I’ll call it two for two with this year’s State Fair concerts I was at, and that’s a rarity for me.
I was in the crowd Friday night for the Georgia Satellites, Blue Oyster Cult, Night Ranger, Cheap Trick show. First off, I arrived late so I missed the 80’s one hit wonder from the peach and peanut state, but my friend Jerry said they were great. He’s a good judge of shows, so we’ll give them a thumb’s up.
Blue Oyster Cult was the low point of the show. The sound was bad even by State Fair standards, and they just muddled through their biggest hits without much energy or enthusiasm. I had seen BOC as part of that Foghat show a few years back, so I really wasn’t expecting much.
Night Ranger was a much different story. They were the pleasant surprise of the night, as the 80’s hit makers rocked the house with a decent size catalogue of hits. The band didn’t miss any of the touches either, as iconic guitars and familiar 80’s video poses by the band fit the nostalgia hungry crowd perfectly. The weird part was lead singer Jack Blades’ 10 minute talk that dealt with everything from 80’s reminiscing to comments on Springfield and the crowd. It was also then that Blades revealed that one of the bands signature songs, “You Can Still Rock In America” was written after their 1983 State Fair show. Umm..OK..sure. But it was a nice touch, and the crowd bought it.
Cheap Trick was MUCH better than an earlier show I saw at Milwaukee’s Summerfest. The energy and enthusiasm of being back in their home state showed, as Rick Nielsen was amazing on guitar, not just above average like in Milwaukee. Nielsen may have given a clue to the lackluster performance by telling the crowd, “We’ve been touring all summer with Aerosmith. They’re not here tonight, and who needs them?” Good point. Robin Zander was amazing as a vocalist, as like Pat Monahan of Train Wednesday night, nailed every note. The biggest hits at the end of the night left the crowd rocking.
I may be thinking way too much about Neilsen’s Aerosmith comment, but I can’t help but feel it’s got to be frustrating for Cheap Trick to open for Aerosmith when Neilsen is arguably a better guitar player than Joe Perry, and Zander an arguably better singer at this stage of his carrer than Steven Tyler. There’s a lot to be said for great songwriting and being a stellar front man like Tyler. I wonder too if spending a lot of time touring Japan hurt the bands popularity.
Let’s not take away from what was a good show at the Fair. Night Ranger and Cheap Trick can “still Rock In America”.