“This is our fourth time here. The first time was 1978, then 1979, then 1980. So, we haven’t been here in 40 years,” said Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen at the Palace Theatre in Albany on Friday night.
Forty years ago, the members of Cheap Trick – who formed in Rockford, Illinois, in 1973 – were on top of the world. The group’s 1978 tour of Japan elicited a Beatlemania-like frenzy, a scene immortalized on their live album “Cheap Trick at Budokan.”
The years from 1978 to 1980 also saw the release of the band’s best regarded albums, including “In Color,” “Heaven Tonight” and “Dream Police.” But Cheap Trick garnered more recent accolades too. The group became Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees in 2016, and it continues to record new music.
At heart, Cheap Trick is a power-pop group with touches of glitz. It offers just the right amount of no-frills, bare bones rock paired with enough glamour to keep things thrilling. It’s a winning formula, one that was on full display at the Palace, where fans left more than happy.
The band treated the audience to a fun-filled 19-song set including some of its most propulsive hits, joyous numbers like its signature “Hello There,” “Come On, Come On,” “ELO Kiddies” and Fats Domino cover “Ain’t that a Shame.”
Stylish singer Robin Zander – dressed in a white shirt and white pants emblazoned with blue glittery stars, his blonde hair blowing underneath his white captain’s hat as if he were in a windstorm – sounded in fine form. Along with guitarist Nielsen, Zander was joined by longtime bassist Tom Petersson and Daxx Nielsen (son of Rick), who replaced drummer Bun E. Carlos.
In front of a black and white checkered backdrop, the power-pop masters also hit high notes on teen power ballad “The Flame,” classic sing-along “I Want You to Want Me” and “Dream Police.” Although the members of Cheap Trick are now pushing 70, they managed to perfectly express the abandon of youth on “Surrender.”
A cover of the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” had a delightful psychedelia-meets-power-pop vibe. “It’s a beautiful place here,” Nielsen said after, looking out at the gorgeous baroque interior of the Palace. “I was high the last three times I was here,” he joked.
Neilson – who reportedly owns over 400 guitars – later broke out his five-neck version during set closer “Goodnight.” Although it seemed more like a gimmick, “It’s like the David Byrne big suit,” a fan said – something absurdly impractical but always thrilling to see in action.
Bloodshot Records band ROOKIE, a six-piece Chicago bar rock band dressed in matching gas station attendant jumpsuits, offered a gratifying opening set that included a cover of Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels” and its current single “Sunglasses.”