Watertown, NY will NEVER be considered an epicenter of entertainment or culture, but there has been a surprising increase in the number of concerts coming through the area as of late. You have to hand it to Black Shoe Productions and Amp Entertainment, who have been working very hard to keep us musically entertained. They’ve been doing some great things in Upstate, NY, and J.P. is the dude!

Truth be told, you can’t beat a classic act, and on June 28th, Cheap Trick brought their timeless sound to the Watertown Fairgrounds for a great set of inspired rock and comically charming stage banter, just as they’ve been doing for the past 40 years. Think about that… 40 years of constant touring. There is so much heart in this band, and though time is ultimately every person’s enemy, it’s good to know that some things won’t end until they end completely. Though they are heading out with Aerosmith this summer, the “American Beatles” were here tonight!

The Rockford, Illinois rockers are a powerhouse quartet, playing classic rock songs that are not necessarily Classic Rock. Though I wasn’t born yet when they got started, I’ll bet their tracks cut and resonate as well today as they did back in 1973 when they first started performing together. Though it was primarily an older crowd, there was no shortage very pretty ladies and younger guys in the room, and people were having a great time. They may be older rockers, but they still rock.

Entering the half full venue, people were milling around excitedly, downing beers and content listening to cover bands while they waited for the legends to hit the stage. The quaint but remarkably cool venue is the perfect size for shows in Watertown.

When the band hit the stage 8:30, people were ready to go. Though there was plenty of room to sit, move around, and be comfortable, security did have to contain the front a bit when they started, as there were some very exuberant fans bouncing around. Strutting out to the stage, Robin Zander’s voice still working well. He can’t quite hit all those trademark super high notes anymore, but no holding that against him… He still sounds great!

I’ll have you know that Rick Nielson still a nut onstage, and so much fun to watch. Incorporating his super rock guitar solo chops whenever he can, he owns his Les Paul. And forever a comic, he loves cracking jokes to get the crowd going. Highlight of the night occurred when one rambunctious fan began to shriek out in maniacal laughter, causing Rick to insult the size, and shape, of his testicles. Choice slam and the crowd ate it up! But the best part came at the end, when he brought out his famed 5-necked guitar for the encore, making the whole show worthwhile. I mean, they are the #25 best Hard Rock Band of All-Time, according to VH1… You’ve gotta bring out the big guns!

Tom Petersson’s bass provided a very heavy bottom end, causing the venue to resonate like crazy at times, in no small part due to the height of the ceiling. His solo in the middle of the set was a nice touch, giving him time to embellish for his fans and allowing the other members to take a small break.

And I didn’t know this prior to show time, but Bun E. Carlos wasn’t, and hasn’t, been performing with the band for a few years, which, as a drummer, really sucked for me. Plagued by back problems, guitarist Rick Nielson’s son, Dax, would be hitting the skins this evening, and held it down well. I’m sure Mr. Carlos would have approved, with a dangling cigarette on one side of his face and a beaming smile on the other.

Stating that they were playing tracks they don’t usually play, it was a cool thing to see a group known for hits pull out the back catalogue to highlight a few forgotten numbers. The easy mix of faster and slower jams had the room captivated, culminating with couples of all ages gently swaying to “The Flame,” a great fall-in-love song. Though there were a few technical difficulties and a few missed hits and wrong notes here and there, the band was in great form. You can’t expect as much energy out of the group now as you could back in their youthful prime, but screw it… It’s Rock and Roll! The fact that they’re still performing and doing it well is laudable in and of itself.

Huge props for punctuality, the early running show was out by 10pm, giving people plenty of time to have a few drinks and loosen up while still keeping a reasonable bed time. Worth the hour drive and gas money? You betcha. Catch them on tour this summer with Aerosmith!

Set List:

Clock Strikes Ten

Just Got Back

California Man

She’s Tight

The House Is Rockin

You’re All Talk

Stop The Game

Heaven Tonight

Oh Candy

Borderline

Voices

I Know What I Want

Dream Police

The Flame

I Want You To Want Me

70’s Song

Surrender

Auffy

Goodnight

Www.cheaptrick.com