Cheap Trick with special guest Aaron Lee Tasjan

Cheap Trick

Cheap Trick is part of the very fiber of American music, inspiring and delighting generations with their unique union of massive melodies and razorblade riffs, their own special brand of mischievous wit and maximum rock ‘n’ roll. Frontlined since 1974 by Robin Zander (vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick Nielsen (lead guitar), and Tom Petersson (bass guitar), the Rockford, IL-born band is set to impact still another era with the spectacular new BANG ZOOM CRAZY…HELLO, their 17th studio collection and first in more than five years. Co-produced by Cheap Trick and GRAMMY® Award winner Julian Raymond (Glen Campbell, Fastball), songs like “Heart On The Line” and the turbulent first single, “When I Wake Up Tomorrow,” are deeply connected to the band’s own irrepressible history just as they accelerate their trademark sound and vision into the now. The glorious “Long Time No See Ya” marks another in a long line of salutations spanning “ELO Kiddies” and “Hello There” to “Goodnight” and “Say Goodbye,” while the piledriving “Do You Believe Me” showcases dueling solos from Nielsen and six-string icon Wayne Kramer – a milestone meeting of the long established Midwestern mutual appreciation society between Cheap Trick and the mighty MC5. BANG ZOOM CRAZY…HELLO prove Cheap Trick to be as energetic and idiosyncratically irresistible as ever before, a callback to their classic canon yet somehow as inventive and exciting as a bunch of crazy kids just coming out of the garage.

“We wanted to make something that was new and fresh but also going back to our 70s sound and feel,” Zander says, “this Midwestern rock band that’s got a hard edge but still plays pop music.”

“It’s loud and it’s noisy,” Nielsen says, “which is exactly what we are. It sounds like there’s a lot going on but really it’s just a three piece band with a great singer.”

Cheap Trick are of course a indisputable institution, beloved for their instantly identifiable, hugely influential, powerhouse pop rock ‘n’ roll. The constant core of the band remains one of a kind – three guys, four chords, and tunes that will last in perpetuity, from “He’s A Whore,” “California Man” and “Dream Police” to “Surrender,”  “I Want You To Want Me” and the worldwide #1 hit single, “The Flame.”

“The songs are why everybody knows Cheap Trick,” Nielsen says. “We have some good songs. ‘I Want You To Want Me” has been around for 40 years but people still love it. And even if you’re sick of it, it’s over in three minutes! The songs are still relevant, they still have the right words and the right emotion to move 99% of all humans.”

Amidst that not inconsiderable demographic, one particular fan served as catalyst for Cheap Trick’s return to the studio. Founder, president, and CEO of Nashville-based Big Machine Records, Scott Borchetta has also been a lifelong supporter of the band. Conversations began in 2012 and were sealed when veteran producer/songwriter Julian Raymond – a longtime Cheap Trick associate and Academy Award nominee for co-writing the GRAMMY®-winning “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” featured in 2014’s acclaimed documentary, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me – joined the zeitgeist-defining label as its Vice President of A&R. A multi-album deal was soon struck, a contract as rare as hen’s teeth for any rock band in the modern era let alone one of Cheap Trick’s considerable vintage.

“It’s a pretty big career tool,” Nielsen says. “Much better than putting a bunch of CDs in my car.”

“It’s been great working with Scott,” Petersson says. “He’s such a music lover. It’s rare for the guy that’s running the label to be so musical. Usually we have to battle it out with those guys but he left us alone. He was like, I love your band, you know what you’re doing in there.”

Deal in hand, Cheap Trick and Raymond quickly set to work. Described by all as the band’s de-facto “fifth member,” Raymond has been a friend and sometimes collaborator for three decades, relied upon as both confidante and traffic cop.
“We could produce our own records but we prefer to have Julian there to quell the storms,” Zander says. “You’ve got three writers in the band so there’s a lot of ideas floating around. You’ve got to have somebody that’s outside of the band to help give some direction. Otherwise you just get lost in yourselves.”

“Julian really brings the best out in us,” Petersson says. “He really understands our band and because he’s not us, he can see things that we don’t or can’t see in ourselves. We’re so close to this music, you need somebody else like Julian.”
Sessions got underway in 2015 at Los Angeles’ East West Studio. The band immediately got into their groove by locking into a playful version of “The In Crowd.” Written by Billy Page and made famous in not one, not two, but three distinct chart hits by Dobie Gray, the Ramsey Lewis Trio, and Bryan Ferry respectively, the song was a staple of Cheap Trick’s earliest live sets, a reliable crowd-pleaser as they made their bones at local dives all over the Midwest.

“The feel started there,” Zander says. “We continued writing from that sound.”

All three original members cite drummer Daxx Nielsen as the most significant contemporary influence on Cheap Trick’s current creativity. A musical polymath who has played with artists spanning Dick Dale to Brandi Carlisle, the younger Nielsen was the obvious choice when the seemingly irreplaceable Bun E. Carlos retired from active touring and recording with the band he co-founded. Daxx’s innate virtuosity and spirited musicianship were propulsive in more ways than the usual, inspiring fresh energy while also keeping the band in touch with its roots.

“Daxx is so talented,” Petersson says. “He’s so into it, he can play all of our songs on any instrument. We’ll pull something from our back catalog and he’ll tell us how the bridge goes.”
“We have to recall stuff,” Rick says. “Daxx remembers.”
After more than half a decade away from the studio, Cheap Trick was fired up and ridiculously prolific, cranking out close to 30 new tunes over two pair of sessions in Los Angeles and Nashville. Tracks like “No Direction Home” hit hard as a teenage crush’s kiss, affirming the eternal strength of Cheap Trick’s smart, sly, sometimes sarcastic songcraft. Each member has skin in the songwriting game, contributing elements – a riff, a chorus, a hook that won’t stop – which are then jammed into three-and-a-half minute pop perfection by the entire unit, ensuring everybody’s respective two cents are represented in every finished tune.

Aaron Lee Tasjan

Most people know Aaron Lee Tasjan as one of the wittiest, most offbeat, brilliant, weedsmokin’ & LSD microdosin’ Americana troubadours writing and singing songs today.
And the New York Times, NPR and Rolling Stone will all gladly corroborate. But steel
yourselves, folk fans, because he’s about to follow his restless muse straight out from
under the weight of everyone’s expectations into the kind of glammy, jingle-jangle
power-pop- and- psych-tinged sounds he hasn’t dabbled in since his younger days
playing lead guitar for a late-period incarnation of The New York Dolls.
Really, the roots of Tasjan’s new record, Karma for Cheap, stretch even deeper,
drinking up the sounds of a Southern California childhood spent listening to The Beatles
while riding around with his mom at the wheel of their navy blue Volvo station wagon—
back to the very first pre-teen year he picked up a six-string and started figuring out all
the pretty little chords in those Lennon-McCartney tunes. Back to the pure, blissful
unfiltered innocence of falling in love with music for the first time. But more on that
later. First, let’s ponder the brutish realities of the American Swamp.
Aaron Lee Tasjan says he aims to use his music for good, but he’s no protest singer. And
Karma for Cheap isn’t some heavy-handed, didactic political record cramming a set of
talking points down anyone’s throat. It’s a finely tuned rock & roll seismograph
measuring the dark and uncertain vibrations of the time in which it was created. A
cracked mirror reflecting back the American zeitgeist in this foul year of Our Lord, Two
Thousand and Eighteen.
“When you’re a songwriter,” Tasjan says, you’re dealing in truths and untruths—that’s
part of your commerce as a citizen of the world. And anything coming along that’s
threatening to blur that line is a threat to your livelihood as a working American.”
Take it from Tasjan and Karma for Cheap, being a songwriter in the post-truth world of
Trump’s America ain’t easy. Tasjan valiantly wrestles with this new normal in songs like
“Set You Free” (“it’s a smokescreen scene and nobody knows what’s real”—fake news!)
and “The Truth Is So Hard to Believe.” What will we do when we can no longer map the
line between fact and fiction? When we exist in a world where the truth is unknowable
and we’re at the mercy of liars and charlatans? “Hearts in chains and hands are off the
wheel,” Tasjan sings in hypnotic staccato, tapping the collective cultural anxiety of all
the rattled millions drifting off each night to a new American dream, one in which we’re
all in a big red, white and blue camaro fishtailing down some winding tree-lined road in
the bible-black dark, white-knuckle-clutching the oh-shit bar, accelerator glued to the
floor and not a soul in the driver’s seat.
“The sound of this new record is a little more rough and ready, more raw than anything
I’ve done before,” Tasjan says. “Seems like a good time for it. We’re living in a pretty raw
feed right now, and a lot of these new songs reflect that. They deal with with being stuck
in the deluge of horseshit every day. On social media, you see people suckered into
getting all irate over some post that, in the end, turns out to be completely fake. We have
to be aware of these mindsets, these traps and emotional pitfalls that send us spinning.
Music for me is a comfort thing. And I’m trying to sing about all this to remind myself
not to get caught up in the game. There are a lot of people out there carrying the burden
of this weird, twisted world we’re living in at the moment on their shoulders. So I tried
to write a record that offers some comfort, encouragement and hope to those people, as
much as it’s possible to be hopeful right now.”
Karma for Cheap is Tasjan’s third LP and second for his label New West Records, based
in his current hometown of Nashville. The record was co-produced by ALT and his
friends Jeff Trott (Stevie Nicks, Liz Phair, Meiko, Joshua Radin) and Gregory Lattimer
(Albert Hammond Jr.) and features Aaron Lee’s road band—guitarist Brian Wright,
bassist Tommy Scifres and drummer Seth Earnest—with whom he’s been touring
heavily for the last two years.
While the stylistic shift from Tasjan’s palpably stoned ‘70s-country-channeling 2015
debut, In the Blazes, to his more sophisticated, introspective and lushly produced 2016
follow-up, Silver Tears, was relatively incremental, Karma’s rocked-up Brit-popinfluenced Beatles-Bowie-Badfinger vibes underscore a significant departure. The
album boldly reminagines these vintage sounds, pushing the boundary of what can be
considered Americana. With Karma, Tasjan establishes himself as an artist who not
only evolves over time, but isn’t afraid to risk reinventing himself completely from one
record to the next.
“It’s always a goal for me to be able to not listen to the part of my brain that cares what
other people think, and just do something really pure and from the heart,” he says. “I
needed this album to have a sense of adventure and mystery, to feel a little shaky and
dangerous at times—something that wasn’t the obvious choice in terms of what people
already like about what I do. I’ve come to realize that I’m a searcher, which means I’m
going to be searching forever.” Aaron Lee pauses and laughs at the notion, and what’s in
store for the rest of his life—ticket bought, ride in progress. “Yep, this is never going to
end,” he says. “No oasis, no safe harbor to stop and say, ‘Well, I’ve gotten here, and now
I’m good.’ In some ways it’s a harsh realization—living in that type of headspace can
cause a lot of turmoil. But if you can find beauty in the mundane… well, there you go.
I’ve definitely been making more of an effort to enjoy the journey.”
For all the album’s wrestling with social and political discord and the stresses of modern
life due to the grand experiment of social media and the unforgiving tractor beam of the
world-wired-web, Karma for Cheap finds its silver lining in the innocence of a wideeyed kid’s maiden voyage into the electrifying thrall of rock & roll. The heaviness of the
lyrical content is tempered by the joy and wonder of an artist reconnecting with what
made him fall in love with playing music in the first place. The sound of it, the way it
made him feel when he was 11 years old and it was all still as new as a fresh coat of spray
paint from the can of some smug delinquent. That was 1997—the year Tasjan moved
from Ohio to California, and scored his first guitar and a stack of iconic CDs by The
Beatles, Oasis and Tom Petty.
A huge sonic touchstone for ALT’s new record is The Beatles Anthology, one of his
childhood favorites. In songs like “If Not Now When,” “Song Bird” and “The Rest Is Yet
to Come,” you can hear echoes of George Harrison’s vibrant guitar riffs and Jeff Lynne’s
lavish production on those lo-fi John Lennon demos the surviving Beatles dug up and
polished off in the mid ‘90s. “‘Free As A Bird’ and ‘Real Love’—those were my jams when
I first started playing guitar,” Tasjan says. “I was learning those and a lot of other
Beatles songs. And then Oasis came out with ‘Wonderwall’ and I was like, oh that’s The
Beatles for my generation, and I became obsessed with them, too.”
Perhaps the most poignant moment on Karma for Cheap is the anthemic, hypnotic
“Heart Slows Down,” a tune rife with musical and lyrical references to the Beatles and
Tom Petty, anchored by an unforgettable chorus with a Traveling Wilburys vibe that
finds the sweet spot between Tasjan’s two earliest musical heroes. “When I was a kid,
my favorite CD to fall asleep to was Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits, and
the last song is a cover of that Thunderclap Newman song ‘Something in the Air.’ From
the time I was a little kid to when I was teenager, I used to listen to that song on
headphones almost every night—I heard it in that space between wake and sleep so
many times. And Tom’s passing—he was a really big hero of mine, so it hit me pretty
hard. We were in Seattle playing a show when I heard, and it was a heavy thing to
process. But all of those elements are there in ‘Heart Slows Down.’ The chorus, ‘I will
always be around,’ is a reminder that all the good you ever got out of listening to this
music is still around you. You’ll always have that.”

$35//$45/$65 (ADVANCE) $40//$50//$70 (DAY OF SHOW)

Tickets

This event will have a general admission standing room only floor and a reserved seated Loge and Balcony.  Reserved Loge and Balcony tickets will NOT have access to the general admission floor. 

18 & over unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

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