Rick Nielsen – Cheap Trick ‘The Stars Align Down Under’

It’s going to be a nostalgic trip back in time when Cheap Trick return down under…

Rick Nielson joins us for a brief conversation about all things Under The Southern Stars, his guitar collection, touring during a pandemic, the band’s Las Vegas residency and what we can expect from their Aussie tour setlists.

Dig in, tiger!

Good Moring Rick, it’s an absolute pleasure to speak with you. How are you?

Oh; I’m fair to partly cloudy. You must be too its 7:30 in the morning where you are. It’s usually me early in the morning, for once I’m on the other end of it (laughs)

Thank you for taking the time to chat. I am just so excited that finally we have you and Cheap Trick coming out for the series of shows that is Under The Southern Stars. It is incredible that Cheap Trick are headlining the run of shows. It must feel a little surreal to know that you are finally travelling and touring internationally again?

Well yeah it is. Although we have done four separate flights and shows in Mexico, so that’s kind of internationally. But the real stuff, the real long flights have begun again.

For now, Cheap Trick has a Las Vegas where you are doing four decades of Cheap Trick in four nights. For us Australian fans this is incredible because we already know that the band prides itself in mixing up the setlist; this brings a whole new depth to what we could expect from the setlists on these shows. What can you tell me about these shows and what we can expect on the tour?

It’s exciting and terrifying, we had to go and rehearse. We have a lot of songs, and these aren’t a run of regular shows. It was fun diving in and going ‘hey I kind like that song.’ As we are doing four completely different sets, we will play some songs that we hadn’t planned for Australia. Then we have another tour coming up later this year with Rod Stewart and we had to consider what do we play in front of his crowd? Is he going to play the old lady, I mean the older fans material, is he going to do the disco era stuff? We want him to play the Maggie May era, so what do we play? What do we play in front of the Stone Temple Pilots crowd, we have played with them before and they are a heavy band, mind you we aren’t too shabby either? It will be fun.

I saw you a couple of times on the last tour of Australia back in 2018 both with Foreigner in Adelaide and then in Melbourne. What again amazed me was the depth and diversity in both sets. There was something for everyone regardless of depth of the fan in the shows I saw. The Under The Southern Stars tour is eleven shows in sixteen days. How do you structure setlists for Australia?

I can tell you now, we will be very tuned up for the Under The Southern Starts shows. Why don’t you write us a set? I really do mean that too. What do you think the best things for us to do for fans that know us and for the fans that don’t know us? What do you want to hear, I don’t want to do just the standard stuff, that stuff is good too, but what would you have us play?

What a way to put me on the spot Rick. Off the top of my head, it would have to be anything from the first album, anything from In Colour right through to Woke Up With A Monster to the self-titled ’97 album up until now, there are just too many to dig into. But I will definitely get that setlist to you Rick.

We are rehearsing ‘Woke Up With A Monster’, I have got the setlist here (Rick rustles through the setlists for Vegas and holds it up to the screen) that’s in the second night’s set. That show’s set is I Can’t Understand It, Tonight It’s You, Standing on the Edge, How About You, Take Me to the Top, Don’t Be Cruel, It’s Only Love, Walk Away, Never Had a Lot to Lose, Didn’t Know I Had It, If You Need Me, Woke Up With a Monster, The Flame, I Want You to Want Me, Dream Police, Little Sister, Surrender, Goodnight. Again, I’m not joking, send me your dream set list and we will see what we can do, it doesn’t have to be in order, but please send it through and make sure we get a copy of it.

So I can tell you now we will be playing ‘Woke Up With A Monster’ in Australia. Here I will play it for you now (grabs a guitar and starts playing), well I’m not in tune, but you get the idea (laughs). Yeah I know it.

2021 saw the incredible In Another World album come out and obviously Covid stopped most of the touring behind the album. I am amazed that the band still managed to play 50 plus dates during a pandemic. Even in a pandemic Cheap Trick are still one of the hardest touring bands out there, what keeps that going?

My nose hurts, I can tell you that much from getting all those sticks stuck up my nose (laughs). We are a touring band, that’s what we do. It’s not a get rich quick scheme (laughs). All the time that we play we have a crew, a slim crew of the same guys for years and years and years. We are a family when we go out. We usually have two busses, one for the band and one for the crew. We aren’t riding around in a van with a trailer behind us and we like to have as good a show as possible. It’s been tough with the costs of all this crazy crap that’s been going on. It has been expensive to go out and when we can we do, sometimes we do OK, other times we don’t do so OK, but we always try to play as much as we can and change it up as often as we can.

I think that is the appeal for a Cheap Trick fan too. The fact that you go out and play as much as you can and change things up as much as you can, there is always a reason to catch as many shows on a run as you can. You never know what you are going to get.

Uh Oh !! (laughs) That’s the way we like to do it for ourselves and the fans.

You have a notoriously large collection of guitars, which ones can we expect to see on the tour?

I actually don’t know, we just rehearsed for Vegas which is coming up. We go right from Vegas to Australia. I honestly don’t know what I will be bringing with me. Normally we have two sets of gear an A set and a B set that are both equally good. Having the two sets of gear means we can do a show in Ney York one night and Los Angeles the next night and have the gear we know instead of crummy stuff we may have to source. Renting gear, we have had to do that occasionally, but I don’t like that. I like to be babied (laughs), no actually I like to have the stuff I know works with me. I have five hundred guitars so why would I bring a piece of junk with me.

Is it true that you sold off a portion of your guitar collection?

No, not really. I helped start reverb, I was one of the guys at reverb.com. The owner David Kalt came to me said what do you think you could get rid of? I said well I have this pedal over here (laughs). I have over 500 guitars at my house, so there are probably a few things I could get rid of. I had a look and said let’s get this business going, so I got rid of a few things. I have one hundred and sixty-seven Gibson’s and could probably get it down to a hundred and fifty. But that was then. I offered some stuff up and they sold in one day, then I did it again and everything sold again the same day. I still have and I don’t like to say it, but too much, but now I only have room for the stuff I have. Do you need something? I’m sure I have got something for you (laughs).

Getting back to the Under The Southern Stars tour, you mentioned you have played with Stone Temple Pilots before; what about the other bands on the bill, have you shared the stage with any of them before?

I think we have done shows where Bush, Black Rebel Motorcyle Club have been on the bill, much like the Under The Southern Stars shows. I like the bands we are doing these shows with. Rose Tattoo, I have known those guys for a long time. Its like the last time we were out we did a show with Jimmy Barnes and I have known him for quite a long time, but we had never done any shows with him, that was fun to do. Way back in the day we toured with AC/DC doing flip flop shows, somehow they became a little bit bigger than we were (laughs).

Cheap Trick have always been well known for doing those flip flop type of shows in Australia you are probably best know for doing them with The Angels.

Yes we have done them with The Angels, with Stone Temple Pilots and Aerosmith, we have worked with them a bunch. We work with everybody except The Rolling Stones.

Is there a reason behind that?

The only time when people clap for a band when the open for The Rolling Stones is when they leave the stage (laughs)

Cheap Trick have always had a solid relationship with Australia, I think from memory you have toured here at least 10 times during your career. What makes Australia so special?

I tried to immigrate to Australia in 1971 or 72. I still have the letters from the embassy and the invites. I didn’t go there because before I had kids, I had a dog and it wasn’t allowed to come or had to be quarantined, chances were I would never see my dog again. The opportunity was wonderful, and I think the Australian government offered me something like 10 Acres of land. It was such a weird deal back then. Its crazy to think that Australia is a similar size to the United Stated but with one tenth of the amount of people. I could have been in AC/DC, except I was too tall (grins widely). I love the Young Brothers. Every Australian I have ever met, especially the girls, I like. It’s a good place with good people.

We are out of time Rick, I’m getting the hurry up. Thank you so much for your time and should we get the opportunity to chat again, I would love to. But for now it’s goodbye. I look forward to seeing you and Cheap Trick on a couple of Under The Southern Stars dates. Say Hi to Daxx for me. Until then travel safe.

I will, thank you Andrew and don’t forget to write that set list for me !!!! Bye for now.

Interview by Andrew Slaidins.

Under The Southern Stars Tour kicks off March 11
Details and Ticketing here

Under The Southern Stars 2022

Fri, March 11: Maitland Showground, Maitland, NSW

Sat, March 12: Foreshore Reserve, Hastings, VIC

Sun, March 13: JC Lowe Oval, Yarrawonga, VIC

Wed, March 16: Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, VIC

Fri, March 18: Bonython Park, Adelaide, SA

Sat, March 19: Bonython Park, Adelaide, SA

Sun, March 20: Bonython Park, Adelaide, SA

Tues, March 22: WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong, NSW

Wed, March 23: Quodos Bank Arena, Sydney, NSW

Fri, March 25: Kings Beach Ampitheatre, Caloundra, QLD

Sat, March 26: Southport Sharks, Gold Coast, QLD

Sun, March 27: Riverstage, Brisbane, QLD

Tickets Here