Austin City Limits Taping – Cheap Trick
Cheap Trick opened the 36th and final season for Austin City Limits in its current location on the University of Texas campus. They’ll be moving to block 21 just north of city hall sometime near the end of this year or beginning of next year.
I had an amusing moment before the show at Terra Burger across the street. I saw a guy with platinum blond hair decked out in cowboy rocker gear and just wrote him off as a SXSW hipster wannabee. I passed him as I got a drink refill and headed out to wait for the interminable light to cross The Drag back over to the communications building. He came out at the same time and stood next to me. I looked over at him and it dawned on me that it was probably Robin Zander, Cheap Trick’s front man. Turns out that I was right that it was Robin and wrong that he was a wannabee. If anybody’s entitled to walk around like that, it’s him.
If Robin was inconspicuous with his presence in the Terra Burger, Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos is conspicuous by his absence on this trip through Austin. He wasn’t at the taping last night or at an interview with CNBC on St. Patrick’s Day and he hasn’t been mentioned in any of the interviews that I’ve seen so far (including an interview from Austin360 where they give a shout out to Sam’s BBQ on east 12th street). It’s almost like they’re trying to avoid talking about it (is this punishment for that Hanson/James Iha side project?). Guitarist Rick Neilsen’s son Daxx filled in admirably during the taping. He’s definitely of the Bun E. school of drumming. The band is rounded out with amazing 12 string (!?!?) bass player Tom Petersson and two keyboard players, Phil “Magic” Cristian, who’s played with them on and off since the 80s and Roger Manning from Jellyfish and Imperial Drag.
On to the show, there’s not much to be said about Cheap Trick that hasn’t already been said. They’re legends. They’ve had ups and they’ve had downs, but they’re still around and know how to put on a great show. They played their three classics: “I Want You To Want Me”, “Dream Police” and “Surrender”, and after that stuck to mostly newer stuff including the theme to That 70s Show and a tribute to recently deceased pop master Alex Chilton who was also supposed to play SXSW this week. The tribute included the cover of the Big Star song “In The Street” that they did for the opening theme of That 70s Show. Nielsen did, in fact, use a different guitar for every song and threw out enough guitar picks that nearly everyone in the audience could’ve had one if they hadn’t been hoarded by the people in the standing room only section in the front. He didn’t pull out any of the multi-necked guitars that he’s famous for though the one bearing his likeness sat unused next to his stacks of amps for the entire set. Zander’s voice is still strong and has an impressive range. They had the whole place going during “Surrender”.
Their latest album is called, confusingly enough, “The Latest” and is available now. Be on the lookout for the long rumored re-recording of their second album, In Color, produced by Steve Albini that supposedly contains some tracks that Carlos and Neilsen originally did for John Lennon’s last album, Double Fantasy, but that never made it out. Follow ACL producer Leslie Nichols on Twitter for a ton of behind-the-scenes and during-the-taping updates. Look for the first episode of season 36 with Cheap Trick to air sometime this fall.
Update: And, duh, they play Auditorium Shores tonight at 8pm for free.
Way of the World
When the Lights Are Out
If You Want My Love
I Want You to Want Me
Baby Loves to Rock
In The Street (Theme from That ’70s Show)
Sick Man of Europe
Closer (The Ballad of Burt and Linda)
Gonna Raise Hell