When I look back on my childhood and think about the songs that I just always remember knowing, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, Cheap Trick’s, ‘Surrender” comes to mind immediately. It was one of those songs that I think I was just born knowing all the words to. “Mommy’s alright, daddy’s alright, they just seem a little weird.” Every kid knows those lyrics, right?!?
Surprisingly enough, their show at The Wellmont Theater this past Friday was the first time I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Cheap Trick. The band is currently embarking on a tour across the United States and decided to make a stop in Montclair, NJ. The night’s venue, The Wellmont Theater is a wonderful little 2,000 capacity venue on the Main Street of Montclair. Once a movie theater, the building underwent a $3 million renovation in 2008 to become a live entertainment venue as told to me by the lovely Emily and Mark Strigl of the Talking Metal Podcast who are New Jersey Locals. The Wellmont is currently booked by the promoter Live Nation and since the venue’s opening over a decade ago, the small theater has brought acts of all genres to New Jersey.
On this Friday night, The Wellmont Theater was packed. It’s no surprise that Cheap Trick sold the venue out. Starting at promptly 9PM, the band opened up the show with their track ‘Hello There’ and danced through their set effortlessly. I applaud their curation of the setlist as they definitely did a great job of drifting between some of the band’s biggest hits as well as some deeper cuts that only the diehards would know.
One of the highlights of the entire show was finally hearing Robin Zander say, “I want YOU to want ME!” live in the flesh. If you closed your eyes, it felt like you were in the room when they were recording their 1978 live record Cheap Trick At Budokan. I was also incredibly thrilled when Rick broke out into the riff of ‘She’s Tight’, which is probably one of my favorite Cheap Trick songs of all time. (If you haven’t already, check out Steel Panther’s version of this tune featuring Robin Zander himself). Eyeing the setlist prior to the nights performance, I hadn’t seen the track pop up in performances from a couple of night’s prior so I was excited that they chose to pop it in the set for NJ’s show.
Periodically through the set Mr. Rick Nielsen stepped up to the microphone to inform the audience that they were a “brand new band called Cheap Trick” and that we should keep an eye on them earning a laugh from us all.
Overall, Robin Zander’s voice is still incredibly strong. It’s so common to see frontman of the 70’s and 80’s struggling to hit notes that they sang when they were in their 20’s (of course, if you expect them to sound like they did on their studio recordings you have unachievable expectations), but there was no struggle in Robin Zander’s vocal abilities at all. He can still hit every note and he does it well. Rick Nielsen’s skills also remain unchanged. Clad in his completely recognizable and familiar stage outfit fit with the hat and all, Rick plays the riffs we all know and love with ease.
Daxx Nielson, who’s been playing drums for the band for over a decade now, does a terrific job. Replacing original member Bun E. Carlos in this current line-up, Daxx without a doubt does the songs justice and fits in extremely well with the chemistry of the group which makes sense as I’m sure he grew up knowing these songs better than anyone.
Tom Petersson, who had the very first 12 string bass built for him in 1977, is a talent completely on his own. One of the coolest parts of the evening was when Tom stepped up to the mic to cover Velvet Underground’s ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’. It definitely gave the room a more soulful vibe in the minutes that the song was being performed and definitely came into the set at the right time.
Another fan favorite of the night was their 1988 hit ‘The Flame’ where Zander and his guitar stepped out into a single spotlight; the rest of the stage dimmed. The entire theater singing the words back to him.
Watching this show unfold, I’d like to note how amazing it is that 3/4th’s of the original Cheap Trick are still together. I know to some fans, both casual and diehard, the amount of original members in a group doesn’t matter, but to me it’s even more magic to see the line-up and the musicians who created these pieces of music that we’ve all come to know and love play these tunes together. It adds something special that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Of course, the band closed out the show with their iconic song ‘Surrender’ and ‘Goodnight Now’ featuring Rick Neilson’s iconic five neck guitar which had the remaining attendees who hadn’t been on their feet all night to join the rest of the audience.
Overall, I feel like Cheap Trick is just one of those bands that sometime in your life, you HAVE to see. Everyone deserves to see ‘Surrender’ live at least once and experience the magic that this classic band brings to the stage.
Check out the setlist from March 1st at The Wellmont Theater below as well as Cheap Trick’s current scheduled tour dates for 2019. Also be sure to visit www.cheaptrick.com to view photos, news, and more.
1. Hello There
3. You Got It Going On
4. Just Got Back
5. Big Eyes
6. California Man
7. She’s Tight
8. Sick Man of Europe
9. Stiff Competition
10. Need Your Love
11. Daddy Should Have Stayed In High School
12. Ain’t That A Shame
13. Baby Loves To Rock
14. I’m Waiting For The Man
15. The Flame
16. I Want You To Want Me
17. Dream Police
18. Clock Strikes Ten
20. Goodnight Now
CHEAP TRICK 2019 TOUR DATES:
Mar 8th — Mystic Lake Casino — Prior Lake, MN
Mar 9th — North Star Casino — Bowler, WI
May 17th — Dos Equis Pavilion — Dallas, TX
May 18th — The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion — The Woodlands, TX
May 26th — Austin360 Amphitheater — Del Valle, TX
Jul 11th — Kewadin Casino – Dreammakers — Sault Se. Marie, MI
Jul 12th — Roxodus Music Fest — Barrie, Canada
July 27th — MoutainFest Motorcycle Rally — Morgantown, WV
Aug 20th — Benton Franklin Fair — Kennewick, WA
Aug 21st — Chateau Ste. Michelle — Woodinville, WA