If you want Cheap Trick, make trip to Honeywell
Hall of Famers will be stopping in Wabash for show on April 19
Touring is something Cheap Trick have been doing consistently since forming in Rockford, Illinois, in 1973.
However, when they were sidelined in 2020 by you know what, founding member Rick Nielsen did not sit back twiddling his thumbs.
“I’ve never been home that much ever,” he said. “It wasn’t inspiring, but it was interesting. Everybody was in the same boat, me the same as you and the next guy. I have other things I do, organizing things, working on my guitar collection, stuff I can’t do from the road so well. I try to create jobs for other people, and that’s what I did. There’s a spirits business that I’ve been involved in. I worked on two pilots for TV, just lots of stuff. I can’t hold it in my hand here and show you.”
One of those things the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer can show fans was In Another World, Cheap Trick’s 20th studio outing.
Some of those songs will make their way to the Honeywell Center stage when the group stops by on Wednesday, April 19.
Not resting on laurels
While In Another World’s official release was April 2021, a couple of singles were leaked out dating back to 2018, including the opening cut “The Summer Looks Good on You,” a gem chock full of layered harmonies and irresistible guitar riffs that stoke images of the beach, warm weather, and carefree vibes.
It’s the kind of seasonal ear worm that would have been all over radio in an earlier age. Instead, it’s been ignored by classic rock stations more content with playing the live version of “I Want You To Want Me” for the millionth time versus letting the public know Cheap Trick has a new album chock full of radio-ready cuts.
The album also features veteran harmonica player Jimmy Hall on “Final Day.”
“We’ve known Jimmy Hall through the years with Wet Willie, and we had a part where Robin (Zander) plays harmonica, and while he’s really good, Jimmy Hall is way better,” Nielsen said. “We’ve worked with well-known players before and it didn’t turn out the way we wanted. With Jimmy, he just fit right in.”
The album also features John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” featuring friend and ex-Sex Pistol Steve Jones on guitar. While fans might scratch their heads over the decision for the apolitical Cheap Trick to cut one of Lennon’s more overtly political songs, it made perfect sense to Nielsen and his bandmates.
“We’re not a political band, but we talk about politics amongst ourselves,” Nielsen said. “These are songs that we’d written over a period of time, including during the last four years of the last administration, it’s about how to be optimistic in a pessimistic world. We decided to do ‘Gimme Some Truth’ so John Lennon could get all the credit and all the criticism. It seemed an apropos song.”
Taking up guitar
Dependably consistent might be the best way to describe Cheap Trick.
For Nielsen, his musical path started out being the son of opera singers who moved from the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, Illinois, to Rockford, where they opened a music store.
By the time he was 13, Nielsen was a drummer in The Phaetons, his first band. Tired of having to get up from behind his kit to teach the guitarists the proper chording for Stones and Beatles covers, he switched to guitar.
While Nielsen’s love of the instrument has led to his amassing an impressive guitar collection that includes a five-neck axe, he has a Midwestern modesty about his ability.
“I was self-taught and I still think of myself more as a songwriter than a guitar player,” he said. “There are all these guitar whizzes around. I’m not one of them.”
Those compositional chops have roots in the British Invasion and the rich trove of blues legends plying their trade in Nielsen’s childhood Chicago backyard.
Staying in their lane
In the nearly five decades since forming, Cheap Trick have relied on a disciplined work ethic that Nielsen acknowledges has earned them a reputation for being a rock-solid live act to this day.
“Wham, bam, thank you ma’am,” he said. “We get up there and play. We’re fortunate that we have so much different material to pick from.”
While the fickle tastes of the music industry have ebbed and flowed, Nielsen and Co. have established a solid canon of music and become a much-loved act whose hard work landed them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
For Nielsen, his band’s longevity is rooted in staying true to their roots of being a rock and roll band with an ear for pop.
“I say this as kind of a joke. We’ve never progressed,” he said. “We didn’t try to be something we weren’t. We started off pretty good, but to never progress means we didn’t want to be a jazz group or a metal act. We’re just trying to be what we did. To this day, we’ve never had fire pots or explosions. We’re Cheap Trick. The playing and our music set us apart. We didn’t have any dance steps worked out. We’ve never worried about changing for the sake of change.”