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Cheap Trick At Billy Bob’s, Fort Worth, Texas, Friday, August 6, 2021, Reviewed

Cheap Trick

Having seen Cheap Trick approximately 40 times (I never kept records on this) over 40 years, my expectations were pretty low for last evening’s show at Billy Bob’s. First, it’s a subpar music venue, yet with an undeniably cool honky tonk vibe. Secondly, I had recently seen a show streamed from Mexico that was a complete train wreck. And, not only is Bun E. Carlos long gone, but Robin Zander, Jr. is temporarily filling in for 12 string bassist extraordinaire Tom Petersson who is recovering from open heart surgery.

Maybe I just got lucky (a long time friend/superfan who would probably rather not be named told me that the band had been off their game the previous night in Houston), but despite the replacement parts and the calendar, Cheap Trick was fantastic last night. The setlist always matters with this band and including old faves such as “Elo Kiddies,” “Downed,” “Lookout,” “On Top of the World,” “California Man,” “Southern Girls,” made a big difference. I’d die happy never hearing “Big Eyes” again, but that was the only mental time out I took during the evening.

Quick rundown on the individual parts – Robin is still singing incredibly well. He didn’t have to back off the high note in “The Flame” and I would judge that he’s still at about 90% of the vocal strength he had at his peak. Rick was in obvious physical pain (he mentioned a shoulder issue) and doesn’t have the manic energy that once defined his uniquely odd persona. Still, the guy is in his early 70s and soldiered through to make it a very good night. Daxx Nielsen will never be as fluid behind the kit as Bun E. Carlos, but the difference in the band chemistry is palpable compared to the end of the Carlos era. Robin Z. Jr. did a fine job in his acting bassist role and his voice was a better fit as a backing singer than Petersson’s. He took a vocal turn on “Downed” that resulted in a partial standing ovation (the policy at Billy Bob’s is that your rear end stays in your seat).

The crowd was on fire the entire evening. I’ve seen Cheap Trick several times in the DFW area, but with never such a large (had to be a sell out or close to it), enthusiastic audience. I don’t think I’ve seen as many people wearing the traditional CT logo shirt in at least twenty years. It was an audience of people who fell in love with the magnetism of Robin Zander and the charisma of Rick Nielsen decades ago and got to feast on their nostalgia last night. Personally, if you cracked open my brain, it would start playing the “In Color” or “Budokan” album like a broken AM radio. So, the scorecard from last night – tunes I’ve loved forever played with passion and enthusiasm by the band that made me fall in love with rock ‘n’ roll.

Grade – A

Set List

Hello There
Elo Kiddies
Lookout
Hot Love
Borderline
Big Eyes
Ain’t That a Shame
California Man
Need Your Love
The Summer Looks Good on You
On Top of the World
Baby Loves to Rock
Downed
Southern Girls
The Flame
I Want You to Want Me
Dream Police
Never Had A Lot to Lose
Surrender
Goodnight

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