Oddly enough, in over 10 years of travelling across the Atlantic for Cheap Trick shows, Id never been to the city of Boston. Ive flown through Logan Airport a couple of times en-route to somewhere else, but had never had the opportunity to stop, see the city and perhaps see CT perform there. Well, despite having recently started a temporary job, a Friday night date in the bands November schedule caught my eye, and after a little consideration, I booked flights about 10 days before the show. Luckily this was the quietest time of year for airline travel, hence seats were relatively cheap and available. So I was on my way for a very short weekend visit to the home of the Red Sox and Aerosmith, and the birthplace of the American Revolution.
Fri 17 Nov Travelling over + Cheap Trick in Boston
I normally fly with KLM, the Dutch airline. However, whilst searching for flights I found that KLMs partner airline, Air France were offering the cheapest deal. So this Friday morning saw me checking in at AF's desks at Manchester Airport at 5.15 am, only to fall foul at Security of the latest and very stringent rules. Everyone was only being allowed one single piece of hand baggage, so my small backpack counted as that and I had to return to the desk and check in my small red overnight bag <sigh>. Luckily I had nothing breakable in it.
The flight from Manchester to Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport was just an hour, and "memorable" only for the meagre breakfast which consisted of a mini muffin. At least on KLM you actually get a filled bread roll and juice. Oh well, you get what you pay for.
Paris CDG is a very large airport, with parts of it being pretty new and architecturally impressive. However, getting around is a mess, with crowded buses to transport you between the different terminals. The small, remote terminal where my and several other US bound flights were leaving from was spacious yet felt like a warehouse, and the Air France lounge was large and soulless sort of like an Ikea store without most of the fittings. And whilst the plane for the flight was a huge AF Boeing 747, it was somewhat bizarre for the 300 passengers to have to walk about 30 yards across tarmac and up one of those movable stairwells up into the aircraft. My seat was upstairs in the "lump" part of the plane, which was very crowded with narrow and uncomfortable seats. A far cry from the more spacious Business Class layout in the upstairs of KLMs 747s, which Ive luckily experienced a few times with upgrades.
Anyway, the flight took 7 hours and was totally unmemorable, though AFs economy class meal was slightly more imaginative than KLMs equivalent. As with the first time Id flown into Bostons Logan Airport, I marvelled at the picturesque approach with the water getting closer and closer until suddenly theres land and the aircraft wheels hit tarmac. It was mid-afternoon when I arrived, and immigration was surprisingly quick. I had to wait for my small red bag to hit the carousel, but I was in no hurry. After it arrived I took a bus shuttle to another terminal where I was to meet Patricia who was flying in from Chicago. She arrived after 5pm, and we hurried to get a bus to the metro (known locally as the "T") station.
The Boston metro is really weird downtown, with winding tunnels, small stations and theres quite an old fashioned air about it all. I really ought to check how old the metro system is here. Anyway, we eventually alighted somewhere near our hotel but my sense of direction, normally pretty good, was totally confused! I found it very hard to find my bearings in Boston for a couple of days for some reason, but we did eventually (more by luck than judgement!) find our hotel and get checked in. By now it was well after 6pm and we had a venue to get to. So we decided to take a cab, which at first took us in the wrong direction (and very slowly, given the busy, rush hour traffic) before following the one way system around the Common and taking us west.
We reached the Avalon Club a few minutes before 7pm, and cool to see that it was on a street right next to Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox! Shame it was so dark Anyway, we quickly got into the Avalon and found the club to be pretty crowded already, so we stood near the back behind the sound and light boards to watch the show. Opening up tonight was Soul Asylum, and they came on at 7.05pm to a warm welcome.
The venue was a club with a mid-sized stage and a crowded main floor in front. It was a GA standing venue and people were already pretty packed. There were bars to both sides of the main floor, and a balcony to the rear. The roof/ceiling was arched, and reminded me of the roof in a similar but much smaller venue back home in Leeds.
Soul Asylum were pretty good, and they went down pretty well with the crowd. They played a 50 minute set, finishing at 7.55pm.
In the brief interval it was nice to go to near the side of stage front and spot Junko and the two Adams in the front. And near the back of the club it was nice to run into Teri from New York, so she joined us rather than braving the crowd. The lights went down at 8.12pm, and we heard two bars of "House is Rockin" from offstage before the drone started up. The band were introduced as usual by the familiar Dave Rule salutation, and the band took to the stage at 8.13pm.
RN black suit, Cheap Trick logo t-shirt
Hello There, Big Eyes, Oh Candy, Welcome to the World, If You Want My Love, Come On Come On Come On, Best Friend, IWYTWM, IKWIW, Voices, If It Takes a Lifetime, Flame, 70s Song, Surrender // Dream Police, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight Now
After "Big Eyes", Rick thanked the crowd three times, and then reminded them that "we are the one, the only, accept no substitutes, Cheap Trick". He then announced that "We have a fairly new CD out called "Rockford" and 25 really old CDs this one is from before CDs were invented, from our first album". The band went into "Oh Candy", and at the end of the song Rick gave his checkerboard guitar to someone in the front row. Rick remarked on "the wonderful looking crowd in Boston", then introduced the next song as being " from our first album this year!" The band played "Welcome to the World" which I think had an extended ending, and for which Robin was wearing his straw hat.
After that, Tom got given a psychedelic style painting of himself by someone in the crowd, with Rick commenting "Eight Miles Low with Tom!" The band then played "If You Want My Love" before going into "Come On Come On Come On" with Rick playing what looked to be a new, red, odd shaped guitar. Afterwards, Rick clarified "That ones called "Come On Come On Come On" not to be confused with "Come On Come On"!" I should note that the Boston crowd were pretty enthusiastic and enjoying the show.
Before the next song, RZ strummed a little of "Cold Turkey", followed by Rick. Then Rick announced that "We have maybe not played this song in Boston before it has 3 chords E minor, C and A". It was of course "Best Friend", which was killer and at the end Rick held up three fingers.
During the next song, "I Want You to Want Me" it was cool to see Soul Asylum watching from a gap in the curtain to the rear of the stage. Afterwards, Rick introduced "On the drums, living legend, Mr Bun E Carlos" before spotting someone (local fan Brad I believe) holding up a "This is my 50th CT show" sign. "Why shit" commented Rick, "thats more times than Ive seen them! Actually, its about 5,000!" He then said hello to Soul Asylum, "a fine bunch of young men" before introducing the "devious inventor of the 12 string bass and former resident of the great state of Massachusetts Mr Tom Petersson!" Tom played his short solo intro from Jimi Hendrixs "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" before launching into "I Know What I Want"
After that Rick told the crowd "We hope you have a great holiday season if youre getting married, congratulations and good luck if youre getting divorced, congratulations and good luck if youre getting laid, congratulations and good luck Basically, were on your side!" He then introduced his favourite lead singer in the world, "Mr Robin Wayne Zander". The band went into "Voices", and nice to see Rick go up the steps at the rear of the stage early on the briefly joke with the Soul Asylum guys.
After "If It Takes a Lifetime", Rick gave his guitar to someone at stage front, then brought out a new, pink Fender guitar with a graphic of the Bun E mask on the rear of the body. He showed that to the crowd which prompted a short Bun E chant. Robin then brought a girl onstage who was given the mic, and who proceeded to say that shed brought Soul Asylum a demo for her band. Rick told the crowd "See, we dont have pyrotechnics or a fabulous light show weve got her!" He continued "I thought she said she broke her arm?" That was an short but odd break in the show, and as she left the stage, Rick naughtily added "She said she came with Soul Asylum it took all four of those guys to make her come?"
The band played "The Flame" and then the "70s Song" which were both well received, before launching into the set closer, "Surrender". At the very start of the latter, Rick held a note for about 15 seconds before the intro proper started. The album flat that he threw out hit the fairly low light gantry and fell to near the front row. Ricks guitar cut out towards the end, and his tech had to run on and re-plug it. At the end of the song, Robin said "Thank you very much" to the crowd to the left, then to the right, then added "Its great to be back in Boston, Ill tell you that much!"
As usual, Rick was first back on stage for the encore, drinking some water before throwing the bottle to someone at the front. Robin came back on with his hair in a ponytail, and the band went into "Dream Police". During that it was interesting to see someone near the front hold up two Dream Police stand-ups, and Robin was very animated on stage during the song. That was followed by a wonderful "Auf Wiedersehen" before the show ended with "Goodnight Now" which saw 6 endings! The show finally ended at 9.34pm.
After the show we hung around outside for a while with Teri, the two Adams, Grace and CeCe. We just hung around on the street, chatting, as the crew were wheeling out stage kit and loading up the truck. It became clear that we werent going to be doing anything, so after goodbyes all round, we got a cab back to the hotel around 10.15pm, and popped over to Bennigans opposite for late appetisers before turning in at the end of a very long day.
Sat 18 Nov in Boston
Today was a tourist day, and the weather wasnt bad for it. It was bright and sunny, though pretty chilly. We followed the Freedom Trail from Boston Common right across the river to the Bunker Hill Monument. Boston is full of historic and picturesque buildings that were important in the fight for independence, and which thankfully have been preserved. The starting point at Boston Common took us past the largest group of homeless people Ive ever seen in North America, and Boston must be a particularly hard place to survive in winter with limited or no shelter.
There were a number of interesting and historic halls, churches and meeting halls along the trail, and a couple of cemeteries too. The first cemetary you reach includes the remains of famous patriots such as Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. A popular point along the way is the well known Faneuil Hall and marketplace, with its very tourist orientated shops and dining places. I certainly enjoyed seeing much of the older architecture dotted around the city centre, even the odd sight of the Old State House, surrounded and dwarfed by modern offices. I also found the nearby Holocaust Memorial very moving, with its six tall glass towers on which were written the names of the six million Jewish victims.
One thing that did strike me was confirmation of the cliché that Boston is very much a "European" city in feel, mainly because of some of the neighbourhoods and because of how the city is laid out. Unlike most American cities (and because of its age), Boston was not laid to the standard grid system so the roads often wind and turn and do give more of a European feel. Ive heard that driving in Boston can be difficult, and having experienced it first hand during a couple of taxi rides yep, it didnt seem like fun! And the one way systems made it all the more challenging so it seems.
We did get to briefly visit the famous Cheers bar (the "Bull & Finch"), though I was a little disappointed that the replica tea clipper at the site of the famous "Boston Tea Party (doubly of interest to me because of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band hit of the same name) wasnt there. The dock seemed fairly enclosed, so no idea where it gets moved to in winter.
Sun 19 Nov Travelling home
Our flights didnt leave Boston until late afternoon, so that gave us a few hours free in the morning. We just wandered around downtown and the Beacon Hill district, before checking out of the hotel. Whilst out we saw signs that the metro was partly closed today, so we had to allow extra time to get out to the airport. The metro authorities put on a bus service from Government Center to the airport, so we joined one of those crowded buses. Although travelling overground, it had to make the same stops as the underground train would have, so the crowd on the bus gradually thinned out. It was also interesting to drive through an outlying district or two before reaching the airport.
We split up at the airport as we were taking off from different terminals. I got checked in pretty quickly for my Air France flight back to Europe, and went to kill some time in the AF lounge. I found it was the smallest, darkest and pokiest lounge Ive ever been in. Although lounge access is a perk, Id have been very disappointed if Id paid a premium fare.
The plane took off from Boston at 5.55pm, and with a strong tailwind it was to be only 5hrs 40mins to Paris. I was again seated in the crowded upstairs, and as usual, I was unable to sleep despite my best efforts.
Mon 20 Nov
We landed at Paris CDG at 5.45am local time. I didnt much like the airport on my way out, and I liked it even less coming back. Again I had to get a bus between terminals, and despite the early hour there were literally hundreds of people crowded onto a cold and breezy stairwell waiting for a bus. I eventually reached my terminal, only to find non-existent information about flights and Gates, and when I finally worked out where I had to go, I then had to join an extremely slow line for another security check. That took 30 minutes, so from disembarking to getting to my next Gate had taken over an hour <sigh> I didnt have long to wait before boarding my flight back to Manchester, and by this time I was too tired to feel any disappointment at breakfast, which consisted of a mini pastry.
My flight landed at damp and grey Manchester at almost 8am, and the immigration line for UK and EU nationals was longer than Id ever seen it. But I was eventually allowed back home, got my small red bag from the carousel and was soon on my way back to my office in Leeds to earn a few hours money.
And so ended a very short but busy weekend. But Id seen a nice show, and had also visited a city that Id long wanted to. And Id learned that Paris CDG is an airport to avoid transiting through if at all possible! If travelling transatlantic, do yourself a favour and either fly direct or fly through a decent transit airport like Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich or Copenhagen anywhere but Paris!
As always, thanks to Carla, band and crew. And thanks to Patricia for meeting me in Boston and agreeing to all the walking and sightseeing!
Kim Gisborne 29 Dec 2006
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