The band behind such songs as ‘Surrender’ and ‘Dream Police’ plays CFCC’s Wilson Center Oct. 8.
Rick Nielsen apparently doesn’t like to waste a lot of energy talking. Seems he prefers to save his oomph for the stage.
That’s a good thing for fans who will be at Cape Fear Community College’s Wilson Center in Wilmington on Tuesday, when Nielsen plays with his Rock & Hall of Fame bandmates in Cheap Trick.
The little ol’ band from Texas has more than 46 years under their belts. Given that kind of perspective, it seems fair to ask Nielsen what he sees as the future of the genre.
“Future? I’m just happy to be playing,” said the taciturn Nielsen.
Yes, yes, that’s obvious to anyone whose watched the happy frenzy with which you attack a song in concert. But what of the future? What do you see for rock ‘n’ roll music of the future?
“Oh, there is music today?”
Arrrrrgh.Collage by Justin Ford, Becky Reiser, BIG MACHINE CREATIVE
But he does like to play, really. The band’s promo materials say the group that’s sold more than 20 million records has played 5,000 or more shows since their inception in Rockford, Illinois, in the early 1970s.
“We’ve been saying 5,000 shows for 10 or 15 years,” said Nielsen, his voice the very embodiment of deadpan. “It’s more like 6,000 or more.
“There’s no explanation, really,” Nielsen said, asked why the music continues to resonate, with songs like “Surrender,” “I Want You to Want Me” and the like. “It’s just fun music.”
A lot of that comes from Nielsen himself, who writes much of the band’s music, because as terse as he may seem to be, it’s all with a mischievous sense of humor. Why, just mention all those fan-favorite songs, then ask him his own favorite song to play.
“When I was drinking, my favorite was “Goodnight,” said Nielsen, who’s now a teetotaler about the tune that’s always the last song in a Cheap Trick set, and meant it was belly up to the bar time.
As with everything, it all comes back to playing for Nielsen.
“Getting to work,” he said, when asked what his idea of success was when the band first started. “Getting to be able to go out and play.
“It didn’t have to be money,” he said. “I was never motivated by money.”
Today, success isn’t all that much different. Paying the mortgage, all that is cool. But the idea of playing live still is his top motivation, and doing it with bands and people he likes, Nielsen said.
“Just going out and playing and enjoying the bands you’re playing with, just to go out and play for the sake of playing,” he said, asked to define success today.
It’s something he wishes for others, too, which is why he’s glad to know that just about all classic rock “weekend warrior” bands have Cheap Trick songs on their set lists. Nor does he worry too much about how well — or poorly — those cover bands do the music.
“We occasionally mangle our own stuff,” he said, a hint of a chuckle creeping into his voice. “But I’ve seen some Cheap Trick tribute bands that are actually a little better than we are. But I have seen some that mangle (the music) pretty badly.”
Like any band, there was a time starting out when covers were a part of the set lists, as they are for any bar band that has to fill the four-hour, three-set slots just to make enough to cover gas money.
“We always tried to do original stuff, but we did the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, the Kinks, the Who, the Yardbirds,” he said. “My bands never did much Beatles, but we did the Rolling Stones.”
Wait, was that a hint as to which side he comes down on the Beatles vs. Stones debate?
“Four against five is not fair,” he said, again with that sly chuckle just barely staying below the surface.
Nielsen clearly hasn’t let the band’s 2016 induction into the Rock Hall go to his head.
“I don’t know that it means more money, but it does mean that I get treated with more respect when I go to the grocery store.”
Why, he doesn’t have to bag his own groceries anymore. Or so he says.