CHEAP TRICK - LYNYRD SKYNYRD - ZZ TOP
FivePoint Amphitheatre - Irvine, CA
August 23, 2019
Review by James West,
Photos by Danette West,
Classic Rock - Southern Rock - Blues Rock Take Over Irvine's FivePoint Amphitheatre!
There are a few lessons I learned from last night’s Cheap Trick/Lynyrd Skynyrd/ZZ Top concert at FivePoint Amphitheatre in nearby Irvine California. ONE- Don’t be late as The Rocker Chic and I got caught up in the usual five o’clock clusterf*ck on the ’91. We missed four great opening songs from Cheap Trick. Well, I don’t know if we actually missed them, as we were making our way from the huge parking area at FivePoint into the venue to our seats and could hear the songs at least.
TWO- Don’t count out a band that may have been a little lackluster the last time you saw them, as Cheap Trick put on one hell of a show last night!
THREE- Don’t think that “Southern Rock” isn’t popular in “West-Coast” California! Lynyrd Skynyrd dominated the crowd and had everyone off their butts for their entire set!
FOUR- When a band has been together for 50 years they don’t need an extravagant set or pyrotechnics to help the crowd get into the show. ZZ Top literally just wondered onstage and took command the old-fashioned way- with great grooves and tasty licks as only this veteran threesome can deliver!
FIVE- I hate getting old; not just from not being able to party hearty like I used to; but also knowing that great bands like Cheap Trick, Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top won’t be around for much longer to create incredible music and to provide an incredible concert experience for all those devoted fans who attend.
Cheap Trick has 'Hitch in their Get-a-long'!
Cheap Trick seemed to have more ‘hitch in their get-a-long’ than the last time The Rocker Chic and I saw them (with Poison and Pop Evil) a little over a year ago at the same venue. Robin Zander seemed to be particularly energized and delivered an incredible vocal performance during the entire set. His ‘Elvis meets John Lennon’ voice has always been a favorite of mine. His son Robin Taylor Zander is a welcome addition to the group on second guitar; giving the songs a little more punch and filling in rhythm while Rick plays the solos. When going through the pictures I noticed a cool stuffed character-doll that resembled his Dad that he displayed on his amp.
This was a truly a family-affair; Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx has fit in extremely well on the drums since Bun E Carlos’ departure. Daxx’s drum patterns were delivered with accuracy, power and finesse. I liked the fact that he was smiling through most of the set also. His dad Rick was stalking around the stage as usual for most of the set, and he brought a cool-ass arsenal of unique guitars with him again. His solos have lost a little of their bite over the years, but Rick’s showmanship more than makes up for it.
I’m still not a fan of Tom Petersson’s voice, and I’m sure there’s someone out there who actually digs a 12-string bass solo, but I’m just not that guy. He still keeps a great groove going though and has written some classic Cheap Trick tunes like High Roller, Need Your Love, and Woke Up With A Monster.
Cheap Trick has influenced countless rock bands including Nirvana, The Melvins, and apparently even Guns N Roses. I think much to Rick Nielsen’s surprise, former Gunner Gilby Clarke jumped up on stage last night and jammed with him through classics ‘Dream Police’ and ‘Surrender’. Gilby got into the moment, and even threw out the obligatory “Kiss Records” on cue.
After seeing Cheap Trick three times as an ‘opening band’ for others, I would still like to see the mighty Trick play a good two to three-hour set of not just the hits but deep album cuts as well.
Lynyrd Skynyrd offers Tribute and Celebration on Farewell Tour!
I was a little apprehensive in seeing Lynyrd Skynyrd for the first time. For me Skynyrd will always be the core center of Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington and Allen Collins. Those three wrote the songs, riffs and melodies for most of Skynyrd’s beloved songs that I enjoyed as a teenager. But that tragic plane crash over 40 years ago changed everything for the band, and you’ve got to give them credit for soldiering on and carrying the Free Bird Flag proudly since then.
No, this isn’t THAT band from One More From The Road, but you know what? This band ROCKS too in a live setting and carries on the Skynyrd tradition of great boogie and swamp blues-influenced Rock and Roll with great spirit and determination. Ronnie’s younger brother Johnny Van Zant has done him proud on vocals, and Rickey Medlocke (who fronted one of my other favorite Southern Rock Bands’ Blackfoot) has handled guitar duties alongside Gary Rossington with both power and precision. Both The Rocker Chic and myself were amazed at how well the agile Medlocke performed last night, especially on the Free Bird solo!
Speaking of Rossington, this was his first gig since surgery the end of July to replace a leaky heart valve. You could tell he didn’t quite have the energy, but that didn’t stop the guitar icon from playing the whole set the best he could.
The other band members and back-up singers played nicely too as Skynyrd delivered a blistering set of classics, including my personal favorites ‘Gimme Three Steps’, ‘Saturday Night Special’, and ‘Simple Man’. A raucous version of ‘Free Bird’ was delivered as an encore and had the standing-room crowd on their feet and giving a California Rebel Yell for the duration of the song. There were lots of former and departed band member tributes both on-screen and from Johnny Van Zant, and this respect shown is what made me a fan of this version of Skynyrd. I thought it was also very respectful of the fans in attendance when they all stood and paid tribute to all the former and fallen members of this great Southern Rock Band as their names scrolled on the big screen at the end of the show.
No Frills ZZ Top Still Gives Chills!
As mentioned earlier, there wasn’t a lot of hoopla at the start of the ZZ Top set. The stage lit up, the band walked out, and then they just got down to the business of delivering an awesome set of ZZ Top hits and classics. I’ve loved ZZ Top since the beginning of their career, and their songs are permanently part of my Rock and Roll DNA. I remember hearing bootlegs of King Biscuit Flower Hour recordings of live ZZ Top concerts during the 70’s and 80’s, so I already knew they were even better live than on record. I still can’t figure out why it took me so long to finally witness them in concert myself.
As with Skynyrd, ZZ Top’s performance did suffer a little due to an injured major player and ingredient; Frank Beard is still re-cooperating from pneumonia, and you could tell he was still struggling to get his ‘sea-legs’ back in top form; but it didn’t affect the trio’s resilience in performing a fine set of blues-rock classics.
The song tempos seemed to have slowed a bit more for live performance, but that was ok with me, as it gave the songs a bit more room to breathe and groove, especially in the solo department. The Reverend Billy F Gibbons still doesn’t disappoint, and it was an honor to watch the man perform at this stage of his career. He still has the chops and the charisma to go with them. Plus, the chemistry he and partner-in-crime Dusty Hill have is unstoppable. The stage dance that Billy and Dusty do during each song may have been performed a million times, but it never gets old, just like the licks and solos. Highlights during ZZ Top’s performance for me included ‘I’m Bad I’m Nationwide’, ‘I Gotsta Get Paid’, and a cool rendering of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s ’16 Tons’.
Even though I would have preferred to see two or three hour sets from all of these bands, this triple bill of Cheap Trick, Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top was a perfect blend of Classic Rock, Southern Rock, and Blues Rock. The spirit of the 70s still lives on; please go see this show while you can!