“You’re takin’ me back
A long, long, long time ago…”
(lyrics from “Takin’ Me Back” written by Rick Nielsen)
Indeed, the year 1998 was when Cheap Trick quickly went from a band I knew primarily from classic rock radio to exalted level in my worldview. This happened when I was working one of my first full-time jobs as a delivery driver. The truck had a cassette deck I utilized to play my dubbed compilations and cheap tapes from Goodwill. This was wonderful to ease the stress of daily work and among the Anthrax, Motorhead, Bow Wow Wow, D.R.I., and various punk tapes, it was a Cheap Trick mix that I best enjoyed and repeated for several weeks.
Further back, in 1994, I had a 7″ single of “Don’t Be Cruel,” but it was the b-side’s track “I Know What I Want (live)” that I spun multiple times. That song, along with having read praise of the band, prompted a visit to the public library where I borrowed Lap of Luxury. Unfortunately, this delayed my further exploration of the band because, as a young, naive punk and metal fan, “The Flame” and any other songs that failed to rock were generally unacceptable to me. It took four more years and viewings of Fast Times At Ridgemont High until I finally heard and instantly loved the untouchable 1970s releases Cheap Trick, In Color, Heaven Tonight, Cheap Trick at Budokan, and Dream Police. In the years beyond, I took a liking to multiple selections from their post-1970s output, especially “Everything Works If You Let It,” “Reach Out,” “She’s Tight,” “I Can’t Take It,” “Never Had a Lot to Lose,” “Walk Away,” and “Say Goodbye.”
Robin Zander’s enticing vocals and delivery were perfection, and Rick Nielsen’s powerful, loose style, with pieces of riffs spliced together from his influences’ compositions, rocked without pretension. Tom Petersson’s creative bass playing held the band together solidly with Bun E. Carlos’ impeccable drumming. The charismatic personas in the band were well presented, with Rick and Bun E. being the coolest in my belief.
I was finally able to support Cheap Trick live in 2012 when they made a tour stop at the Riverside Casino and Resort in Riverside, IA. My lovely wife, JoAnn, had seen them before in New York with Bun E. Carlos on drums. Though I knew that Daxx Nielsen, a fine drummer, was now a touring member, I had still hoped that Carlos would be the time-keeper this night. Nevertheless, my fascination reignited as the band performed a strong set from their decades-long career. Even though JoAnn and I were close to the stage, we did not take pictures or audio of that rainy show. We just absorbed the awesome music and I was grateful to finally have seen Cheap Trick after waiting far too long.
Three years later, Iowa’s annual Ragbrai Fest scheduled Cheap Trick to headline at Coralville’s Iowa River Landing. Once announced, JoAnn and I instantly made plans to attend. On Friday, July 24th, we joined our close friends for the show, which started at 8pm. The weather was kind as the stage speakers projected sound waves announcing Trick’s imminent appearance. Pop-culture soundbites referenced the band’s songs, followed by a woman’s voice introducing “the best fucking rock band you’ve ever seen… Cheap Trick!” and the group initiated the first of twenty songs with “Hello There.” My friends and I settled on a grass island, which didn’t offer the best view of the band, but that was okay, since my tolerance for compacted crowds has waned through the years. My wife, outgoing as she is, ventured near the front of the crowd and had a great experience, especially when serenaded by the dreamy Robin Zander. After the second time seeing The Trick, I maintain that they are one of the few classic rock bands still relevant and energizing. For that I respect them even more.
Below are the pictures JoAnn shot and kindly shared. I recorded the audio of the legends from Rockford’s full set and am happy to share it here with fellow fans. More dates are scheduled this year, and I recommend attending a show if you’ve never seen Cheap Trick.