Black-and-white checkered apparel glutted the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center on Saturday as Cheap Trick enthusiasts emerged from different walks of life and united in the name of rock n’ roll.
The front row housed a slew of Cheap Trick super-fans — one of whom proudly draped a license plate that read “Trik Fan” around his neck like a lavish gold chain, and others who thrashed their arms and bodies about like they were fighting off an opponent twice their size.
One of Cheap Trick’s youngest, and arguably biggest fans, 7-year-old Lila Hawkins, claimed her spot in the front row with enthusiasm that bubbled like a carbonated beverage. Decked in a black and white checkered fedora that was belted with a red ribbon, Hawkins hurled the rock n’ roll symbol during songs with her small, child hands, and captured the attention of both the audience and the band.
Despite the entirety of fans towering over her in height and age, Hawkins twirled around unbothered — unveiling the compelling message that rock n’ roll, and music in general, possesses the power to unify all regardless of age or gender or race.
Tapping into Hawkin’s youthful persona, guitarist Rick Nielsen told the audience the reason the band is still performing and creating new albums is because “[They’re] too young to quit.”
Cheap Trick’s performance was not for the gentle-eared as band members Nielsen, Tom Petersson, Robin Zander and guest drummer Robin Taylor Zander, strummed, smacked and belted the set list with vigor.
Playing a variety of songs throughout the night, Cheap Trick recapped its last three decades and showcased its ongoing life as a band with 1988 song “The Flame,” “Long Time Coming” from its 2017 album “We’re Alright” and late 1970 fan favorite “I Want you to Want Me.”
Induced by the playing of “I Want You To Want Me,” fans seated further back in the venue trickled down the isles to form a blob of swaying bodies before the stage — so they could fully cherish the band’s gift of a two-song encore.
Surging his way through final songs “Surrender” and “Dream Police,” guitar fanatic Nielsen stunned the audience by strumming a five-necked yellow and black checkered guitar with ease. Nielsen and his band mates tossed handfuls of guitar picks into the hungry crowd, and fans shamelessly dove to the ground like children collecting candy chucked to them at a parade.
After Cheap Trick vacated the stage and the seats of the Luhrs Center flapped up in emptiness, stage crew and other personnel ascended Hawkins to the stage and let her have a field day as she collected the remaining guitar picks and loose money tossed on stage during the show. She demonstrated an admirable willingness to share her good fortune by handing out the picks she collected in her checkered fedora to stray fans. As for the money, maybe she will treat herself to an ice cream, or save up for a new Cheap Trick CD.