June 2019, Centre in the Square, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
As I kept telling people, Cheap Trick was not a band I’d go out of my way to see in concert.
But Kitchener’s Centre in the Square is only a 15-minute drive away. So when I heard that Cheap Trick was playing there, on a night I didn’t have anything else booked, I figured, why not?
I was somewhat into Cheap Trick back in the day. I owned the At Budokan and Dream Police albums. I knew all the words to “The Flame”. I thought that Robin Zander and Tom Petersson were babes and hung their pictures on my wall.
But it wasn’t a band I’d particularly kept up with lo these many years. Still, when it’s easy, and I could score 4th row centre seats at a reasonable price, why not go?
Initially Jean thought that he couldn’t join me, but his work schedule changed such that he could. I was pleased to have company, and he ended up pleased to be at the show.
My goodness, they were entertaining! 30 seconds in, and Robin Zander made it clear that he had lost none of his vocal power.
Guitarist Rick Neilsen, still the eccentric, had a never-ending parade of guitar changes, with many quirky designs. But what mad skills! These are guitar solos I quite enjoyed (for one, none were that long).
Tom Petersson (who also still looks pretty good) took vocals on one song. Original drummer Bun E. Carlos is no longer with the band, but their replacement is fantastic.
It was a fun, fast, efficient set, song, song, song, not too much chatter–though they did do a bit of reminiscing about past Canadian tours and having to eat seal flipper pie in Moncton. (“I had never even heard of Moncton.”)
Where some classic bands have amassed an audience with a wide age range, this Cheap Trick crowd was largely Generation X. And they were totally going back there, some even standing up to slow dance, high school style, during “The Flame”.
I stood up myself when they launched into “I Want You to Want Me”, until I started feeling vaguely rude and sat down again. Still, I like to think I started a trend, as the entire crowd leapt to their feet for the next song, “Dream Police”, and stayed there through the remaining hits, hits, hits which with they finished the show.
I’ve been having a bit of a tough time lately, and this night out was quite the tonic. So much fun. Even the songs I didn’t know had that distinct Cheap Trick sound, so I liked them, too. They are the quintessential rock band, but in a not very rock move, they started promptly at 8:00 and had us out shortly after 9:30 (in time to catch most of the Raptors game).
And I left with my very own Rick Neilsen guitar pick (as he tosses them into the crowd freely): “We’re all all right!” it says. And we were.
It would even have been worth going out of my way.