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Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009

Cheap Trick @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino

Jan. 15, 2009

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Thanks to Cheap Trick, power-pop rock will forever live on. And based on last week's three-night stand at Potawatomi Bingo Casino, the boys are not only living on, they're full of the same high-level energy as when they started out 35 years ago.

Way back in the 20th century, the quartet from Rockford, Ill., combined catchy melodies with hard-rock riffs from four very distinct personalities. As Thursday night showed, those personalities remain intact.

Lead vocalist Robin Zander has done more than just age gracefully; he's managed to preserve his youthful vocals from the '70s, book-ending the 75-minute show with the revved-up "Hello There." Bun E. Carlos remains the hardest-working (yet most modest) drummer in the business, while bassist Tom Petersson kept the steady bass lines moving, even taking the mic on his own punkish original, "I Know What I Want (And I Know How to Get It)."

And where would the Tricksters be without the zany antics of lead guitarist and forever-big-kid Rick Nielsen? Fortunately the act remains the same, even as Cheap Trick has aged along with its loyal band of followers. Nielsen still jumps, pops and jolts around the stage in that quirky manner, tossing guitar pick after guitar pick. And his array of custom guitars, some in his own likeness with two guitar necks as "legs," only adds to the visual cartoonishness.

Nostalgia reigned, and that suited this party just fine, be it in "I Want You to Want Me," "California Man" or "Voices." It's been a long time since the foursome covered Elvis' pelvis-shaking "Don't Be Cruel" in a show, and the fact that they did it well even pleasantly surprised Zander.

Thankfully, some bands never grow old. The baby-boomer audience did get a dose of 2009, though, when the opening act was none other than Rick Nielsen's adult son, Miles. "I'd love to be able to sing like Robin Zander, but I didn't get those genes," quipped the younger Nielsen. No matter. His 30 minutes of pleasant roots-rock included some solid originals, including "Lost My Mind" and "Lucy."

His deft handling of The Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down" made the song sound fresh again-and reinforced the notion that music can be handed down from generation to generation, sometimes within the same family.