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Review: Cheap Trick keeps it classy at Rock on the Range

The sun dropped below the horizon in the distance. A man in a Spiderman costume crowd-surfed across an enthusiastic audience and Robin Zander cooed his famous six words: “I want you to want me.” Six words that continue to dominate classic rock radio stations and that made Zander’s band, Cheap Trick, famous after the song’s debut in 1977.

When Cheap Trick started its journey as a band in the early ’70s, discussions revolved around ending the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. Luckily, for those of us who weren’t alive back then to hear the start of an epic, decade-spanning career, the band came to Columbus’ Crew Stadium Friday for a spot at this year’s Rock on the Range concert festival.

It’s rare to have the chance to see classic rock bands, especially with three of the four original members, but Zander, Tom Petersson and Rick Nielsen still perform on a regular basis, now with Nielsen’s son, Daxx Nielsen, on drums.

The four brought something special for the opening night at Rock on the Range and the band’s 40 years of experience on stages all over the world was evident. The night’s previous rock performances from Love & Death, Hollywood Undead and Buckcherry all shined in their own way but were mostly overrun with bass and theatrics in comparison.

Cheap Trick kept its performance classic in every aspect from the members’ retro clothing choices, including Zander’s jacket bedazzled with fire, to their relatively minimal talking.

They played their most well-known songs including “Surrender,” from the 1978 album, “Heaven Tonight,” and the title track from “Dream Police” in 1979.

The band’s shining moment came at its performance of “I Want You to Want Me,” from their ’77 album “In Color.” The hit, perhaps the band’s most recognizable song, amped up a previously apathetic crowd.

While Cheap Trick delivered a spectacular show and brought a welcome taste of classic rock to the other amped-up, overly bass-riddled rock groups, the crowd unfortunately was more focused on the next act: Korn.

The stadium was packed to its roughly 30,000 person capacity for the metal performance.

Before last night, I couldn’t name a single song by Korn, any of its members or really anything about the band, so I wasn’t very prepared compared to the the majority of people I saw wearing some type of Korn shirt.

For non-metal-heads out there like me, the band is touring for the first time since 2004 with original guitarist Brian Welch, so this was a rare opportunity to see the whole band together.

Good or bad, Korn was starkly the opposite of Cheap Trick and the energy was undeniable the second they took the stage.

With overwhelming amounts of bass and drums, enough lights to power a small town and incredible amounts of head-bashing that showed off band members’ long locks, the metal band simply blew Cheap Trick out of the minds of many of the crowd members.

Their power was obvious and fans were screaming louder than they had the whole night.

I was disappointed to see so many people pack the floor for Korn while so few were excited about Cheap Trick. I found myself wanting to turn to the enthusiastic fans behind me and explain to them that classic rock bands like Cheap Trick set the standard for metal, but I knew I was outnumbered and I also knew Korn delivered a fantastic show for metal fans.

Cheap Trick also delivered a fantastic show, just for the wrong crowd, unfortunately.

I appreciate that Rock on the Range gave a nod to classic rock but must sadly admit that another, more current, hard-rock band would have been better received by the audience that the outdoor festival attracts.

The rock concerts continue Saturday and Sunday with headliners Smashing Pumpkins, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden.

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