I Want You to Want Me... How Cheap Trick Rocked Charleston

AUTHOR
I finally got to a 2nd chance at seeing them in concert (after a disappointing 1st experience)... I'll tell you what our ultra-serious modern rock bands could learn from this 40-year-old group
The first time I saw Cheap Trick, I had a classic case of mixed feelings. On the one hand there was the actual performance. The band was opening for Stone Temple Pilots at the North Charleston Coliseum, and I'm not sure who was running the sound on that evening back in May of 1997, but it sounded like Robin Zander was singing underwater. After waiting half my life up to see the band play live, this was a huge let-down.
 
There was an up side to that evening though; I got to meet the band after their set. They were nice as could be, and even the normally reclusive drummer Bun E. Carlos came out to say hello. I did not say anything about the subpar performance to the band members at the time, but I was already looking forward to seeing the band again in the future, perhaps in an environment that would allow me to actually hear them clearly. 
 
That chance finally came last week, as Cheap Trick returned to the Lowcountry to play the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. This time everything was damn near perfect. Even though Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen, and bassist Tom Petersson are all in their 60s (the band celebrated its 40th anniversary this year), they can still bring it live. Carlos is not currently playing with the band, but Nielsen's son, Daxx, was on hand to play drums, and he actually did a phenomenal job.
 
The band opened with the band's traditional kickoff song, "Hello There," and for the next 90 minutes, Cheap Trick reminded its fans exactly why this band still matters after more then four decades at it. In short, they're fun. I mean really fun, in a way rock music almost refuses to be these days. Between Nielsen's mugging for the women down front, Petersson's crazy 12-string bass, and Zander's biker/dark side of the Dream Police ensemble, it would be pretty silly to expect anyone to mistake Cheap Trick for one of today's ultra-serious modern rock bands.
 
>> Still, when it came to music, the band proved that few acts can lay down the power pop like Cheap Trick.
 
Rolling through songs such as "California Man," their supercharged version of Fats Domino's "Ain't That A Shame," and a superbly raunchy "She's Tight" (which featured Nielsen playing a double-necked guitar that was built to resemble the guitarist himself), it was obvious that the band still put 110% into its live act. It was the little touches, like the checkerboard motif of the stage, that showed these guys weren't simply out to make a quick buck, but rather to play hard for their fans. 
 
At one point, the band brought what appeared to be a teenage girl up onstage and signed her vinyl copy of Cheap Trick At Budokan.
 
All during the show Nielsen, was tossing out guitar picks to the crowd whenever he had the chance, sometimes even going to the side of the stage to grab a huge handful of picks from a bucket and shower them over the first couple of rows like confetti.
 
>> My friend Jessica remarked how Nielsen was the Oprah Winfrey of guitar pick giving, which led me to exclaim, "YOU get a pick, and YOU get a pick! Everybody gets a piiick!" I'd seriously like to know what the band spends on picks each year.
 
Other tunes included a cover of Big Star's "In the Street," which Cheap Trick originally recorded to serve as the theme song for TV's "That 70s Show," a version of "I Want You To Want Me" that brought the crowd to its feet, and a spirited version of "Dream Police," which featured Zander getting the James Brown treatment as a roadie threw a silver-sequined cape over the singer's shoulders after belting out the chorus. 
 
>> "I was walking downtown today, and I was kind of pissed off because I only got recognized three times," joked Nielsen between songs.
 
For an encore, the band performed three songs, including "Surrender" and a traditional closer, "Goodnight." Although the PAC was only three-quarters full, it was readily evident that the crowd had come to see their band play the hits with enthusiasm.
 
In this mission, Cheap Trick was beautifully successful.