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Wednesday, 10th July 2013

Calgary, AB - Media Reviews

Fort Calgary comes alive with sounds of classic rock of bygone era from Def Leppard, Cheap Trick and Sloan By Gerry Krochak

You can’t stop rock and roll - especially during Stampede. No KISS, no problem!

While the Scotiabank Saddledome will remain silent for a while longer, historic Fort Calgary came alive with the sound of music last night. Classic rock of a bygone era, perhaps, but the 1-2-3 punch of Def Leppard, Cheap Trick and Sloan was still relevant (and then some) for 18,000 sun-drenched and lobster-skinned revellers in attendance for Stampede Roundup 2013.

The legacy of Da Leps has been cemented after over 100 million records sold.

And the group can still bring it live. Not even sweltering late-day heat and wonky sound rig could dampen the enthusiasm of the well-lubricated throng of fence-to-fence rockers as Joe Elliott & Co. hit the stage and launched into a cover of the old Sweet nugget Action to kick-off the proceedings.

From there on in, it was hit after MTV and MuchMusic hit, making it easy for the 30- and 40-something-heavy crowd to channel their collective inner 15-year-olds.

Elliott’s voice may not have the power it once had, but he held it down as guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell traded leads through Animal, Foolin’ and Love Bites.

You don’t like to make a huge deal when it comes to audio production at outdoor concerts, but after the sound system cut out during the second song, the remainder of the show consisted of a bass-heavy thud which overpowered the twin lead guitars. Disappointing … but whatever.

The crowd wasn’t going to let it bother them and they only got louder and louder through Make Love Like A Man, Women, Bringin’ On The Heartbreak, the title cut from Hysteria, Armageddon It, Pour Some Sugar On Me and, well you get the picture.

A pair of pyromania heavy hitters in the form of Photograph and Rock Of Ages would send them to the exits exhilarated and exhausted.

Cheap Trick may never have achieved the global fame of Leppard, but the Rockford, Ill. veterans have been doing it longer (and some would say better) during the group’s 40-year history.

Ageless wonder Robin Zander has rock-star presence (had to love the white Dream Police cop getup, of which he later switched hats to a white Stetson) and he can still sing like a day off, while guitarist Rick Nielsen remains still the clown-prince of guitar-driven power pop.

The familiar strains of Hello There (familiar at least for anyone who owns a party-battered copy of Cheap Trick At Budokan) segued quickly into classic gems such as Lookout, On Top Of The World and the Fats Domino cover Ain’t That Shame. Incidentally, the sound was perfect during the group’s entire set.

The Sloan boys stood side-stage, slack-jawed and enjoying a band that clearly influenced them all those years ago. Cheap Trick is the epitome of a veteran band that has aged well.

The group poured it on and the crowd lapped it up through The Flame, I Want You to Want Me, Dream Police and Surrender.

If “classic” implies a body of work that has stood the test of time, Cheap Trick is a group that should never retire.

Maybe ’90s alt-rock is the new classic rock and Sloan filled out the Canadian quotient of Stampede Roundup 2013 as the sun hammered down on the few thousand punters who left work early or didn’t show up at the office at all — guilty as charged.

It’s easy to recall why Sloan were at the forefront of the post-Seattle Halifax explosion in the early ‘90s and the group kicked it out through Losing California, Who Taught You To Live Like That, the 1994 hit single Coax Me, a punchy and superb interpretation of Unkind and the showstopper of The Good In Everyone.

Who says you can’t rock at four in the afternoon?

By Gerry Krochak @ Calgary Sun 2013.

Review: Rocking the Stampede at Fort Calgary By Eric Volmers

Def Leppard, Cheap Trick, Sloan enthrall audience

There was a cute moment at about the halfway point of Wednesday night’s Stampede RoundUp when bow-tie-and-baseball-cap-sporting guitar god Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick wandered backstage while blasting through his band’s classic I Want You to Want Me. Without missing a lick, he appeared to be having an impromptu chat with the obviously worshipful members of opening act, Sloan.

Sloan, of course, are not exactly newbies on the scene. But compared to the 40-year run of Cheap Trick, they are positively green.

Putting in an hour-plus set in the still sweltering early evening, the Illinois quartet offered the sort of dizzyingly great set that can perhaps only come with four decades of experience and enough of an appreciation for the audience to appear as if you are out there for the first time.

Loud, fast, energetic and often endearingly loose, Cheap Trick were ostensibly the second opener for British pop-metal act Def Leppard last night at the Stampede RoundUp at Fort Calgary.

This heavily populated invite-only “party” was promoted to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’s biggest concert after KISS, Dixie Chicks and Tim McGraw were cancelled at the flooded Saddledome this year. Calgary’s biggest corporate bash was sold out with 16,000 attendees. Money will go to the Rotary Club of Calgary, which will in turn be setting up a fund for flood relief.

So it was an evening of the terminally hip (Sloan), hip-again (Cheap Trick, who are finally getting the credit they deserve as power-pop pioneers) and not-so-hip (Def Leppard).

While not the headliner, Cheap Trick’s set was certainly headline-worthy. The 64-year-old Nielsen led the charge with an unhinged performance of understated guitar virtuosity and manic stage presence.

He was matched by leather-lunged vocalist Robin Zander, whose voice has stood up remarkably well over 40 years.

It was put to the test with a run through arguably their biggest, although far from best, hit The Flame, which had an added urgency Wednesday night that blasted the power-ballad cliches right out of it. Zander was equally impressive during the howling intro of Stop This Game and the endearing garage-rock run through of Fats Domino’s Ain’t That A Shame.

But as the band reached the final lap of its set, what became clear was that for all his band’s prowess on stage (they did, after all, soar to fame in 1978 with the live album Cheap Trick at Budokan), Nielsen may also be one of rock’s best songwriters.

The end run through I Want You to Want Me, Dream Police and especially their scorching take on Surrender showed how masterful he was (maybe still is) at blending tattered, thundering guitar riffs with razor-sharp hooks.

So Def Leppard, who are certainly no slouch in the catchy-melody department themselves, obviously had a hard act to follow.

Unfortunately, the opening was a little muddy thanks to some persistent sound gremlins that affected the first couple of tunes. Still, it didn’t take long for the band’s radio-friendly hooks to take hold.

Songs such as Animal, Foolin’, Rocket and Pour Some Sugar on Me are custom-made for liquor-fuelled revellers to bray along to without much prompting. Not unlike Cheap Trick, there was certainly a play for nostalgia. During the mid-tempo Hysteria, for instance, the big screens flashed old pictures and clips of the band in their youthful, shirtless glory. Armageddon It was preceded by a post-flood pep talk by singer Joe Elliott and the band emerged for encores rocking white cowboy hats.

It was polished, a touch cheesy and maybe a little dated (Drum solo! Duelling guitars!). But, not surprisingly, the crowd ate it up. Besides, the hits have held up reasonably well, offering a reminder of why Def Leppard were once the biggest band in the cosmos.

Meanwhile, Canuck rockers Sloan, who owe more than a little debt to Cheap Trick’s power-pop wizardry, had the perhaps unenviable task of opening the festivities as people continued to roll in.

The band has always operated with a democratic (perhaps to a fault) vibe that finds them swapping songs, and occasionally instruments, on stage.

It’s a dynamic that probably works better in a slightly more intimate setting than Fort Calgary’s sprawling grounds. It also makes the dubious assumption that the gods are equitable when handing out songwriting skills. Still, the act has been around since 1991 and have collected a collection of quality tunes.

There’s no denying the power-pop wallop of Good in Everyone or dual-guitar charge of the set-ending Money City Maniacs.

The guitar crunch occasionally drowned out the harmonies that are key to Sloan’s sound and the band certainly doesn’t seem to have that high-kicking energy they once possessed. Or perhaps they choose not to exert themselves too much for an opening slot in the sun.

Still, there was great pleasure in seeing Sloan - arguably one of the better inheritors of Cheap Trick’s guitar-fuelled power-pop — open for the masters.

By Eric Volmers @ Calgary Herald 2013.

By Rocker Paris 2013.


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