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Sunday, 2 July 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Cheap Trick (Review By Paul)

Cheap Trick - O2 Academy, Bristol

Sometimes you realise just how amazing musicians can be. I can't play a note. Failed guitar and piano lessons in my youth. Three Blind Mice on the recorder was the height of my musical talent. So whilst I can be harsh on this blog, my appreciation of anyone who can play their instruments properly is high. So why this rambling intro? Well, having the rare opportunity to see a band who are so incredibly talented made me reflect.

Opening up the show was one of the UK's most hyped bands in current times. Stone Broken (8) play each show as if they are headlining. Yes, they capture the Planet Rock crowd and they are pretty routine in their sound, but if you like the Creed, Nickelback, Black Stone Cherry sound then you will appreciate the Walsall outfit. Most readers will know that the band arrived on the scene in 2013 and have toured relentlessly across the country, supporting endless bands and gaining rave reviews. 

Frontman Rich Moss is every inch the rock star, his easy vocal style adding to the southern rock flavour of their tunes. A 30 minute set flew past, with tracks from debut release All In Time and newer sounds receiving a warm response. This band work hard and deserve their success. Their sound does little for me but it will capture the attention of those who like their rock in the smooth, sugary classic rock sound.
I've seen Cheap Trick once before. Download 2011. They were stunning, even in the outdoors. Inside, Cheap Trick (10) are just unbeatable. I've reviewed their two most recent albums on the blog, with the very recent release We're All Right full of quality hard edged pop rock. Live, the band are infectious. Drummer Daxx Nielsen makes everything look easy, whilst up front time is thrown back many years as Robin Zander, Tom Petersson and Rick Nielsen, average age 66 play effortlessly. Zander's voice remains superb, whether it be Southern Girls, the snarling Dream Police or newie Long Time Coming, whilst he's no slouch on the rhythm guitar. 

Petersson, understated and barely moving at times, deft and dexterous on his 12 string bass but took centre stage during a cover of The Velvet Underground's I'm Waiting For The Man and The Plastic Ono Band's Cold Turkey. Alongside Zander, most eye focus on Nielsen. Aged 68, he strides around the stage at speed, ambling away whilst throwing crazy hand shapes and gurning under his trademark cap. What you cannot fail to notice is how astonishingly great a guitarist he is. Its as if the guitar is an extension of his body, such is the fluidity and ease with which he throws out the licks, almost as often as the numerous picks which find their way into the adoring crowd.

Cheap Trick don't rely on the same set for more than one gig. Their three UK dates has seen the set list change numerous times. This is a band with a catalogue of quite magical songs and they know how to mix it up. As well as the covers we get tracks from early Budokan days as well as a rare outing for Sick Man Of Europe from 2009's The Latest. Nielsen is entertaining in his between song chatter, displaying humour and humility and a super touch when he invites two youngsters up on stage to receive some gifts, in return for their declaration of their favourite band. Cheap Trick, obviously. 

He's a cross between Homer Simpson, Steve Buscemi and Eric Morecambe, but with a steely edge that lurks deep in the master craftsman. For all the tomfoolery not a note is dropped, not a foot wrong. Inevitably it's the classics that close the set, the cover of a The Move's Blackberry Way from the latest album, the inevitable I Want You to Want Me and Surrender before Goodnight closes things off. Hard and heavy, classic in every way. Cheap Trick remain one of the best live acts around.

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