Cheap Trick at NYCB Theatre at Westbury

Mike Perciaccante By

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Cheap Trick
NYCB Theatre at Westbury
Westbury, NY
August 24, 2013

Since its debut, Cheap Trick has been blending Beatlesque pop with elements of arena/classic rock, hard rock, punk, modern rock and even a touch of blues. Its sound is instantly recognizable, its lyrics are definitely sly, wry and tongue-in-cheek. Overall, the band's musical onslaught of crunchy pop chords and powerful yet melodic vocals is sure to make even casual fans smile. This was never more on display than on this sleepy August evening in Long Island.

The performance began with the light still up. Suddenly the audience was greeted with a short montage of audio drops followed by a female voice that announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage the best fucking rock 'n' roll band you'll ever see—Cheap Trick!" With that, the stage lights dimmed and guitarist Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson, fill-in drummer Daxx Nielsen (Rick's son who has been subbing for Bun E. Carlos) and lead singer Robin Zander strode across the stage, picked up their instruments and rocked the audience at Long Island's NYCB Theatre at Westbury with their usual opening offering of "Hello There" from the group's second album, 1977's In Color (Epic Records). The lyrics said it all:

"Hello there, ladies and gentlemen

Hello there, ladies and gents, are you ready to rock?

Are you ready or not?

Hello there, ladies and gentlemen

Hello there ladies and gents, are you ready to rock?

Are you ready or not?

Would you like to do a number with me?

Would you like to do a number with me?

Would you like to?

Would you like to?

Would like to do a number with me?"

The band immediately followed this with "Elo Kiddies" from its 1977 self-titled Epic Records debut. Over the next two hours the quartet held sway over the enthusiastic crowd with twenty additional songs that stretched across all of the 35-plus years since they burst upon the music scene.

Fans of the band undoubtedly remember the cover of its Dream Police album (Epic Records, 1979), on which the band members wore white police uniforms. On this night, Zander, who was dressed all in black chose to top his ensemble with a leather motorcycle jacket and a black police cap featuring a star. Rick Nielsen wore his customary shiny black sports jacket over a black and white checkerboard shirt, baseball cap and converse all-stars, while Petersson wore a leather jacket, scarf and jeans. Daxx Nielsen was dressed for comfort in jeans, a white short sleeved shirt and a loose vest as he flailed behind his drum set. While front man Zander performed from the centerstage position with Petersson to his left, and Daxx Nielsen and his drums in the rear, Rick Nielsen was everywhere. He joked with the crowd from his original position to Zander's right, postured for the crowd on Petersson's side of the stage and generally ran across the stage like a kid who'd eaten too much candy. After the opening two numbers, the show continued with strong versions of "Lookout," "Big Eyes" and "Hot Love." "Ain't That A Shame" brought the already standing audience out of their seats and into the aisles to dance. Never one to miss the opportunity to offer up a quip, Nielsen strode to the microphone with a twinkle in his eye and announced, "Thank you for having us; we like being had." The band then delivered a virtuoso performance of "Need Your Love" (which fit perfectly with the statement that preceded it).

Although the band was formed in Rockford, IL, during its career it obviously has made friends across the country. Nielsen and Zander announced that they'd received "a few requests tonight, and we're actually going to do a few of those. Here's one from Next Position, Please (Epic Records, 1983)...key of E if you want to play along." With that Zander winked and the band played "Borderline." "The House Is Rockin'" was introduced when Rick Nielsen walked to the mic and simply stated, "Somebody asked us to slow it down; we said 'fuck that.'"

After a few more songs, Tom Petersson strode confidently to the mic and sang "I Know What I Want." After the applause died down, Rick Nielsen announced, "We're gonna do a song we haven't done in twenty years—it's been so long, Robin needs reading glasses." Zander was then brought a stool, his glasses and an acoustic guitar for an amazing version of the love song "Tell Me Everything" from 1994's Woke Up With a Monster (Warner Brothers Records). During this, the last of the request portion of the evening, a spot light shown down on the fan who requested the song and his wife while the band members clearly enjoyed the opportunity to bring joy to the happy couple.

The evening continued with high octane versions of "Sick Man of Europe" from The Latest (Cheap Trick Unlimited, 2009), the power-ballad "The Flame" from 1988's Lap of Luxury (Epic Records), "I Want You To Want Me" and "Baby Loves to Rock." The show ended with a fever-pitched version of "Dream Police" with Rick Nielsen running across the stage, tossing guitar picks into the audience and saluting the audience members who had crowded the stage. He, Zander and Petersson posed for pictures as they played standing shoulder-to- shoulder while the frenzied fans snapped picture after picture on their cellphone and smartphones.

When the song ended, Daxx Nielsen stepped out from behind the drum kit and joined his father, Zander and Petersson for a group bow. They waved and departed the stage. After what seemed like a nano-second, the group returned for a blistering set of encores: "Surrender" followed by "Auf Wiedersehen" and "Goodnight" (which features lyrics that echoed the show's opening number "Hello There").

"Good night now ladies and gentlemen

Good night now ladies and gents

That's the end of the show, now it's time to go"

The lights then came up and the audience members shuffled their way up the steep incline to the main level of the venue. Once there, many were seen indulging in a bit of retail therapy at the band's merchandise stand. In the parking lot, as the fans made way to their cars, the sounds of Cheap Trick's greatest hits could again be heard emanating from the car stereos of those who had gotten to their vehicles first.

Photo Credit

Christine Connallon

[Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon].

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