ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Poison has guts. Tabbing Cheap Trick to open for the veteran hair metalists takes some gumption.
Cheap Trick stole the show from Bret Michaels and the boys by delivering powerful and anthemic rock classics last month.
“We’re doing all that we know and we’ve done this now for so long,” vocalist-guitarist Robin Zander said. “I can’t believe how many years we’ve been doing this.”
Cheap Trick formed in 1974 in Rockford, Ill. The energetic act never received enough credit for its masterful combination of crunchy power chords, quirky lyrics and laudable live performances.
“We’ve worked hard and we look at the positive,” Zander said. “We have an amazing fan base that’s been supportive for so long.”
So Cheap Trick, which will perform Friday (7/13) at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Manchester, has been one of the most consistent bands over the past 40 years. Classic albums “Heaven Tonight” and “In Color” were released during the ’70s, with other exceptional collections being “Rockford” in 2006 and the solid “Bang, Zoom, Crazy ... Hello” in 2016.
“We’ve had a great career,” Zander said. “Before we took off (in 1978) we were a cult band and we were fine with that. We’re content with how we’re doing now. But we look back at what happened when we took off and it’s just ridiculous.”
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Like Peter Frampton’s success with “Frampton Comes Alive,” Cheap Trick was catapulted into the stratosphere courtesy of a concert recording. “Live at Budokan” was the band’s ticket to stardom. Japanese fans attending the Budokan show went bonkers over such infectious tracks as “I Want You To Want Me,” “Surrender” and “Southern Girls.”
“The Japanese fans were so good to us,” Zander said. “They were so enthusiastic. We loved playing there, but never guessed we would blow up back home — but we did.”
Cheap Trick — which also includes guitarist Rick Nielsen and bassist Tom Petersson — has strong rock credentials, but it took years for the band to be honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band was finally inducted in 2016.
“That’s (being inducted) great but it all goes back to the music that we’ve recorded and continue to record,” Zander said. “But it was an honor that we didn’t take lightly. Not everybody gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was an amazing experience.”
How have Zander, Nielsen and Petersson kept it together for so many years?
“We keep some distance between ourselves when we’re not working,” Zander said.
Zander, 65, resides in Tampa, Petersson, 68, lives in Nashville and Nielsen, 69, remains in his native Illinois.
“It helps that we don’t see each other every day,” Zander said. “We get along great, but we don’t socialize with each other. A lot of young bands don’t realize that it’s best to keep that distance. Once you’re in everyone’s business, things start happening.”
Zander still has a strong and supple voice as a senior citizen.
“I try to take care of myself,” he said. “I live for this. I’m just glad we can continue to do what we do.”
Cheap Trick soldiers on with Nielsen’s son Daxx as the band’s drummer, since original percussionist Bun E. Carlos bailed on touring in 2010. “It’s worked out well with him,” Zander said. “We all just keep moving on and the fans really seem to enjoy us.”
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It was evident that pop-rock fans reveled in what Cheap Trick delivered in Allentown. “There’s nothing like when you look out there and the fans are singing along,” Zander said. “It’s the same for me whether it’s a Japanese girl or a middle-aged man. It’s all cool.”
WHAT: Cheap Trick
WHERE: Delaware County Fairgrounds, 200 E. Acers St., Manchester
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. July 13
TICKETS: Standing-room-only $70; free in the grandstand; Delawarecofair.com/grandstand-events
FAIR ADMISSION: $12 ages 12 and over, $3 ages 1 to 11
BAND’S WEBSITE: Cheaptrick.com