Cheap Trick and ZZ Top at the WMGK Cookout

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It was the perfect night for a cookout and ZZ TOP and Cheap Trick did the cooking. Either band could have been the headliner, but apparently Cheap Trick lost the coin toss and went on first. Why not? The last time ZZ Top was at the BB&T Center just over a year ago as part of WMGK’s Heavy Hitters Concert, they opened for John Fogerty.

Before either act took the stage there was an unannounced act. A young blues singer named Marquise Knox and his band played their brand of Blues/Rock. It was an interesting mixture of the old and the new. Later Marquise was invited to play with Cheap Trick. It is always good that established acts are so willing to help new ones. That is how the music gets carried on.

I had a chance to talk with Marquise after his performance. He informed me that they have a new album coming out in 2020. He is lucky to even be alive or be able to perform. Last year he was stabbed in the neck after a performance in his home base of St. Louis. He is actually from Bowling Green, MO, an hour and a half from St. Louis. More information is available on his website http://www.Marquiseknoxblues.com.

Once Cheap Trick did take the stage, they come out guns a blazing. They did a series of hard driving rock songs, most of them were written by others like The Move’s “California Man”. They also did a credible job (nothing matches the original) of The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for My Man”.

Oddly, they didn’t get to any of the crowd’s real favorites until more than halfway through the set. Once they did, they strung them all together and the crowd loved it! They did mention that they have a new album. But only played one song from it.

It was the first time I had a chance to see Cheap Trick in several years and they were surprisingly the same in looks and style. Lead guitarist Rick Nielsen still wears his baseball cap and throws pics into the audience. He keeps the many pics taped to the varied mic stands on stage and goes back occasionally, to replenish his stock. It is all part of his flamboyant stage appearance. Robin Zander, the lead singer, seemingly hasn’t aged a bit and his voice was in fine form. Robin and the other stationary member, bassist Tom Peterson, sported hats.

The first time I met Cheap Trick was years ago long before their success that led them into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. They were pretty much the same people that played that night. They are certainly much more stable than most rock bands.

On his first visit to the radio station, Rick started flicking his guitar picks. It annoyed some in the office who didn’t know them or cared to know them at that point. He also told me of his history in Philly.

Last night on stage Nielsen did mention that he lived in Philadelphia for some time before going back to Illinois to form Cheap Trick. He also introduced an old mutual friend Stewkey (see Archive story here and a photo below). What he didn’t mention was how he knew Stewkey. When Todd Rundgren left the Philadelphia band known as The Nazz, it was Rick who replaced him on lead guitar. Stewkey was the lead singer of The Nazz.

After Cheap Trick finished in a flourish for the night, it was ZZ Top’s turn. Unlike Cheap Trick, they came out playing their hits. The fans were loving it! What’s not to like? ZZ TOP has been doing their Texas boogie style of Rock for 50 years now and it doesn’t get old. Talk about a stable band. ZZ Top has had the same lineup since 1970!

The first time most of us paid any attention to ZZ Top was when Jimi Hendrix said that he thought that the guitar player (he didn’t even know his name was Billy Gibbons) was pretty good. That made ZZ Top fashionable to the hip.

It wasn’t until MTV started showing their videos that featured some of the finest looking cars and ladies known to mankind, that the group really reached the dizzying heights that they enjoyed with huge album sales.

ZZ Top showed last night that they can still boogie with the best of them. Billy can still play outstanding guitar and is as funny as ever. The only thing missing from the first time that I saw them years ago was their stage presence. They used to jump all over the stage while playing their infectious beats. Age may have taken away that energy, but it hasn’t diminished their ability to play their instruments. They sure can boogie.


 

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1 comment

  • Comment Link Otto Greenleaf Monday, September 23, 2019 posted by Otto Greenleaf

    I was a the show too T. Great concert. I got 2 of Rick's guitar picks. Thanks for the post. I guess Robin & Rick both have sons in CT now.

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