Cheap Trick the ‘greatest rockin’ band’ Rockford has seen

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11503158834496.jpg’, ‘Photo by Jonathan Hicks’, ‘Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (left) and members of Cheap Trick (from left: Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos) prepare for a question and answer session at a private party at Paragon On State June 5. ‘);

Virtually every local media outlet—this one included—has spent the last two months feeding you every scrap of Cheap Trick-related news we could get our hands on. So by this time, you’ve already heard about the release of the latest Cheap Trick album, Rockford. You’ve also probably heard about the exclusive record release party June 5 at Paragon On State.

The romantic thing to say would be that last week’s release party for the band’s new album, Rockford, was the culmination of the hard work put into the creation of the much-hyped project. But romantic as it might be, it’s not necessarily accurate. (After all, romanticism isn’t always accurate, and accuracy isn’t always romantic.)

In truth, the invitation-only party at the Paragon was less of a culmination and more of a day off to celebrate with friends. The band members themselves referred to the festivities as “kind of like a family reunion.” And while a day off may not seem glamorous or even worth writing about, it’s a big deal for a band that had been tirelessly promoting the release via radio, newspaper and television for weeks.

Hosted by Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (whom guitarist Rick Nielsen publicly supported for election in April 2005), the band took part in a 10-minute question and answer session from stools stationed at the front of the restaurant. Morrissey and the band both earned healthy amounts of laughter while discussing the new album, their stint on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and the possibility of naming a future album Loves Park.

Surrounded by fan club members and black-and-white checkerboard patterns, the band spent the 90 minutes following the Q & A mingling with friends and signing autographs, and taking photos with eager fan club members. Like so many other parties, the evening ended without fireworks, as fans and band members headed for the exit steadily, one by one.

A lot of Rockford residents take Cheap Trick for granted. For a kid like me who grew up here, they are the band that has simply “always been here.” And though it seems as if everyone has a story about “this one time” they had breakfast with Rick at the Stockholm Inn or had a beer with Bun E., on the whole, we are a city that has largely ignored the four individuals who put Rockford on the pop culture map.

Perhaps that’s why this evening at the Paragon was so much fun—it was a party without critics or detractors. It was friends and family. It was smiles and laughter. It was fans from across the globe and from across the street. It was a night that will likely remain visible in the minds of those fans for years to come. It was a night that reminded the fortunate few Rockford residents in attendance that even after all these years, Bun E. Carlos, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Robin Zander are still just local kids at heart.

Perhaps Morrissey put it best in his toast: “I can’t think of a…better band to stand for this city. I wish you all the success in the world locally, statewide, nationally and internationally. On behalf of the City of Rockford, let’s raise our glasses and toast the greatest rockin’ band this town has ever seen: Cheap Trick.”

From the June 14-20, 2006, issue

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