VIENNA, VA August 27, 2013 — Wolf Trap’s Wayback Machine took a near capacity crowd back to the 70’s with a pair of living juke box performances as Pat Benatar and Cheap Trick, each rock and roll legends boasting distinguished musical careers, graced the stage for a near perfect evening.
First up were Cheap Trick the youthful boys from Rockford, Illinois.
Compiling a set that might have been played during their legendary nights live at Budokan in Tokyo, Japan, the quartet offered a performance of near reckless abandon, loaded with energy.
Cheap Trick has built a career over the past four decades on live shows that manage to retain a garage band urgency.
They did not disappoint.
From the opening notes of “Hello There” to the final flourish of “Goodnight, it was a 16 song attack spearheaded by Robin Zanders’ still high range vocals throughout.
Looking like Guns and Roses’ Axl Rose from the 1980s, complete with leather garb and police cap (I’m now sure Axl copped that look from Mr. Zander), he worked the stage smiling like a content fool and occasionally showing his long blonde mane, really looking more 25-years old than 60.
Guitarist Rick Nielsen, wearing a signature baseball cap and standing in front of a mini-wall of checkered amps, switching guitars as he played through a guitar collection that both Andy Warhol and Jimmy Page could admire.
The 64-year old spent as much time entertaining himself as the audience as he bounced around like a Mexican jumping bean, unleashed guitar flourishes and flicked picks to the crowd like a master Ninja warrior.
Note to parents; he never poked an eye out.
A steady stream of hits were played including “Dream Police,” “I Want You to Want Me,” “Ain’t That a Shame,” “California Man,” “The Flame” and, of course, “Surrender.”
The crowd predictably erupting with glee as they played “In the Street” which the band recorded, mixing in Surrender’s refrain of “We’re All All Right” for the theme song to the popular That 70’s Show.
Let’s also toss kudos to bassist Tom Petersson who pulled out the 12-string bass for a solo and sang, “I Know What I Want,” a song that Cheap Trick junkies appreciated.
However, at roughly 75-minutes, Cheap Tricks’ performance was way too short for my tastes. I needed to hear “She’s Tight,” “Baby Loves to Rock,” “On Top of the World,” “Clock Strikes Ten” and “Stop this Game” to name a few.
My only other disappointment was drumming legend Bun E. Carlos not being behind the kit. No disrespect to Daxx Nielsen (the son of the guitarist) but it’s hard to imagine Cheap Trick without the spectacled, gloved and mustached percussionist complete with a cigarette hanging from his lip methodically pounding his way through songs.
Next up was Pat Benatar and guitar maestro husband Neil Giraldo offering a range of hits spanning their career.
In a more “Behind the Music” atmosphere with Miss Benatar and Mr. Giraldo discussing nostalgic nuggets about their life throughout, the band (complete with bassist Mick Mahan and drummer Chris Ralles in action) played a set that included “Heartbreaker,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “You Better Run,” “Promises in the Dark,” “Hell is For Children” and “We Belong.”
All were highlighted by not only the flawless vocals of the 4-time Grammy winner but the surprisingly spry lead and rhythm work of Mr. Giraldo.
However, once again, I’ll mention my disappoint from the drum throne. Conspicuously absent was Miss Benatar’s crazed drummer Myron Grombacher (is this brilliant percussionist really a Porsche salesman now, what???) replaced by the more than efficient, but not very exciting, Mr. Ralles.
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