Published on March 3rd, 2019 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Cheap Trick & Aaron Lee Tasjan Dominate Long Island, New York’s NYCB Theatre At Westbury
When it comes to Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductees, few artists seem to be as beloved by fellow inductees as Cheap Trick. A true rock band’s rock band, the music of Cheap Trick has been covered by dozens of notable artists, including Pearl Jam, Marilyn Manson, Kid Rock, Green Day and the Foo Fighters. It has been over 45 years since the group formed in Rockford, Illinois and Cheap Trick remains one of rock’s hardest working touring acts, having played over 5,000 gigs (and counting).
The NYCB Theatre at Westbury is a legendary New York opened in 1956. The top-tier talent that has performed in Westbury over the last 60-plus years has included Jack Benny, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Frank Sinatra, The Who, The Beach Boys, Mike Tyson, Nina Simone, Britney Spears, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Jerry Seinfeld. A “theater in the round”-style venue, the hall — formerly known as Westbury Music Fair — is presently owned and operated by Live Nation, which produces over 20,000 shows annually for more than 2,000 artists globally.
Cheap Trick headlined an intimate show at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury, following shows the past three summers at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater. Whereas the Jones Beach shows saw Cheap Trick playing less than 60 minutes, this show in Westbury found the Rockford natives able to play a full-length set inclusive of some lesser-played gems. This included “Elo Kiddies,” “Big Eyes,” “Hot Love” and “Lookout,” four cuts, all from the first few studio efforts (as also heard on the Budokan LP).
Unlike other classic rock bands which formed in the 1970s, Cheap Trick is undeniably performing in top-form in 2019. The core of frontman Robin Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson has been playing together all of the last 45-plus years aside from a brief hiatus in the 1980s and it instantly shows. Even if the group has been playing a lot of its setlist since the late 1970s, the additions of drummer Daxx Nielsen and guitarist/keyboardist Robin Taylor Zander — both sons of Cheap Trick founders, yes — absolutely help keep things fresh. Daxx Nielsen adds drum fills not heard on studio recordings while Robin Taylor Zander manages to recreate the higher-end of his father’s vocal range with his background singing. Refreshingly, the band is not playing to backing tracks.
If there is one thing to complain about when it comes to Cheap Trick in concert, it has nothing to do with the production or the quality of the live performance. Rather it has to do with the first few songs and last few songs of the show being identical, or at least that has been the case the last four times I have seen Cheap Trick in concert. If you are new to seeing Cheap Trick live, this is not going to be a problem, but if you have seen Cheap Trick more than once, it may be a buzzkill to know what’s coming next after Tom Petersson steps out on lead vocals to sing a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting For The Man.” But complaints about repetition aside, any rock band can learn a lot from watching Cheap Trick playing live; the energy doesn’t even dip during a Cheap Trick set during ballads.
Before Cheap Trick hit the stage, opener Aaron Lee Tasjan hit for the stage for a 40-minute set. Touring in support of 2018’s Karma For Cheap, Tasjan was backed in power-trio form, simultaneously handling lead vocal and lead guitar duties. A performer whose credits include Drivin’ N’ Cryin, Pat Green, Lilly Hiatt, BP Fallon and the New York Dolls, Tasjan’s credits as a sideman, songwriter and producer have made many within the music industry take notice over the last 15-plus years. But now in only his early 30s, Tasjan is finally making waves as a solo artist, and the aforementioned Karma For Cheap — as released by New West Records — landed on many “best of 2018” lists. Almost needless to say, Tasjan’s set won over the crowd, and the singer/songwriter was later brought out by Cheap Trick to play and sing on its classic anthem “Surrender.”
Back to the original post, the NYCB Theatre at Westbury is one of my favorite concert venues to catch a gig at anywhere in the world, and Cheap Trick remains one of my favorite live acts, so the merging of these two concepts made for an excellent and memorable Saturday evening. More on Cheap Trick can be found online at www.cheaptrick.com, while upcoming events and other information about the NYCB Theatre is viewable at www.thetheatreatwestbury.com.