Fifteen months after their first and last live shows, one of rock music’s royal families is more than ready to rock again at Davenport’s Adler Theatre Thursday, June 3.
The Nielsen Trust – made up of Cheap Trick guitarist and main songwriter Rick Nielsen, sons Miles (guitar) and Daxx (drums), and Miles’ wife Kelly Steward (vocals) – will perform at 7 p.m. on a bill with Nick Perri & The Underground Thieves, and opening act All Sweat Productions (of the Quad-Cities).
As live music has kicked back into gear in a big way locally and globally, Miles Nielsen, 45, is thrilled to be back playing for in-person audiences.
“I think it’s going to be fun, as long as people show up and I’m just excited to get back on the road,” he said in a recent interview. “I just got back from Arizona out there, a couple of shows, just the two of us, and people are just ready to get back to feeling that energy with people, and feel the energy of live music in a room. For sure, I’m excited about that.”
Cheap Trick (best known for hits “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender”) formed in 1974 in Rockford, Ill., where Miles still lives. His dad Rick is 72 and Cheap Trick is back on the road starting July 2 in Fort Dodge, Iowa – and later this summer have several concert dates with Rod Stewart. The Nielsen Trust is kicking off its 13-date June tour at the Adler.
“They’re going to be busy,” Miles (who fronts his own rock band, The Rusted Hearts) said of Cheap Trick. “So that’s kind of like the beautiful window of the tour that we have. The three weeks in June that we’re doing shows are going to be the only three weeks that we’re playing, probably up until some indoor rescheduled for December.”
The Nielsen Trust only got to play two shows together, in March 2020 in the Wisconsin Dells, before Covid shut down touring. Their first tour included a shelved March 26, 2020 date at The Rust Belt in East Moline. Miles Nielsen said the family band was her mom’s idea.
“She said, when your dad’s off the road, you know, let’s get together and have a band,” he said. “Yeah, yeah, it sounds exactly like what he’d want to do when they’re off the road from 140 dates a year, but everybody was into it. And we’ve been having fun doing it.”
“It’s meant to be fun, you know, it’s not meant to be going out front for the record deal,” Nielsen said. “We’re going out and to have the opportunity to play with your dad and my brother and my wife, I have a good time.”
Compared to The Rusted Hearts – which last played the Q-C in July 2019 at East Moline’s River Bend Park – the family band is more straight-ahead rock/pop, and incorporates a bunch of songs from the different artists’ repertoire. Daxx has been Cheap Trick’s drummer since 2010, and Miles’ wife is a singer/songwriter in her own right.
The Rusted Hearts (also veterans of Davenport’s Redstone Room and former Raccoon Motel) have a more eclectic sound, including ‘60s soul and influences as diverse as Otis Redding classics and Jellyfish power pop.
Over the pandemic, Nielsen took the time to work on his songwriting and cherish time with his family – which includes a 20-year-old son, and two daughters, 17 and 15.
“If we just look for the upside in most situations, we joke all the time, but I’ve never had this much time with our teenagers as we did this past year,” he said. “That was a blessing and now we’re getting back to it, on the road.”
The Rusted Hearts toured in Europe in fall 2019, to promote their last album, then did about five stateside shows by March 2020.
“We really haven’t had a chance to even tour on that record,” Nielsen said. “So it’s just weird because now that record will be almost two years old and we’ve never really toured on it.”
Adler deals with Covid changes
Like many Q-C venues, the historic Adler Theatre (136 E. 3rd St., Davenport) has been open to concerts for months, and has many Covid health and safety protocols in place, even with recent changes in CDC guidance.
“We’re communicating our message of proper social distancing, wearing face masks and keeping the building really sanitized,” said Rick Palmer, executive director of the RiverCenter and Adler Theatre.
“We’ve got the electromatic sprayers disinfecting between shows and all those things. So we’re trying to make sure the public knows that their safety is the most important thing and that we’re going to do it by the book for right now,” he said.
For a recent John Denver tribute show, they were at about 60 percent of their 700-person maximum capacity, which is in itself about one-third the total theater capacity.
“People are still a little cautious, and that’s okay,” Palmer said. “And we’re going to follow those guidelines and do our best to host shows and keep everybody safe.
It’s been a challenge to book national touring acts for the Adler.
“There’s some acts that are very cautious, and other acts that are ‘Man, I just want to play, whatever you got out, do it’,” he said. “We follow through and we want to make sure that all those acts understand how we’re doing it for their safety and the patrons. And you know, it’s gone pretty well. But not everybody’s working out.”
“We’re probably a bit ahead of the game for indoor theaters because of the Adler Foundation and their own foundation for programming,” Palmer said. “We have the resources to be able to take that risk and so shows out there are so very grateful for that.”
“We were able to book some shows and you notice also and all these shows we combine some local talent,” he said of the new six-show series, which launches Saturday, May 29.
“They normally don’t get an opportunity to play the Adler Theatre and this was an opportunity that we could bring them in as openers and hopefully help their exposure a little bit,” Palmer said. “We’ve got some really good local artists.”
The new Adler Theatre Foundation series is comprised of:
Ballet Quad Cities, QCSO Trio: Music of Appalachia with special guest Aaron Fullan
Saturday, May 29, 2021 at 8 p.m. | Tickets: $25
Nick Perri & The Underground Thieves and The Nielsen Trust with special guest All Sweat Productions
Thursday, June 3, 2021 at 7 p.m. | Tickets: $22, $34, $42
Amythyst Kiah with special guests Ashley Dean and Soultru
Saturday, June 5, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. | Tickets: $22, $27, $32
Walter Trout with special guest Avey Grouws Band
Friday, June 18, 2021 at 8 p.m. | Tickets: $22, $27, $32
Palmer collaborated with local companies, Ballet Quad Cities and Quad City Symphony Orchestra, as well as Quad City Arts and River Music Experience, to showcase a diverse lineup of genres — from ballet to rock to magic.
“We’re trying to help support our partners, like the River Music Experience, trying to help them get programming,” Palmer said. Though the Adler Foundation has been around since the mid-1980s, this series is new, he noted.
“The foundation has been involved with us every year, but we wanted to make sure people knew where the support for this was coming from,” he said. “They made the commitment for finding programming, and it’s greatly appreciated.”
For Q-C area performers, the new series is “something they can add to their resume, helps to hopefully expose them to fans that don’t even know they’re fans yet,” Palmer said. “It helps them to continue to grow their fan base, get their exposure out there.”
“We’ve always had a great relationship with the Adler and have worked with them over the years on a few smaller events, but this is our first run of true -show partnerships with them,” said Kate Dale, RME’s director of entertainment.
“I think after the year we’ve had, everyone in the entertainment industry is eager to get back to work,” Dale said. “And while we’re all ready and willing, there’s that element of being safely able to do so. The Redstone Room is small enough that limiting capacity doesn’t make sense for us, we need to be able to be back 100% to make it work.
“With the Adler, they are large enough where they can limit capacity with pod seating, and still make the venue feel full and do so safely. So being able to be a part of helping bring live music back to our community sooner than we are able to (at Redstone, indoors), is really valuable.
“It was great to work with Rick on band ideas for these shows, and being able to offer local bands some of the opening slots is huge,” she said. “It was equally important to us to get some of our locally-based musicians back to work as it was to bring in touring artists; no sector of the entertainment industry has been left unscathed from this pandemic, so it’s great that we’re able to all join forces to get bands back on stage and fans in seats.”
“We are thrilled to be a part of this Adler Theatre series contributing to the re-awakening of our vibrant Quad-Cities live music scene,” said QCSO executive director Brian Baxter. “The Adler Theatre is a vital partner of ours and serves as the Iowa home of our orchestra, so it is wonderful to be able to contribute to this series led by the Adler Theatre Foundation.”
The QCSO musicians to perform will be violinist Emily Nash, violist Bruno Vas da Silva, and associate principal bass Kit Polen. They will do some of the pieces they performed Feb. 27 at a Signature Series concert of American music in the Figge Art Museum lobby.
Opening the June 3 show is the popular All Sweat Productions, headed by Davenport’s Alan Sweet. This tribute show will feature hits and deep cuts from Eric Clapton’s catalog, paying homage to one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
On June 5, the lineup includes the Q-C’s own Ashley Dean, who has been a backup vocalist for Stevie Wonder, and the Q-C based hip-hop/soul duo Soultru.
The last show in the series – Friday, June 18 — will be special for the opening act, the Q-C’s Avey Grouws Band, which blends blues, roots and Americana influences. The headliner that night is the world-renowned blues guitarist, singer/songwriter Walter Trout, who last played the Redstone Room in July 2019.
The Adler hosted in-person QCSO concerts in March and April, after a Maddie Poppe Christmas show in December, and April 16 had a John Denver tribute show, “A Rocky Mountain High Experience.” That was with Rick Schuler, considered the leading performer of John Denver’s music.
“We’ve seen a lot of shows move toward the fall, and spring of ‘22, coming back,” Palmer said of touring Adler shows. “People have been very patient, sitting on their tickets, just wanting to see the show. We’re working very hard, conversations with agencies across the country have improved immensely.
“There’s a lot of hope out there – we’re still conscious and concerned that we do it safely, do it right,” he said. “That’s why we have shows in pods, groups the way they are.”
Palmer has been pleasantly surprised by the number of ticket-buyers who have held on to tickets during the many rescheduled and postponed shows.
“The fans have held on where you think there’d be just tons and tons of refunds, and have them to start over. It’s really not the case,” he said.
“That’s hopeful, that’s positive,” Palmer said. “We really appreciate their patience. It’s kind of hard to invest a couple of hundred bucks and tickets and have to wait for 18 months.”
He sees pent-up public demand for live shows – including the postponed Gordon Lightfoot July 19 and Dwight Yoakam Sept. 3.
“We’re confident of that. You know, we’re social by nature, and I think people really miss it,” Palmer said. “There’s that kind of demand for sure.
“I think when the gates open, it won’t take long for things to start running and get busy.”
Reserved seat tickets to the 2021 Adler series are on sale in person at the Adler Theatre Box Office and online at Ticketmaster.com. Tickets to these socially-distanced events will be sold in pods. Guests must purchase all tickets in a selected pod. A face covering is required unless you are actively eating or drinking.
For more information, visit www.adlertheatre.com.
Jonathan Turner loves music and loves writing, so The Echo is a harmonious marriage of his twin passions. A pianist for 50 years, his undergrad and grad degrees are in music from Oberlin and Indiana, and he’s an accompanist for Zion Lutheran Church, Davenport. Turner has covered the Q-C arts and culture scene since 1995, including for the Dispatch-Argus and Quad-City Times, and for QuadCities.com and WVIK since March 2020.