A work horse of a rock band, Cheap Trick — who have been active as a band since 1973 — continues to release albums and tour the world, despite the rise and dominance of pop music. Success has come to this four-piece in some unorthodox ways, as they are one of the only acts for which a live album (1979’s “Cheap Trick at Budokan”) is both their breakout and signature record. That’s not to say they are a one-album wonder. Far from it. Over the last 40-plus years they’ve seen a handful of singles shoot up the pop charts, with their best known tracks being the pop rocker “I Want You to Want Me,” and their late ’80s comeback ballad “The Flame.” In 2016 they were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. This week Cheap Trick comes to Tropicana Atlantic City at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15. Guitarist Rick Nielsen sat down to chat with us in advance of the show.
Atlantic City Weekly: What drew you to rock ‘n’ roll as a kid?
Rick Nielsen: Well my parents were opera singers and that just wasn’t my kind of music, .
ACW: ‘Cheap Trick at Budokan’ is your most famous album. Being that it is also a live album, do you feel that you have to live up to that every time you go onstage?
RN: Well it’s not that we have to live up to the Budokan record, but we have to know what were doing. They didn’t like us just because we were all so pretty — it had a little to do with the music!
ACW: You guys seem to be on tour constantly. Do you see that slowing down any time soon?
RN: Not really. I mean we used to do as many as 300 shows a year, we don’t do that anymore, but we have a lot planned (for this year). We have this little trek we are doing and then we are going on tour with ZZ Top for a month and then we have a couple months with Rod Stewart so we have plenty of work.
ACW: Do you still enjoy touring?
RN: Yeah, I love to play. I’m not always excited about all the traveling though.
ACW: We have been hearing talk for a few years about a new album being released. Is that still happening?
RN: Yeah, in fact I think it’s coming out sometime this spring.
ACW: You have been writing songs for decades. Does it still come easy to you?
RN: It’s never been that easy. I only write when there is a reason to write. I don’t get up and write every day or anything.
ACW: When you recorded the record “Lap of Luxury” in 1988 you worked with some outside songwriters. Do you ever do that now?
RN: Usually it’s just the guys in the band, unless some crazy opportunity comes up.
ACW: Are there any new rock groups you enjoy listening to?
RN: Uhh …no.
ACW: Recently you guys have become known for mixing up the setlists a lot.
RN: Yeah we play a different set every night. With our old drummer (Bun E. Carlos) we used to do pretty much the same songs every night. But that was his deal, not ours. And the fans like it because now we play deeper cuts, not just the normal stuff. Like last night we played 5 or 6 different songs from the show before. We still do soundchecks. So we’ll go up during soundcheck and go over different stuff to make sure we refresh our memories, and then we’ll play them that night.
ACW: What can fans expect at the Tropicana?
RN: It’s going to be good. Cheap Trick on steroids!