Rock legends Cheap Trick closed the 10th year of the Live at the Garden concert series at Memphis Botanic Garden with an energetic and flawless performance. The Traveling Twosome were there covering the event and photographing the outdoor show.
Cheap Trick, arguably the greatest live act in rock history, has been touring almost constantly for four decades. After all those years their energy, passion, and professionalism still shines as brightly as ever even as they perform such long time standards as “Surrender” (Heaven Tonight, 1978) and “I Want You to Want Me” (In Color, 1977).
Far from being a playlist of their greatest hits, this Cheap Trick concert delighted their fans with a taste of tracks from their deeper catalog as well as current selections from The Latest, their aptly named latest album release. The show included gems such as “The Ballad of TV Violence,” “The House is Rockin,” “I Didn’t Know I Had It,” and an incredible rendition of “Heaven Tonight.” The highlight of the show for me, however, was a track from their current album, “These Days.”
The weather in Memphis was absolutely perfect and the sound mix couldn’t have been better for an outdoor show. Bassist Tom Petersson played a beautiful, glitzy 12 string bass the entire evening (Petersson was the first bassist to own and play a 12 string bass; he is also credited with originating the idea for such an instrument) while guitarist Rick Nielsen showcased a series of custom guitars (as usual) throughout the night. Robin Zander’s vocals proved to be as impressive as ever, hitting notes most male (and some female) lead singers can only dream of reaching. Drummer Bun E. Carlos took a leave of absence from touring earlier this year so the band turned to their back up drummer: Daxx Nielsen, son of guitarist Rick Nielsen.
While The Latest proved that Cheap Trick can still write those heavy guitar laden power pop anthems better than most anyone, this concert performance demonstrated why their live performances are still the envy of bands half their age. While most of the fans in the crowd of 6,000 hailed from my generation and were seeing Cheap Trick for the twentieth-or-so time, there were a large number of teens in the audience who found themselves captivated by the timeless, youthful sound and walking to the merchandise tables to buy Cheap Trick T-Shirts. I can think of no other band that has the ability to speak to so many generations of pop and rock fans without changing their approach to the music.
Cheap Trick is one of those bands that seem to bring out music aficionados who appreciate every nuance of well written songs. The band is far more mature musically than most classic rock acts who still tour today yet they still hang on to a youthful edge that other bands from the 1970s have lost over time. All at the same time they are the renegade band whose songs masterfully littered the soundtrack of the teenage rebellion film, Over The Edge… and they are the band who embraced The Beatles, Elvis, and Fats Domino. Each member is respected as one of the most influential masters of their craft.
They’ve been hailed as the best band to ever cover The Beatles (which was proven once and for all with their recent Sgt. Pepper Live tour and album release) and they pulled out Magical Mystery Tour for this concert. Missing from the Memphis show, however, was the cover of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” which reached #4 in 1988.
One thing I’ve found unique about Cheap Trick concerts over the years is how many times people in the crowds have seen them perform live. Char and I spent some time talking with many of the fans and asked each how many times they had seen the band perform. Char was determined to find someone in the crowd who had seen them more times than I had. Check out our video of our fun time engaging with the fans and find out if Char succeeded in her quest. (25 MB MP4 playable in Quicktime, VLC, iTunes, etc.)
In addition to seeing a great live performance by Cheap Trick, we also must mention the venue where the event was held. The Memphis Botanic Gardens is a beautiful backdrop for an evening of live music. They set tables for foo and wine in front of the stage (premium tickets) and have ample room for general admission lawn seating beyond the roped off tables. Large screens are positioned in the lawns for those who want a closer look at the stage. The venue itself impressed us beyond our expectations and we look forward to covering other events during next year’s season. We’ll be writing about the Live at the Garden events and the venue in a separate post – watch for it on this site!