PHOTOS + REVIEW — Cheap Trick at The Sound in Clearwater 2023

Cheap Trick w/ Robin Taylor Zander • June 28, 2023 • The Sound — Clearwater, FL • Photos by Randy Cook —


Cheap Trick | June 28, 2023 | The Sound, Clearwater, FL
Review by Randy Cook.

What a way to open a new sparkling music venue with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Cheap Trick playing a free-ticketed show at the new showcase music venue, The Sound, located on the picturesque waterfront overlooking Clearwater Beach in the distance. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the venue before Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard as well as the entire Clearwater City Council handed the reins over to Robin Taylor Zander, the son of Cheap Trick’s Zander, for him and his band to perform the inaugural notes played from the stage.

I was lucky to have gotten a spot in one of the City’s parking garages and paid a mere $.80 to park since the garages are free after 6PM. Entry into the venue was really easy and upon entry, we patrons were offered a multitude of dining and beverage options with various food trucks parked close to the venue’s concession areas.

Before the show started, I wandered around the venue taking in the sightlines to the stage from all angles and I must say I do not think there is a bad seat in the place. With four thousand seats under the canopy and capacity for another five thousand on the lawn seating area, it was hard for me to imagine that number of people on the lawn. It seemed like the lawn would be elbow-to-elbow jam-packed. With only seven thousand tickets released for this event, there would be plenty of room on this evening on the lawn area. The thing that surprised me the most was that the age demographics in the crowd were highly skewed to middle age and above. I figured for a band with almost fifty years of history and a song released in the “Rock Band” video game universe there would have been at least a stronger showing of the younger generation.

The mayor and the council members gathered on stage to announce Robin Taylor Zander officially getting the show underway. I was not familiar with any of the music of Robin Taylor Zander, and I found the opening songs rather soft, but not knowing what to expect, the tempo picked up after my three songs behind the lens were completed and I was back in my seat. I kept thinking how proud of a father Robin Zander must be to have his son open for his band, but maybe that has happened before with other shows. Also Robin Taylor joked how he came all the way from Safety Harbor (less than ten miles), while his backing band, Boys Go To Jupiter, came from New York to play for us. On a serious note, he plugged being signed to a record label as well as giving a shout out to the executive who signed him that he was in the crowd this evening. He played a thirty minute set and as a special guest brought out his sister Robin-Sailor Zander to sing with him. What a talented family.

After a short stage change, it was time for the main event. The anticipation in the air was thicker than the humidity. Right at the stroke of 8 o’clock, the five members of Cheap Trick ambled across the stage to their positions waving to the crowd. Lead singer Robin Zander adorned in feathered hat that partially covered his face and he addressed the crowd “Hello there, ladies and gentleman. Are you ready to rock?” and the band launched into their opening number, ‘Hello There’ which is the staple opening song for Cheap Trick concerts, but as a photographer who only gets to photo for the first three songs it is quite a short song, clocking in under two minutes.

After the opening song, the crowd settled in and returned sitting down as the band rocks through several songs I am not familiar with. Lead guitarist and songwriter Rick Nielsen introduces one song that makes him laugh and say, “…this is another one of our songs that got no airplay…but it is played at every football game…”. Even so, I still did not recognize the song and it was at that exact moment I realized how little I know of the band’s material seeing as how the band formed fifty years ago. It was not until their cover of the Fats Domino song ‘Ain’t that a Shame’ that brought the crowd back to their feet and singing along. Soon after, lead singer Robin Zander brought his son out to play guitar on three songs.

When the first few notes of the band’s mega-hit, ‘The Flame’ started, once again the entirety of the crowd were back on their feet, and as the song progressed from my vantage point I could see many couples slow dancing in the aisles as it was probably “their song”. Not only does this song take me back to my teenage years, but lyrically, with some of the things happening in life around me currently it just stopped me in my tracks and gave me pause to think and appreciate being there at that moment. That song segued right into ‘I Want You to Want Me’, another of the band’s bigger hits and the dancing in the aisles continued.

When the flashing red and blue lights started before the intro to ‘Dream Police’ began, all I could think about was Mike Damone’s character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High in his scalper pitch trying to sell Cheap Trick tickets in the movie stating to a perspective client in the stands, “Can you honestly tell me you forgot? Forgot the magnetism of Robin Zander, or the charisma of Rick Nielsen?” then singing a short medley before being interrupted by Stacey. Just a personal laughable moment before I focused back on the show at hand. ‘Surrender’ was next and that kept the crowd standing. The highlight of this part of the show was a handful of youngsters the band brought up on stage to sing the famous chorus “Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright / They just seem a little weird.” Which had me singing along as well.

Aptly closing the show with the Song ‘Goodnight’ it was not until this song that guitarist Rick Nielsen finally played his famous five neck guitar which I would have loved to gotten a good photo of, but sadly the camera was stowed away as per the rules many songs ago.

Overall, I would give the new venue a glowing thumbs up. There are ways to mitigate the difficulty I found it was to park there, but it is a beautiful park space surrounding the venue and right on the water I can only imagine the picturesque sunset shots in the future (thankfully it was a little cloudy today or the heat would have been unbearable).The sound quality was excellent for both bands. I had already mentioned the sightlines to the stage and as I made my way out of the place, I saw nothing but smiling faces. Cheap Trick put on a fantastic performance. I very much look forward to seeing more shows there in the future, although in the cooler months.

Cheap Trick Setlist:
Hello There
Just Got Back
Big Eyes
He’s a Whore
California Man (The Move cover)
Ain’t That a Shame (Fats Domino cover)
Light Up the Fire
Need Your Love
Stop This Game
I Know What I Want
The Flame
I Want You to Want Me
Dream Police

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