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Cheap Trick @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino

Jan. 20, 2011

Jan. 21, 2011
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Rick Nielsen diplomatically refused to take sides when the crowd shouted Packers vs. Bears comments Thursday night at Cheap Trick’s performance at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino’s Northern Lights Theater.His tactfulness likely stems from the fact that Milwaukee was a second home to the band from Rockford, Ill., even before its 1977 debut for Epic Records.

Thursday was opening night for Cheap Trick’s 12-performance run of playing their 1979 album Dream Police in its entirety with a string section, horn section and backup singers. The subtly named The Bombastic Symphonic Philharmonic with The Rhythmic Noise Mind Choir allowed the band to recreate the album’s orchestral arrangements.

For roughly two hours Cheap Trick gave fans their money’s worth. Nielsen swapped guitars after every song, mugging through the evening like an emcee just this side of normal. He was a blur of constant motion, flinging guitar picks to the audience—if he paused for a few seconds, it was rare.

Dressed in white leather and rhinestones, lead vocalist Robin Zander remains the cool, detached frontman, though he struggled at times to hit notes. He was well supported by a trio of backup singers and Nielsen. Tom Petersson on 12-string bass held the bottom with thunderous riffs cutting a figure circa 1967 Carnaby Street.

No doubt drawing on previous experiences, having performed their first three albums in full as well as a run in Las Vegas tackling The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, this multimedia spectacle is the latest brainstorm from a band whose career is built on savvy marketing as much as top-notch songs and musicianship.

Following the Dream Police performance, Nielsen pulled up a director’s chair and bullhorn and offered commentary on a series of video clips of the band’s work in television and movies.

For a second act, the band, which included Nielsen’s sons Miles on guitar and Daxx on drums (subbing for the M.I.A. Bun E. Carlos), as well as keyboardist Phil Cristian, took a spin through Cheap Trick’s vast catalog. Balancing new tunes with “The Ballad of Richard Speck,” the power ballad “The Flame” and a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel,” they demonstrated their versatility.

At times they lost momentum with too much time between songs, but they rallied with “I Want You to Want Me,” complete with a clarinet solo, and “Surrender” before sending the faithful on their way.


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