Live at Pacific Amphitheatre
August 12, 2023 Review by Todd Markel
With the future of a music amphitheater in the city of Irvine still uncertain, it is nice to know that our beloved Pacific Amphitheatre is still thriving and celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. Though its season may be short, the diversity and quality of the acts should make us all appreciate it all the more. When this show was announced, I knew right away it was special.
Being a long-time fan of both Cheap Trick and The Tubes, I was ready for a great night out and just as ready to sing along to many of my favorite songs from years gone by. The night’s fun started as I was walking up to the box office and ran into Daxx Nielsen, Cheap Trick’s touring drummer since 2010, and son of guitarist Rick Nielsen. He’s very talented and a genuinely nice guy, and was more than happy to talk to us fans.
Kicking things off was the always remarkable, The Tubes. The band appeared onstage – all wearing bright fluorescent suits – and with an over-the-top introduction that promised they were going to cram rock n’ roll down our throats: “The number one group in the world. From San Francisco, The Tubes.”
Opening with the instrumental number “Overture,” before segueing into the appropriate “Turn Me On.” With its bouncing bassline, front-man Fee Waybill walked out to the stage to join his fellow original members, Roger Steen on guitar, legendary Prairie Prince on drums, and filling out the rest of the band was Atom Ellis playing bass and David Medd tickling the ivories.
Waybill removed his jacket, loosened his tie, and they went all the way back to their self-titled debut album and the amusing jazzy classic “What Do You Want from Life.” With its line “To kidnap an heiress or threaten her with a knife,” it previously included an extended jam that would involve audience members being brought on stage for a mock game show, but it had to be simplified for time constraints.
The Tubes followed up with what is probably their biggest chart hit, “She’s a Beauty.” Off the “Outside Inside” album – which just happens to be celebrating its 40th anniversary this year – the song was a huge hit in 1983 and had a good part of the crowd singing back the chorus of “One in a million girls,” with smiles on their faces.
With a nod to their roots and their archetypal show, Waybill took off his shirt and put on a leather bondage mask for their classic song “Mondo Bondage.” Then in homage to his alter ego character “Quay Lewd,” he donned a Rorer 714 t-shirt as they played their epic and timeless song “White Punks on Dope,” and the crowd roared with approval.
They finished their set with one of their other big hits, “Talk to You Later.” Their usual elaborate stage show has been toned down, but no Tubes fan would have been disappointed with their set.
During a brief intermission while the stage was getting set, you could sense anticipation was high for Cheap Trick. The band – with a distinct sense of humor – hails from Rockford, IL, and they’ve laid a foundation for power pop to pop punk and influenced everyone from Def Leppard to Green Day. With its Westminster chime riff, their usual opener of “Clock Strike Ten” kicked the show into high gear. “Just Got Back” and “Stiff Competition” followed, but for me, it was “California Man” that got the show going. The song was originally done by the British rock band, The Move, but Cheap Trick has definitely made it one of their own and a fan favorite.
Daxx Nielsen went into the familiar drum beat/solo that was made famous by his predecessor, Bun E. Carlos, which most fans immediately recognize as it builds into what is their well-known version of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame.” Front-man Robin Zander has been called one of the best singers in rock music and as “the man of a thousand voices,” he’s influenced a wide variety of singers who have followed in his footsteps. Tonight, he definitely proved why.
Not ones to just rest on the laurels of their early work, in 2021 Cheap Trick released their 20th album, “In Another World,” which did quite well on the world’s music charts. They played one of the singles; the banger “Light Up the Fire,” a hard-rocking number that got the crowd on its feet and moving.
Over the past few years, the front-man’s 29-year-old son, Robin Taylor Zander, has been called upon to play drums, bass, and lead guitar when other members weren’t available. Now he has joined the band as an additional touring guitarist and singer. He definitely has his dad’s chops as he demonstrated when he took the front stage to sing a fantastic rendition of “Downed.”
Bass player virtuoso Tom Peterrson took center stage for his distinctive bass solo. Peterrson plays a 12-string bass, so his style is unlike anyone else. He then went on to sing his song from the “Dream Police” album, “I Know What I Want.”
“The Flame” was released in 1988 and became a huge hit for the band – in fact, their only number one. Being the big epic ballad that seemed to define that generation, it had the crowd swaying back and forth in appreciation.
Rick Nielsen – ever the guitar hero – played a different guitar from his collection for every song throughout the night, and in the process tossed out hundreds of guitar picks to the crowd. When a fan shouted, “I fucking love you, Rick!” Nielsen responded, “You fucking love me? My wife doesn’t even say that!”
Ending the show with three songs that they are best known for: “I Want You to Want Me,” the surreal “Dream Police,” and one of the best songs of all time, “Surrender.” With lyrics that are as vague as they are relatable: “Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright, they just seem a little weird;” Who can’t relate to that sentiment? With 8,000 people pumping their fists in the air and yelling, “We’re alright, we’re all alright,” it’s a pretty positive affirmation, and sometimes that is exactly what we all need.
As it was very close to the venue’s 10 p.m. curfew, there was no time for the band to do a proper encore, so they immediately went into their closer “Goodnight.” Such an appropriate song to end a night of incredible music. “Good night now ladies and gentlemen. Good night now ladies and gents.
That’s the end of the show; now it’s time to go.” The tour will spend the next three months cross North America, so check dates for one near you.
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by Todd Markel Rock Photography
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SID 230814 | TRACI TURNER, EDITOR