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If you entered a time machine on August 11th, 1981 at the Orange County Fair and emerged exactly 40 years later and saw that Cheap Trick and Blue Oyster Cult were playing, you might be amazed, but you wouldn’t be disappointed. These are two of the most classic of classic rock bands. And while the lineups are slightly different from years gone by, the key members are still there with new members adding vitality.  

The show was rescheduled from over a year ago and it was obvious the sell-out crowd missed live music. Since Cheap Trick and BOC have reputations as great live bands, the fans were ready to rock from the first note. 

Blue Oyster Cult’s set was short, but great, as in greatest hits. There was "Burning For You", a stomping "Godzilla", an epic "E.T.I.", and of course, "Don’t Fear The Reaper" with an extended guitar solo at the end by Buck Dharma. You could tell by audience reactions that it’s easy to forget just how good he is until you see him live. In many ways, this was Dharma’s show, with the guitarist being front and center for most of the set.

After that, the 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Famers took the stage. With a catalog as varied as Cheap Trick’s, there might have been one or two audience members missing a deep cut, but this was a strong 19 song set list. The opener, "Hello There", brought the energy and the band didn’t let up. Robin Zander’s voice is one of the best in rock and he easily showed why throughout the show. It’s impossible for Rick Nielsen to use every one of his estimated 800 guitars in his collection, but he did his best.

Many bands are called a family and Cheap Trick has become a family affair. Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx has been Cheap Trick’s drummer since Bun E. Carlos left the road in 2010. Bassist Tom Petersson was missing due to open-heart surgery. Robin Taylor Zander, son of, you guessed it, Robin Zander, filled in and also provided lead vocals on "Downed". There’s some musical talent in that Cheap Trick gene pool for sure.

A great thing about Cheap Trick is that they are still making new music after all these years. One of the best songs of the night, "The Summer Looks Good on You", is from their 2021 album, In Another World. It fit right in with the classics like "I Want You to Want Me", "Dream Police", and "Surrender".  

Sometime during the show, Rick Nielsen reflected on the band’s longevity by saying they were too dumb to do anything else. Let’s hope they never smarten up.

Daniel Gray

Photojournalist - Los Angeles

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