Cheap Trick. Red Rocks. 06.16.15
Cheap Trick released their most influential material while I was still wearing diapers and learning to crawl. I’m pretty sure Peter Frampton peaked before I was even conceived. So I wasn’t anxiously waiting for tickets to go on sale for the double billing at Red Rocks. With the number of shows at my favorite venue multiplying every year, I have to be careful not to overdo it. I love that place, but it’s not worth taking out a second mortgage for. But like every year since I’ve moved to Colorado, there are always a couple random shows that I find myself attending at the last minute. Last year it was REO Speedwagon and Chicago, the year before that it was Fun. and Tegan and Sara, and the year before that it was Counting Crows. This year it was Cheap Trick and Peter Frampton. Whenever I’m having a spectacularly shitty day, it always makes me feel better knowing that I live 10 minutes away from one my favorite places on Earth. So it was that I found myself in the Upper North lot yesterday evening, enjoying a cold Dale’s while the dark clouds crawled over the Rocks to the North, announcing their arrival with a small lightning show before spitting in the face of the forecasters who predicted a dry night. Having proved their point, they made their exit right around the time I purchased a 7th row ticket for less than half price – committing myself to seeing two acts that I really didn’t know beyond their classic hits.
When the yellow jackets came around, breaking people’s hearts with news of Frampton’s illness and inability to perform, it did nothing to affect my decision to attend the show. I understood the frustration of the fans who loaded into their cars and drove away with disappointment painted across their faces, but it didn’t matter to me. In fact, I was much more familiar with Cheap Trick than Peter Frampton, so other than feel bad for the guy for being sick, it did nothing to affect my mood as I cracked another beer.
The rain had come and gone in a flash, leaving behind one of the first truly nice nights of the season. Knowing Cheap Trick would come on later now that they were the headliner, I was able to spend more time outside the venue…enjoying less expensive food and drinks, and an incredible sky, from the comfort of a half deserted lot. I didn’t make my way to my seat until 8:15pm – just in time for the announcement that the people in the upper GA section were free to move down to the Reserved spots vacated by the Frampton fans who opted for a refund. The show started a few minutes later…
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please welcome to the stage the best fucking rock band you’ve ever seen!”
The set opened strong with “Hello There”. Robin Zander was rockin’ a pink suit, a fedora with a feather and dark sunglasses. At 62 years of age, he reminded me of a young Scott Weiland. Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson looked closer to their respective ages, but the amount of energy and technical prowess they exhibited as they powered their way through decades of music was seriously unbelievable. I was expecting something more in line with a band that would be at home at a State Fair, but instead I was witnessing a band who had every right to be performing a headlining set at Red Rocks.
Before I knew it they were 11 songs in, which would have probably been the stopping point if they were still opening for Frampton, but the show was just getting started. Neilsen was the comic relief throughout the set. “We’re sorry Frampton isn’t feeling well, but we’re not that sorry,“ he said, commenting on how they were stoked to have the opportunity to perform an extended set at one of their favorite venues, before adding the obligatory joke about Colorado’s new marijuana laws, “It used to smell like popcorn whenever we played here. What an improvement!”
It wasn’t until they performed “In The Street”, reminding me of all those episodes of That 70’s Show I used to watch, that I realized I had been watching a band I didn’t really know anything about, perform songs I didn’t know, for well over an hour. I was immersed in their sound and stage presence from the moment they took the stage. There was no doubt that the songs came from a decade I had only experienced from a car seat through the back window of my parents Dodge Omni, but it all sounded so fresh and relevant right there on a warm(ish) summer night in 2015. Cheap Trick arn’t just some old dudes who got the band back together…they are seasoned professionals who still have the chops, the talent and the drive to put on an incredible show.
The altitude can affect touring groups as they come through Colorado, especially if they are not prepared for it. So when a band that is only prepared for an opening slot is asked to headline, it can be a tall order. Especially for a band that isn’t exactly young. Cheap Trick could have performed for an hour and a half and called it good. The people who stayed would have felt they received their money’s worth when they followed “The Flame” with “I Want You to Want Me”, but the band didn’t leave the stage until after “Dream Police”…a full 2 hours after they were first announced.
But even that wasn’t enough for them.
Robin Zander changed into a sequined “Dream Police” jacket, switched up his hat, and came back a fully refreshed man for “Never Had a Lot to Lose”. That led into the highlight of the night, as the audience participation rose to new heights with “Surrender”…a song that is still stuck in my head as I write this. “Your Mommy’s all right, your Daddy’s all right, they just seem a little weeeeird!” (you’re welcome) Once again, they could have ended it there, but they were on a mission to please. “Gonna Raise Hell” did just that before the band said “Goodnight” in true Cheap Trick fashion….
“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.”
And then a bow.
I won’t go as far to say they were the best fucking rock band I’ve ever seen, but I will say they impressed the hell out of me. Frampton is a living legend, and I’m sure he would have been great, but Cheap Trick were just what I needed to turn around a shitty day. They went above and beyond. They made me forgot everything for 2 ½ hours. Can’t ask for much more than that.
On Top of the World
Ain’t That a Shame
If You Want My Love
Magical Mystery Tour
Baby Loves to Rock
Tonight It’s You
The House Is Rockin’ (With Domestic Problems)
In the Street
Don’t Be Cruel
Stop This Game
I’m Waiting for the Man
I Want You to Want Me
Never Had a Lot to Lose
Gonna Raise Hell