All in the family
The Nielsen Trust gives Cheap Trick songs new sounds
By Steve Metsch
Rick Nielsen and his family rewarded the few fans who attended their concert at the Genessee Theatre in Waukegan with plenty of Cheap Tricks songs that were given fresh life.
Nielsen, 73, is the lead guitarist, backup singer and primary songwriter for the Hall of Fame rock band based in Rockford.
A few years ago, perhaps taking a page from lead singer Robin Zander who performs with his adult children, Nielsen began performing with his family.
Son Daxx – who replaced Bun E. Carlos as Cheap Trick’s drummer 10 years ago – is on drums. Son Miles is on guitar.
Miles and wife Kelly Steward do the singing. A bass player and keyboardist/saxophonist round out the band.
The band got together in 2020. It resulted after Rick joined Miles band, The Rusted Hearts, on stage for a few songs in Bloomington.
“We’re not the Osmonds and the Jacksons … not growing up like that, with the generation in between. So, it’s just been exciting. Every show has been pretty cool,” Rick told www.wglt.org in a Jan. 19 story.
Miles Nielsen, wife Kelly Steward, Rick Nielsen and Daxx Nielsen are The Nielsen Trust, the side project of Rick, who usually is playing guitar for Cheap Trick. (Photo from The Nielsen Trust)
The venerable old Genesse Theatre was packed when Cheap Trick played there in June 2019. But it was perhaps 25 percent capacity for The Nielsen Trust on Jan. 22.
That’s unfortunate as the 19-song concert – save a few songs that cried out for Zander– was very enjoyable.
The song selection was diverse, digging deep at times, and the on-stage banter between father and son was priceless.
Rick Nielsen is a funny guy. Always has been. Same goes for Miles, who told us Rick’s nickname in the family is “Grumpy,”
Grumpy was in fine form, joking he was “heading to the AARP Lounge” before he left the stage for two songs.
Miles and Kelly sang “Shine Your Light” and “Over the Moon.” Both are by The Rusted Hearts. I’ve seen that band. Very good.
The show started with a fitting choice, “Just Got Back.” The lyric “been gone too long” sums up how all concert lovers and bands feel these pandemic-drenched days.
“He’s A Whore,” one of Cheap Trick’s early rockers, was a sweet surprise.
Miles introduced “Borderline” as a song Chris Isaak, Elvis Costello or the late Roy Orbison would have felt comfortable with. He’s correct, especially Roy.
Rick and Miles are good story tellers beyond their song writing.
Miles said the one song that Rick wants in the set list each night was 1994 release “Didn’t Know I Had It.” It’s one of those pop gems that makes you wonder why it wasn’t a big hit. Kelly did a great job singing.
Miles’ must-play song each gig, from 1985, was “Tonight It’s You.” The band sounded fantastic with Kelly on lead vocals.
According to Rick, Bryan Ferry was supposed to record “Take Me I’m Yours.” I think Ferry made a mistake by not recording the 1980 release that sounds in his wheelhouse.
While you’ve must give credit to Miles and Kelly for tackling Cheap Trick songs made famous by another voice, there were moments when Zander’s powerful and diverse vocal skills were sorely missed.
“Take Me I’m Yours” was one of those. Another was “Need Your Love.” While guitar licks traded by Miles and Rick were great, Miles’ singing didn’t fare as well.
Miles did win over the Cheap Trick fans with a surprisingly beautiful take on the band’s signature song, “Surrender.” After he called it “one of the greatest rock songs ever,” he slowed it down for a folk treatment. It worked.
The night’s funniest moment came just before the first encore song.
Miles said there were about to play a song Cheap Trick has never performed in concert. Why? “Because we (deleted) hate this song,” Rick chimed in.
Guess what? “Invaders of the Heart,” from the 1983 album “Next Position Please” – producedby Todd Rundgren- was one of the best songs of the night.
How do you top not one, not two, but three drum solos in the song’s waning moments? Daxx, in fine form all night, dazzled.
Cheap Trick finally returns to the area on July 16 in Tinley Park when the band opens for Rod Stewart. It’s a show that was postponed in 2020 and in 2021 by the pandemic.
In the meantime, The Nielsen Trust nicely filled the Cheap Trick void.