd interaction (handled by crowd pleaser Nielsen) and their musical talent that clearly illustrates how they’ve managed to still be relevant after 35 years. The mostly 40-plus crowd was treated to songs spanning Cheap Trick’s long discography, including “Miracle”, iconic hit “I Want You To Want Me”, and “Baby Likes To Rock”. Between songs Nielsen would reminisce and share hilarious stories of gigs past, making self-deprecating quips about their old age. At one point he revealed what looked like a Cheap Trick banner, adding he “should use it as a diaper” now. More songs followed including the Elvis cover “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Ghost Town” and lady-killer “The Flame”. When Nielsen wasn’t swapping one crazy looking guitar for another he was showering the audience with dozens of guitar picks, while Zander demonstrated he could still hit all the high notes. Petersson’s skill on the 12-string bass was impressive as was Carlos’ tight drumming. The encore performance started a few minutes after the band left stage when Nielsen stepped out and asked “Do you mind if we play some more?” Naturally he was answered by enthusiastic applause and whistling. The encore was furious and the fans responded with renewed vigour to versions of “Dream Police”, “Auf Wiedersehen”, and “He’s A Whore” before the lights went out for the second and final time. With rock-solid performances such as this and a massive insatiable fan base, I don’t foresee Cheap Trick slowing down anytime soon.