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Cheap Trick At The Moody Center, Austin, TX, July 29th, 2012 Reviewed

I've seen Cheap Trick approximately 35 times (first time I saw them was in 1981) and last night was one of the best performances I've ever seen. That's pretty good for a bunch of guys in their 60s.

In their 38th year of performing, Cheap Trick proved in Austin on 29 July that they can still be a remarkably powerful and entertaining band. Taking a break from curtain jerking for Aerosmith, a headlining gig at the Moody Center was sandwiched around arena dates in Dallas and Houston. Approximately 2,000 fans witnessed a spectacular rock ‘n’ roll performance.

The major change for Cheap Trick during the past few years has been the replacement of Bun E. Carlos with Daxx Nielsen (one of Rick’s sons) on the drums. While Daxx does not match Bun E.’s resounding authority, the replacement has resulted in longer/more varied set lists. Perhaps more importantly, the interpersonal dynamics within the band appear to be in better shape. Simply put, the group is having much more fun these days. Robin Zander is more demonstrative and interactive with the crowd than he’s ever been. Also, by slightly increasing the tempo on the band’s slower songs and ballads, Daxx keeps the set moving at a crisp pace.

Now in his 60s, Rick Nielsen no longer resembles the Tazmanian Devil onstage, but still constantly tosses out pics, while working every inch of the stage and every segment of the crowed (often individually recognizing hardcore fans). Never missing a (guitar) lick, the man was born to perform. Tom Petersson displays his versatility within the context of the band, laying back when needed or carrying hard charging numbers such as “Stop This Game” and 2009’s firebomb “Sick Man of Europe.” Petersson and Nielsen meshed together like twin machine guns during the instrumental breaks of “The House is Rockin’” and “Need Your Love.”

During the last several numbers before the encore, the band drove the audience from happy to euphoric. 1988’s #1 pop hit “The Flame” and their 1979 breakthrough “I Want You to Want Me” energized the casual fans. Hard hitting versions of “That 70s Song” and “Surrender” – one of the best pop songs ever recorded – had the crowd rushing the stage, dancing, singing, blissful. The fans were rabid by the time the band returned to perform “Dream Police” and the psychological thriller “Gonna Raise Hell,” pushing the boys from Rockford to play at their best. Both the audience and the band ended the night exhausted and thrilled.

At one level, Cheap Trick is nothing more than a nostalgia act, no longer doing anything new or innovative within the context of popular music. However, on their best nights, they prove that nothing is more exciting than an exceptional rock ‘n’ roll band playing with passion and precision. Oh, and the lead singer is pretty good, too.

Grade: A

Setlist:
Clock Strikes Ten
Just Got Back
California Man
She's Tight
The House is Rockin'
On Top of the World
Stop This Game
Heaven Tonight
Oh, Candy
Borderline
Voices
I Know What I Want
Need Your Love
Sick Man of Europe
The Flame
I Want You to Want Me
That 70s Song
Surrender

Encore
Dream Police
Gonna Raise Hell
Goodnight Now

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