Updated January 4, 2022 - 6:51 am
When Cheap Trick unleashed the hit, “I Want You to Want Me,” they could have been referring to Las Vegas.
“The first time we played Vegas, we opened for Kansas, and they wouldn’t even put us on the marquee,” guitar great and Cheap Trick founding member Rick Nielsen says. “What was on the marquee was true. Kansas was playing. But we weren’t up there with them. They didn’t want the words ‘cheap trick’ on a casino marquee.”
That was for a show on Dec. 30, 1977, at the then-Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts. Or, 44 years to the day of this phone conversation, with Nielsen calling in from Rockford, Ill. The reason: Cheap Trick is coming back to Vegas for a residency at The Strat Theater, running Feb. 25-26, and March 4-5 with showtimes at 9 p.m.
Tickets start at $75, running to $300 for VIP packages, onsale at 10 a.m. Monday at tickets.thestrat.com/CheapTrick. All attendees will be required to receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72-hours prior to event entry, or have vaccination cards showing they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Strat Theater, which is due for refresh in the new year, has been expanded to 900 seats.
And yep, Cheap Trick will be up there in the hotel’s marquee lights. This is the point, as The Strat adds more rock iconography to its Theater lineup. Sammy Hagar has already found a happy home at the hotel with his party-concert show.
“We aren’t just bringing rock ‘n’ roll to the Las Vegas Strip, we’re throwing a party,” says Brad Goldberg, senior vice president of marketing and entertainment for hotel owner Golden Entertainment Inc. “We’re thrilled to add Cheap Trick to our lineup of legendary rock residencies at The Strat for what will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for their fans.”
Goldberg typically reinforces his company’s view that The Strat is on the Strip, continuing the debate between that resort and Sahara about where is the Strip’s northernmost border. But employing the Strip as a selling point can only draw more energy for a Cheap Trick residency at the revitalized resort.
Show co-producer Adam Steck of SPI Entertainment, himself a rock fan, heads up the booking for all entertainment at The Strat Theater. As he says, “Cheap Trick is one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time. They are revered by so many musicians. We’re excited for them to play their great hits. Maybe we’ll see ‘Live at Budokan’ at The Strat.”
This month, SPI and The Strat are expected to announce 2022 dates for Hagar. The Strat Theater’s roster is further occupied by headlining magician Xavier Mortimer, by the mentalist Banachek, and the light-dance production “iLuminate.” The theater has an opening, as the “MJ Live” tribute show closed Thursday night and is reopening Feb. 7 at Tropicana Theater.
Cheap Trick’s appeal is clear. Led by Zander’s distinctive, high-rising vocals and Nielsen’s signature five-neck Hamer electric, the band has released a string of hit singles and albums dating to 1974. “Dream Police,” “Surrender,” and the top-selling “The Flame” top the hit parade. Today’s lineup is original members Nielsen, lead vocalist Robin Zander, bass master Tom Petersson and drummer Daxx Nielsen, Rick’s son.
Daxx Nielsen took over for founding member Bun E. Carlos in 2010. The original lineup was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
Since its first show in ‘77, less than a year before the groundbreaking “Cheap Trick at Budokan” album was released, the band has performed at several Vegas venues. Cheap Trick played a couple of packed Fremont Street Experience shows in the “Downtown Rocks” lineup, most recently drawing 15,000 in August 2019. The veteran rockers also headlined series of terrific performances paying tribute to The Beatles with “Sgt. Pepper Live” at the then-Las Vegas Hilton and later Paris Theater from 2008-2010.
Those shows were impressive for the producers’ ability to find a dozen sitarists for a single Vegas production, for starters. But Cheap Trick added a robust rock vibe to the “Pepper” classics, having secured a place in rock-and-roll lore by recording versions of “Losing You” and “I’m Moving On” with John Lennon in 1980. The band also filled out the “Pepper” show with several of their own hits.
The Strat shows should follow that loose format, with the band focusing on its own material.
“We’re going to play sort of like what we had done before, when we’ve played a full album, and then extra tracks,” Nielsen said. “We’re going to try to do that in Vegas. We can play the first album, the second album, third album and fourth album over a four-night stand.”
Cheap Trick is working around an ever-changing touring schedule, so additional Vegas dates are expected but not yet penciled in. A European tour set for February has been pushed from ‘21 to this year. So has the band’s booking at the Under The Stars festival in Australia. Cheap Trick’s co-headlining tour with ZZ Top in Canada has been moved to this spring. A series with Rod Stewart has been moved to this summer.
“We have so many other shows that that we’ve scheduled and rescheduled, and scheduled, I don’t know exactly what can be worked out,” Nielsen says. That’s all stuff that is backed up, moving, and has been going on for about two years now. It’s like, I know what year it is, but sometimes I’m not sure (laughs). I just want to get onstage and play. We will make it special, that I can promise.
— John Katsilometes (@johnnykats) January 2, 2022
Cool Hang Alert
Vegas country-western fave Chase Brown plays Notoriety Live at 7:30 p.m. (doors) 8 p.m. (line dancing) and 9 p.m. (performance) Friday at Notoriety Live. The man dubbed “The Singing Cowboy” does plan to pack his Disco Ladder. Yes. Disco. It’s covered in a million tiny mirrors. Tickets are $20, get with the NotorietyLive.com website for specs.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.