Live Review: Cheap Trick - Kentish Town Forum - London, 27/06/2017
London's O2 Forum in Kentish Town is tonight's setting for some legendary rockers from across the pond and they go by the name of Cheap Trick. Now, I am aware that a majority of our readers may be too young to know who they are, so before you jump over to Wikipedia, let me give you a brief history lesson..
Formed in the early 70's, in what would eventually be known as the 'Classic Rock' era, the band released their first album, the self titled ”Cheap Trick” in 1977, a couple of years after being signed up by Epic Records. Rick Nielson (lead guitar), Bun E. Carlos (drums), Tom Petersson (bass) and lead singer Robin Zander toured extensively throughout the US and with hit songs like “I Want You To Want Me” and “Clock Strikes Ten” took the band as far afield a Japan. The seventies were very kind to the band and their fame grew and grew, but it wasn't until 1979 and their live album, “Cheap Trick at Budokan”, which was recorded in Japan, turned them into a household name around the world.
Throughout the eighties and nighties, band members came and went (Bun E. Carlos was to be replaced by Rick Nielson's son Daxx in 2010), the band tried their hand at different musical styles and even partied ways with numerous record labels. It was a turbulent time for the group but with the new millennium came new beginnings. The band became more settled and they began to lay new foundations and became a familiar soundtrack in pop culture. For fans of “That 70's Show”, Cheap Trick did the theme song, a cover of “In The Street” originally sung by “Big Stars”. The songs “Dream Police” and “Hello There” have featured in the popular Guitar Hero video game. They have toured with other legends of rock like, Aerosmith, Boston, Kiss and Def Leppard. They even played a part in inspiring the story of the cult classic film “This Is Spinal Tap” as well as being referenced numerous times in “The Simpsons”.
So to all the people who claim they have never heard of Cheap Trick, it turns out that you more than likely have heard of them without even realising it.
If you ever get the chance to attend a concert by a legendary rock group, I implore you to do so as they really know what they are doing. Cheap Trick have never really stopped touring since the seventies and they have been one of the most entertaining bands I have ever witnessed. I am a huge Simpsons fan and so when the voice of Homer Simpson came out across the speakers citing his preference for their music, followed by Apu singing “Dream Police”, a big smile crossed my face.
The band made their way on to the stage and opened with the aptly named “Hello There”, followed by “Long Time Coming”, perhaps a nod to their absence from our shores? Well, they certainly arrived with a bang! I spoke with people in the crowd, some had never seen the band live before and even myself included, had no idea what to expect. Their set was littered with songs both old and new, although new material was kept to a minimum as Robin, noted that people prefer the nostalgia and familiarity of the classic songs.
“On Top Of The World” was an early track that stood out, as Rick Nielson seemed to perform a never ending guitar solo, in fact the whole night felt like one long jamming session. It was fantastic. In fact Rick on guitar was a pleasure to watch throughout the whole gig, he is an absolute guitar master but it was his theatrics and being able to laugh at himself that kept your eyes fixed to the stage. He would jump around trying to do scissor kicks, and as you can imaging, that is no easy feat for anyone approaching 70, but we loved him even more for it.
On the opposite side of the stage was the still ever so stylish Tom Petersson on bass, and what a beautiful bass it was, somewhat befitting of it's owner. His own signature style, 12 string Gretsch Falcon, in a beautiful white and gold finish. Gretsch never cease to dazzle me with their guitars, and it was a pleasure to watch Tom play it so beautifully, especially when he took solo centre stage to perform “Waiting For The Man”. It was reminiscent of Ringo Starr when he was unleashed by the other Beatles to perform a solo, I wanted to absorb every moment.
The main man on vocals, centre stage, Robin Zander. Despite being at the age when many people would think about retiring, I was stunned to hear just how good his vocals are and it was during the song “Speak Now” that I made a mental note to make a point of it here. Robin was perfectly capable of hitting those high notes as he projected out to the crowd. “Ballad of TV Violence” was another great song that saw Robin interact with the crowd, getting the house lights turned up so they could see everyone and to ensure the audience's beers were raised in the air, the universal sign of approval. The song has a funky bass line and is a great sing along. Plenty of beers were raised in the air throughout this song.
The night was topped off with their most popular tunes, “Dream Police”, “Surrender” and the final song, keeping with the aptly name song tradition of the night, was “Good Night”. But my favourite was “I Want You To Want Me”. I was brought up on a vast array of music, a lot of it was classic rock and so I was familiar with the song from a young age, but I was also a 13 year old Hanson fan and so when they did a cover of it on one of their live albums, the song became a long standing favourite of mine. So to finally witness the band behind a song that played a big part in your childhood was a real honour.
So to reiterate, I urge anyone reading this to not only support the current music scene, but if you want to witness a master class in live music, you should not neglect the classics. They will show you how to put on a show.
Review and Photography by Rachel Prew