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Review: Cheap Trick shows love for the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum

The most exciting part of Saturday in downtown Tampa was, of course, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeating the Boston Bruins 5-3. But the second best moment might have been when Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen pulled a Tampa cop onstage to sing Dream Police.

It's an old trick -- a cheap trick, if you will. But it was not unprecedented.

The last time Cheap Trick performed outside the St. Pete Times Forum, it was in 2004, when the Lightning were on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. Back then, during Dream Police, they brought a couple of Tampa Police officers onstage to help sing the 1979 hit. Here's a video clip of the moment.

Well, the same cop singing in that video -- the taller guy who does the spoken word portion of the song -- is the same guy they brought onstage during their free concert outside the Forum on Saturday. Could the Dream Police/Tampa Police combo work wonders again in 2011? Time will tell!

Until then, let's applaud the Bolts' ability to put together a last-minute free concert by a band like Cheap Trick, probably the biggest act the team has ever brought in for a free postgame concert. The Rockford, Ill., power-pop legends came out strong, with singer and Safety Harbor resident Robin Zander wearing a custom Lightning jersey, Nielsen mugging and vamping and rocking his black-and-white bow tie off, and bassist Tom Peterssen doing his thing in the background. (Drummer Bun E. Carlos no longer tours with the band, and was replaced by Nielsen's son Daxx.)

It was a high-energy set that suited the positivity of the victorious Lightning fans (no The Flame, '80s lovers), full of singalong classic rock staples that have been performed on much bigger stages over the years. There were songs you know, and cannot help singing along to -- I Want You To Want Me, which Nielsen called "the favorite song of the Bolts," for some reason; and Surrender, during which Zander had the substantial crowd who stuck around chanting back to him at the end, "We're all alright! We're all alright!" And yes, after a performance like the one the Lightning had just put on, they certainly were.

The hockey talk was kept to a minimum, aside from a couple of shout-outs to the Bolts and a few tiny jabs at Bruins fans. Mostly Cheap Trick kept to the music, including In The Street (the theme to That '70s Show) and their classic cover of Fats Domino's Ain't That A Shame.

One tip if you ever see Cheap Trick in concert: Rick Neilsen LOVES throwing guitar picks to the audience. His mic stand was coated with them, and he had a box more behind him. He must have hurled 100 of them into the crowd during the set, somtimes fistfuls at a time. I caught a navy blue one. So that's my tip of the day: Get there early, and stand close to the stage, left of center, where Nielsen will be, and you might go home with a pocketful of picks.

Why does Nielsen need so many picks, you might be wondering? I suppose it comes with the territory when you play the quintuple guitar:


That's a lot of guitar. Two minutes for ROCKING, Rick.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

[Last modified: Saturday, May 21, 2011 11:38pm]


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