Show Review: Cheap Trick and Blue Oyster Cult at the OC Fair in Costa Mesa, CA

Words & Photos by Greg Jacobs

Cheap Trick was my gateway drug to punk rock.

When I was a kid, I listened to a steady diet of Cheap Trick. Especially Live at Budokan. From there, it was an easy transition to The Sex Pistols’ album Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols and punk rock in general.

Cheap Trick are known as a great rock ‘n’ roll band, but they are also admired as a great power pop band, influencing legions of bands spanning several genres. So many bands owe so much to Cheap Trick. Kurt Cobain called them one of his favorite bands.

“Check Your Head” by Beastie Boys opens with a Cheap Trick sample (“this next one is the first song on our new album”). Green Day, Big Black, Anthrax, Marilyn Manson, Joey Ramone, Bob Mould, Big DRILL Car, NOFX and tons more have covered Cheap Trick songs. Elvis Costello said of Cheap Trick’s first record: The result is a rock ‘n’ roll record like no other, equal parts poppy, powerful, angsty, funny, scary, sweet, and just a little weird.

All parts poppy, powerful, angsty, funny, scary, sweet, and just a little weird were on display at Pacific Amphitheatre last Wednesday, despite having just 50 percent of their original lineup. The new rhythm section consisted of Daxx Nielsen on drums (son of guitarist Rick Nielsen) and Robin Taylor playing a 12-string bass (son of singer Robin Zander). Undeterred, the father/son rock quartet was amazing. They had the crowd dancing and singing along as soon as Robin Zander started their opening song “Hello There.”

Guitarist and songwriter Rick Nielsen led the band through a great set that spanned their career, but was still heavy on the favorites: “Surrender,” “I Want You To Want Me,” “Downed,” “Dream Police,” and so many more.

One of Rick Nielsen’s trademarks is throwing guitar picks into the crowd while he plays. I don’t mean flipping a single pick to a fan mid-song—Nielsen has handfuls of picks on top of his amps and showers the crowd with them. Unfortunately for me, he didn’t begin the shower of picks until after I left the photo area after the 3rd song. I was so confident I was going to get a pick that I told my wife I’d get her one for her birthday (whoops).

Maybe the best thing about seeing Cheap Trick is witnessing the sheer joy they exude while playing live. Cheap Trick have been playing music for well over 40 years, and they still love it. Nielsen referred to Robin Zander as his “favorite singer in the whole wide world” at least twice during the show, and after the show on Wednesday night,Zander might be my favorite singer in the whole wide world, too.

Blue Oyster Cult opened the show for Cheap Trick that night. Blue Oyster Cult is a ’70s rock band we thought we were rebelling against when we cut our hair and pierced our ears back in the early days, yet we could all sing along when we heard them on the radio. And I sang along again on Wednesday. They sounded great,  just like I imagined their records would sound. They played the three songs I know by them: “Godzilla,” “Burnin’ for You,” “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” and they nailed all of them.

Cheap Trick

Blue Oyster Cult

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