With a sprawling summer tour alongside ’80s rock legends Poison just a few days away, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick spoke with buzz and shared some band history, his thoughts on the band’s upcoming music and touring.
In 2016, Cheap Trick was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “It’s an honor,” Nielsen said. “It never was a goal of ours. We were around long before the rock hall. But it’s great, and it sort of represents the large amount of people we’ve influenced.” Just two months after Cheap Trick’s induction, the band made a stop in Champaign to play a concert with Styx at Memorial Stadium.
But going back a few decades, Rockford-based Cheap Trick was just getting started. The University was a regular spot for the fledgling band. “I remember playing Red Lion (back when it was a venue), Mabel’s – I was friends with the owner of Mabel’s – those were some great clubs. The drive down always sucked though. That was before 51 was paved,” said Nielsen.
“The music scene there was always big too. Being a college town, you’ve always got a bunch of people, and a bunch of fresh faces coming in.” Despite being a rock legend, Nielsen said he rarely gets out to listen to live shows himself. “I can never keep up with a music scene because we are always traveling around the world. I can barely keep up with our music!”
In the rock world, Rick Nielsen has always been known as the guy with the crazy guitars and the checkerboard suits. “When I was growing up, I would always watch TV, which was at the time, in black and white. Around 10 p.m. each day, the broadcast would just stop, and the TV would be filled with static. I liked that pattern it made, and that’s where the checkerboard idea came from. It’s like an up or a down, a left or right… It’s just black and white. And no stores really sold checkerboard clothes, so I had to have them custom-made for me.”
Nielsen continued on his guitars, which are also iconic, such as a five-neck guitar and a guitar shaped like him. “The guitars were the same way. I had these ideas, and (obviously) the stores didn’t carry them, so I had them custom-built for myself. I never really did these ideas for anyone but myself. It was because I liked the ideas, not because I wanted to create this image.”
After countless years of incredible live shows, Cheap Trick is still active on the road, playing great live concerts, just as they did in their youth. “We’ve never played shows. It’s always just been us and our music,” said Nielsen. “We’ve never had a fancy light show, or a large, choreographed performance.”
The focus on energy and music is what has made Cheap Trick’s shows so enjoyable over the years. When asked about preparation for tours, Nielsen joked, “What’s a rehearsal? Our rehearsals are time onstage or in the studio.”
Cheap Trick have a new single coming out this week, titled “The Summer Looks Good On You.” It is the first single off their forthcoming album, which currently has an unknown release date. “We’ve been in the studio a lot,” Says Nielsen. “We have about 10 songs down now, so it is coming along. I will call you first when the new album is ready!”
On Friday, Cheap Trick begins their summer tour alongside Poison. On what he was most looking forward to on tour, Nielsen joked, “the end of the tour.”
“No, I’m really excited. It’s a lot of shows coming up. We’ve known the guys in Poison for a really long time – longer than almost anyone has. It’s always a lot of fun with them. They are great guys and it should be a great tour. And they are Cheap Trick fans, so of course, we’ve got to do something with them!”
Poison and Cheap Trick’s “Nothing But a Good Time” tour begins on Friday, May 18 in California, and runs through the end of June. Check out this incredible show as they make stops in St. Louis on May 26, Indianapolis on June 7, and Chicago June 9.