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Three months on from New Orleans and The South, and I was heading off for three more Cheap Trick shows. These included the eagerly awaited all-acoustic show at Saratoga CA, and I was looking forward to meeting up with a lot of friends along the way.

My journey started after a day’s work on Monday 26 June. Left work early, dashed home to change and ensure I’d packed everything (a constant worry!) before driving the 205 miles from Leeds down to Windsor, near London’s Heathrow Airport to stay with a Trick friend there.

Left Windsor next morning, got to Heathrow where I caught a bus down to London Gatwick Airport. A real pain for me to fly out of, being 250 miles from Leeds, but on this occasion it offered the best fares. Got a bonus upon checking in, my KLM/Northwest frequent flier status helped persuade the check-in clerk to upgrade me on the flight into Detroit! Ah, sometimes all the flying I do is worthwhile after all! Interesting to see the "Man in the Moon" movie about Andy Kaufman during the flight, as well as the cute family movie "Stuart Little". Detroit was sunny as I arrived around 6.30pm, and it was a pleasure to see some friends waiting for me, who’d come to the airport to make my 4-hour layover a pleasure instead of a pain. We managed to get a table in the "Cheers" bar, and had a great time. Thanks guys! I got onto my 11pm flight to LA, and the second leg of my journey began. I was back in coach class, on a redeye flight, and it was warm and full. Arrived in LA 5 hours later, around 1am local, feeling very jaded. After my baggage eventually got off the plane, I headed off to get my hire car, and at 2 in the morning I found I-405 the quietest I’d ever seen it. It was with relief that I safely arrived at my host’s house in northern LA and fell into bed.

The next morning dawned bright, though 6 hours sleep hadn’t fully refreshed me. A couple of friends and I drove out for me to buy the Remasters "box" set, as well as the truly awful Cheap Dream "tribute" CD. Having listened to it since I returned home, I can only say that if this is meant to be a tribute, the artists must HATE Cheap Trick! This stinks! Whilst buying the CD’s I twice got asked if I was Australian… We went onto Santa Monica, parking on the beach and walking onto the famous Pier. The beaches were just like you see in Baywatch, only quieter since it was a Wednesday. Rode the rollercoaster, and saw inside the Arcadia Club where CT had played last year. Had lunch sitting outside "Rusty’s Surf Ranch" – hail yeah! Upon driving out from the parking lot, "friend" (I had brief doubts at the time!) Tony managed to direct me to short cuts… twice getting me driving back "into" the parking lot. The guy in the booth must have thought I was one loco tourist as I kept driving in, trying to find my way out! Um… thanks Tony! Drove back up the coast to Malibu before heading inland through the mountains and back to north LA.

Thurs 29 June was another beautiful day inland, and I set off mid-morning to drive up the coast to Monterey. Heading on 101, I passed by Ventura (where I’d seen CT last June), and Santa Barbara. The coast was cloudy, apart from Santa Barbara, where the rich residents tax dollars must pay for extra sunshine or something. The road headed inland through the mountains, past Buellton ("home of split pea soup" – honestly!), and past both young and mature vineyards. The hills were golden brown, with the occasional spectacular rocky outcrop. Route 1 north from San Luis Obispo followed the coastline, though it wasn’t as spectacular as I’d expected. However, after passing Cambria the scenery improved. I had to give Hearst Castle a miss because of time, but soon after the coast road became more winding, as it hugged and climbed the mountainside and I at last saw the beautiful coastal cliffs that I’d anticipated. Well, I didn’t see them too much, as I had to concentrate hard on the driving, for I had cliffs looming upwards on one side of me, and sheer drops to the sea on the other! Stopped a few times to take in the views, incredible and recommended. Kept driving in and out of the sun since the sea mists kept rolling in, often completely obscuring the mountain tops. Though a tiring drive, it was amazing, and I was glad I’d planned this into my schedule. If you go to Southern California, try to drive Route 1 between Monterey and Cambria, I recommend it! The Big Sur was strangely disappointing, maybe I was on the wrong road? The famous Bixby Creek Bridge had construction work going on, so that wasn’t quite the sight I’d hoped for either. The roads around Carmel and into Monterey were busy, and I was happy to reach my motel just before 6pm. After checking in, I drove down to Cannery Row, and was somewhat disappointed, maybe it was the late time of day, or the grey overcast skies? I’d somehow expected more of it, and from Fisherman’s Wharf too. The latter had an English style pub, but having come so far, I chose not to get myself back "into" English" culture! The day ended with my being American, and watching some baseball on TV in my room.


Friday 30 June – Saratoga CA

At last, the day of the first show! Breakfast at a nearby Denny’s was hot but less than inspiring, and the grey sky and drizzle didn’t help. Route 1 from Monterey was interesting only at times as I drove north until I turned inland on 84, winding through densely wooded land. I then climbed upwards on 35 south which eventually took me into sunshine at the top of the mountains and afforded incredibly spectacular views of the whole Bay area. Wonderful! Route 9 wound me back down steep and sharply winding bends, before I ended up in the pretty town of Saratoga. Drove up and parked up at the Villa Montalvo Arboretum, and found the small outdoor stage/auditorum. No sign of the CT crew though, strange considering it was midday. I asked and found CT were actually at the Mountain Winery back on Route 9! D’OH! Drove back up there, into the Estate and up the winding 2 mile driveway to the Paul Masson Winery. The view from the parking lot across the Bay area was breathtaking. It was sunny and very hot as I chatted a little to Cheap Trick’s merchandise man (and long time friend) John, who was counting in the goods, before viewing the concert venue. This was set a little lower than the house and pool, and was very pretty. With room for perhaps 1500 people, the stage was set in front of an imposing stone building, possibly an old wine store, mostly covered in ivy and bearing the legend "Paul Masson, 1852". The stage was very low, perhaps only a couple of feet above floor level. Banked seating was set into the hillside between the auditorium and house, also tiered on the other side. There was more raised seating at the ear backing onto the spectacular Bay area view and floor seating in front of the stage.

The stage was set with 3 tall stools, plus a small silver drumset for Bun E. He later told me that it comprised of an 18" black Ludwig bass (w/ large Ludwig logo and small CT x 6 logo), 14" snare, 12" tom and 14" floor tom. Tom’s amp had regular "toy" Chairy on it. Tom arrived well before the rest of the band, and spent some time tuning up on stage with the tech’s. They played (all acoustic, no vox), Mandocello, Take Me to the Top and Hide Your Love Away (Beatles). The rest of the band, Tod Howarth, Carla and Manager Dave Frey arrived around 5.30. They almost immediately set about soundcheck, as fans were being let onto the grounds (but not the auditorium) around 6pm so a few caught the latter part of soundcheck. I was surprised at how much they did, though of course this was a full acoustic show so they probably needed to work last minute on a few things, despite the practice I’d heard they’d put into preparing for this.

Soundcheck – Can’t Stop Falling Into Love (no vox), Can’t Stop Falling Into Love (w/vox), Say Goodbye, Borderline, Tell Me Everything, ATAS intro, Flame verse 2 to end, Tonight It’s You, RN started "Indian Maid", the middle of Walk Away into the guitar break. Rick ended up belching repeatedly into the mic, and informed those up on the bank watching that he was aiming to hit 95 decibels with one! Gross!

Before the show it was great to run into a lot of friends I’d expected to see, and a bonus to see a few that I hadn’t; from nearby San Francisco and the Bay area, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and the Carolina’s.

Cheap Trick took the stage a few minutes before 8pm, with many people still taking their seats. The first set lasted 50 minutes and was:-

Set 1 - Hello There, Come On Come On, Can’t Take It, Downed, Lookout, Didn’t Know I Had It, Walk Away, California Man, Say Goodbye, Mandocello

RN – Purple jacket, In Color t-shirt, black pants

RZ – Black suit, brown patterned shirt

TP – Green suit, black turtle neck sweater

BC – flowered shirt over a sweatshirt, bucket hat, black pants

TH – grey shirt w/black & white stripe, black pants

The first of the two acoustic sets sounded terrific, and the crowd were politely enthusiastic (surely a contradiction!). The crowd were mostly fairly conservative and stayed seated throughout the first set. However, the more enthusiastic among us sang along and stood up to applaud each song! During the set Rick announced that the Rockford show DVD should be out on Aug 28, and he also noticed a sign in the crowd wishing road manager Carla a Happy Birthday for the next day. After Say Goodbye some guy walked up to the stage and asked Rick for a guitar pick! This prompted Rick to promise that everyone would be given a pick after the show, and they could sell them on Ebay! During Mandocello a giant purple balloon appeared from the rear of the crowd, getting knocked forward until it almost ended up on stage. I noticed both Tom and Tod gave worried looks as it came close to them!

The band took a 15 minute break before returning for their second acoustic set.

Set 2 – Ain’t That a Shame, Voices, Tell Me Everything, Borderline, Oh Candy, If You Want My Love, Oh Caroline, Waiting for the Man, I Want You to Want Me, The Flame, Surrender / She’s Tight, Goodnight Now

The second set was amazing. ATAS started off with a short intro, but the full ending, acoustic of course. Tell Me Everything had a false start. Waiting for the Man was awesome, probably the highlight for me. Rick broke two strings on his guitar during this, and used a wah-wah pedal (I think) during some of the guitar solo parts, it sounded amazing. IWYTWM finally had the whole crowd on its feet, and Rick again broke a string during Surrender, and had to change guitar in mid song.

The sound and setting was fabulous! I wondered beforehand if Tod Howarth’s keyboards would drown out the band but he seemed to use them sparingly. He fitted in far better than I expected, and mostly seemed to be there to supplement the high vocals. Some of the crowd seemed to be season long patrons of the venue and had turned up since it was part of their season ticket, but there were plenty of fans to make noise, and there turned out to be a great atmosphere for what was a very special show. It was worth the 6,000 miles travelling just for this.

After show was nuts, with a load of people backstage to meet the band. I was asked to get the Happy Birthday banner to Carla, and it took me about 25 minutes to see her. That done, I headed out to catch 2 girl-friends, whom I was driving to San Francisco for the night. I was told that they went to the car park to get their bags from the someone else’s car… the large parking lots were pitch dark and nearly empty, apart from a few cars, a policeman and a few folks seemingly awaiting a taxi or a ride. A couple of people in the dark heard me shouting out for my friends, and asked if my accent was Australian… (Bah! Anyone that has spoken to me (and who’s British) will know that I have a broad English West Country/Bristol accent!). Walked around, drove around… no sign of the girls. Great I thought, I have NO idea where in SFO we were going to be staying. After about 10 minutes of searching, I headed back to John who was packing away the merchandise. No sign of them there, I walked around the house, no sign there either. In desperation, I headed back to the backstage, to find them waiting for me nearby. Phew! Well, we ended up driving the hour into SFO and another friend (Rhonda) kindly took us all up to her apartment, and then headed off. She and her boyfriend were to fly to Vegas in just a few hours. I was pleased to have a couch to crash on! En route it was cool to drive along the Embarcadero, past palm trees, PacBell Park, and under the Bay Bridge.

Saturday 1 July

The morning was overcast and mild, and the girls and I took the short couple of blocks walk to Fisherman’s Wharf before heading south. Great view of Alcatraz, but just like last June, the Golden Gate Bridge was semi-obscured by mist, bah! One day I WILL see the top half… Left SFO mid morning, and I dropped the girls off at a busy San Jose Airport around 11.30am. They opted to fly back to LA, wise choice! Inland it was hot, very hot, and soon after getting back onto 101 South I got caught in a mother of a traffic jam… just like last year (I remembered too late). As the traffic stopped and started, the jam was overtaken on all sides at various intervals by motorbikes, no doubt off to Biker Fest at Hollister (Saturday night headliners... Cheap Trick). I’d opted not to go, joining 50,000 bikers didn't really appeal... Well, my gas (petrol) level dipped dangerously low, and it became so desperate that I had to take the first exit I eventually got to… only to join a stationary snake of traffic into the middle of nowhere. The line eventually reached a small town a mile or so ahead, and I must have been on fumes, willpower and divine guidance (from the High Priest of Rhythmic Noise??) as I finally found a gas station. Expensive, but not optional. I truly breathed a huge sigh of relief. Rejoined the slow traffic, returned to 101 and the traffic eventually moved normally. It probably took over an hour though, and the reason was that 101 south reduces from 4 lanes to 2, then up to 3, then down to 2 and finally back to 3. A nightmare bottleneck area, avoid at all costs.

Headed past Gilroy (Garlic Capital of the World) and also the signs for Hollister,. At Paso Robles I passed a roadside electronic sign saying "…Domino’s Pizza delivers…" "… Christine Aguillera…". That’s all I got to see, but I could just imagine guys phoning up and saying "Uh, I need to order a Christine Aguillera for delivery, with extra pepperoni and maybe a side of garlic bread… 25 minutes?… Cool!". Finally got back to north LA around 6.40pm, had a nice cooling swim, and got to hear the first demo copy of the complete 19 track AMCT Tribute #3 CD, which Mark Brainard and a couple of the guys from LA CT cover band "Speck" had spent the day working on the track listing of. Shame I had just missed Speck’s bass player Tony P though L The tribute sounded terrific, we listened to all 19 songs. Headed out for a great Mexican meal, before returning at 11pm for a late night acoustic jam by the pool. Too cool, the "set list" included Surrender, Borderline, Come On Come On, Southern Girls, Yeah Yeah, Voices and California Man. Some people from a house nearby shouted a couple of times, I think they wanted some new songs in the setlist… Actually they shouted to ask if we knew any Skynyrd. That was original, so we almost had a Freebird moment there… It was so cool, the musicians were great, I think the only let down was my vocals! Rick needs to write those songs just a tad lower… <LOL>!!

Sunday 2 July – San Diego CA

Up early, and drove down to San Diego (for amazingly my 6th visit there in just over 3 years), stopping briefly at Carlsbad for lunch and a short drive along the pretty seafront. Got to San Diego soon after 2pm, and I took my host’s (Tony & Robyn) straight to Humphries Hotel, the venue and where they’d booked in for the night. We saw John setting up merch again, plus Carla chatting to a few fans including SoCal locals Selina and Ken (makers of the famous dolls given to the band at TF3). Stayed awhile to chat, before heading the mile to my nearby, and cheaper, Vagabond Inn. Finally checked in, got my key, lugged my bags to my room to find… it hadn’t been made up yet. D’OH! So back into the car went my bags, and I got back to Humphries around 2.45pm… to find parking restrictions around the hotel. D’OH again! I eventually parked a mile down the road. By now other fans were there, including the girls from Saratoga, also friends from LA. As ever, it’s fun to be around when a group of CT fans congregate. The hotel was low rise, sprawling and pretty, nestled on (…If I had a child I would…) Shelter Island. The gardens were beautiful, and the show venue was equally pretty. The stage was in a large grassy area, flanked to one side and the rear by the chalet style hotel rooms (only 2 storeys high, each with a balcony – the room occupants had awesome and comfortable views of the stage). The side rooms also had beautifully bright flowers and shrubs growing in front. On the left hand side as you looked at the stage was a part of the marina, with a forest of sailing boat masts visible. It was sunny, hot, and like Saratoga another spectacular setting.

Before soundcheck I got about 5 minutes with Bun E. We quickly talked through a few things…

- we recalled most of the Bun E’s Basement Bootleg #1 tracks from memory, and he recalled the following sources of the songs:

- Dave Edmunds (Barbarella’s, Birmigham UK 1979); Roy Wood (Phoenix 79); Alex Harvey (Hammersmith Odeon, London 5 Nov 1980, my first CT show); AC DC w/Bon (somewhere like Sioux Falls SD, 79); Cozy Powell, also Heaven Tonight (Bristol UK, 79); I Know What I Want (Nagoya, Japan 79, a very long intro as Bun E was ill at this time and was being given medication whilst the song was starting); Magical Mystery Tour (Ventura CA 94); Top of the World, Stiff Competition (Albany NY, around 78-80).

- The band are negotiating a distribution deal for the Metro (Hangovers) DVD.

- The Rockford 25th Anniversary Show DVD is expected for release in late Aug or Sept.

- The new CD is ongoing. Tracks have been recorded with both Jack Douglas and Steve Albini.

- The re-mastered Greatest Hits is due out in August. There will be 16 songs that include a recording of the first live performance of The Flame, also the 70’s Song with the drug lyrics. A couple of songs have been removed, including Don’t Be Cruel.

Soundcheck was at 4.40pm, and since the concert area was still open to the public, there were probably 25-30 fans in attendance. Not a conventional soundcheck, but a significant one. The first 10 minutes was like a cool jam session, initially whilst waiting for Tom, but he soon joined in. That was followed by various parts of 8 Miles Low, incl verse 1 repeated, then the rest – with Robin not attempting to sing all the proper words. Robin then stayed on stage and sang/played a little solo – Take me to the Top. The significant part? Well, I asked Rick in Vegas the next day about new songs, and he said that they’d played one during soundcheck in San Diego, but minus lyrics. So about 30 of us heard probably the first live playing of a "new song" and didn’t realise. Cool huh?

Good to later met up with other fans, people from San Diego, LA, San Francisco, plus a party of 4 friends from Japan (3 girls plus one husband!) – the girls have been at TF2 andTF3 as well as New York and Chicago Metro!

Those who wanted to sit in the front rows could do so only on condition of having pre-booked a meal in the hotel restaurant. I popped in to join the LA party, to find that the meal was indeed worth the money (in contrast to Ventura last year). I must have looked like a starving waif, as a couple of people offered me steak and prawns that they couldn’t eat! Yum, they were good! Thanks people, you know who you are!

San Diego resident Tod Howarth opened up with his band from 7.30 to 8pm. Cheap Trick came on around 8.30pm, a pretty quick stage turnaround.

RN – Rust jacket, Hollister t-shirt, black pants

RZ – Black leather pants, brown sparkly shirt, shades, black leather jacket

TP – Black turtle neck shirt, long black leather jacket, black pants

BC - Grey flowered shirt, black pants

The crowd were enthusiastic from the start, and despite having reserved seating, everyone was on their feet throughout the show. The set list was:

Ain’t That a Shame, ELO Kiddies, Downed, Top of the World, I Want You to Want Me, I Know What I Want, Wrong All Along, 70’s Song, 8 Miles Low, Voices, Heaven Tonight, Southern Girls, Surrender / Tell me Everything, Dream Police, Never Had a Lot to Lose, Goodnight Now

After Wrong All Along, Rick asked one fan to come up and Rick held up his CHPTRK licence plate. Something of a tradition at San Diego shows, the 3rd time I’ve seen Rick hold up that plate. RZ "mislyric-ed" the last verse of 8 Miles Low, and his voice sounded pretty hoarse at the end of it too. After the song, Rick stated that that song was like "nursery rhymes for the new millennium". He then went on to announce that MFH could be bought for a summer special price of $5 at the merchandise stand.

The show was over by 9.50pm, and had been fun. I ended up in row 10, where I occasionally had a girl with blond dreadlocks dancing in front of me on her chair… Annoying enough, without her almost sticking her ass in my face whenever she leaned down to whisper sweet nothings in her boyfriends ear… Maybe I shouldn’t complain, some people would pay good money for that kind of action! Me, I really just wanted to see the show! Post show the pool bar was closed, so being the one with the hire car, I ended up doing the beer run with a couple of people. Fun to sit poolside sharing drinks, and the elderly security guard who came round at midnight to warn us about the noise of our talking was won over by being given a Rick pick! I left at around 12.20, I needed sleep before the next days early drive to Sin City.

Monday 3 July – Las Vegas NV

Away from San Diego at 5.20am, after just 4 hours sleep. Well, I thought it would take 5-6 hours to drive to Vegas… It was overcast as I got onto I-15 north, driving past places like Temecula (where CT played last year), and up through the cloud into the mountains. After reaching the 4,000 feet Cajon Summit, I emerged into bright sunshine, weirdly with cloud BELOW me across the valley to my right. Drove through the Mojave Desert, which was bleak yet beautiful in its wild beauty. Lots of desert scrub, with the occasional outcrop or mountain rising from the desert floor. The road was fast, yet occasionally clogged up by drivers sitting in the fast lane of the two lane highway… grrrr! Passed by a Zzyzx (not, not a misspelling!) Road in the desert, and the car laboured a little to the top of the highest (4,700 ft) pass that the road crossed. Primm NV was like a desert apparition, two garish casino’s plus rollercoaster, sitting just across the State Line and totally out of place being surrounded by spectacular desert scenery. Welcome to Nevada! A few miles on were two more casino’s, one in the shape of a giant steamboat.

I reached Vegas at 9.50am, the city skyline of its unmistakable theme hotels was a welcome sight as the day was getting very hot. As I passed by the huge bronze Mandalay Bay, its electronic video sign by the highway was showing a clip of Cheap Trick’s "Don’t Be Cruel" video. I checked into my nearby but smaller San Remo Hotel, had a buffet lunch with my roommate Sam who’d just got in from Wisconsin, before heading over to the Mandalay Bay. Scoped out the beach/swimming pool venue, and came across friends from Texas and Boston! Cool, the first of a large contingent of fans converging on Vegas, from all over the States, as well as Japan and me from Europe. As we talked I spotted Cheap Track’s Sushi Man (Mitsuru) and his girlfriend (Masako) from Tokyo! His birthday had been the day before, and it was a birthday gift from his parents to fly into Vegas for this one show and a few days sightseeing. As always, a pleasure to see him, even if our conversation didn't sparkle... must be a language thing! The pool area was cleared at 6pm, but Rick allowed myself, Mitsuru and Masako to stand sidestage for soundcheck, when they played Borderline, with Robin ending up again solo playing It All Comes Back to You on guitar, then playing it again but this time singing too. I got to get a close look at Rick’s new Girl Brand guitar with the Japanese writing on it, very cool indeed.

The line to get in had started outside, and amongst others it was great to meet up with many more friends – from Portland OR, Chicago, the girls from SFO (again! Sheesh, you’d think they were following me or something!), others from LA and SFO, New York, the Japanese contingent, and others. The crowd was let in at 7.30, and went to work out their best viewing spots. The venue was the big beach and pool area, with the huge bronze hotel rising up opposite the stage and behind the crowd. It was a large sandy beach type area, sweeping in a gentle arc around a pool area. At the back, centre of the pool was the stage area, jutting out some 15-20 feet above the water, and flanked by oriental style brickwork and palms. The pool in front of the stage was no more than knee high, though it deepened on either side of the stage. The front of the stage was some 30 feet or so from the front of the sand, so to get picks, you had to go paddle. As the 8.50 performance time approached, the crowd standing in the water grew significantly (by which I mean more people, not taller…), and since it was still very hot (85 degrees perhaps), it was probably very pleasant with at least your feet cool. Meanwhile Mitsuru, Masako, Sam and I had been allowed by Rick to be side/rear stage again for the show. Shortly before the show, Carla introduced myself and Mitsuru to a journalist from Rolling Stone who was covering the show, for a forthcoming issue where they review 25 July 4th shows across the USA and he briefly interviewed us both.

Cheap Trick took the stage on time:

RN – Black checked suit, black motorbike t-shirt

BC – Blue flowered shirt, black pants

RZ – Gold shirt, black leather jacket, black pants, shades

TP – cream zip up shirt, black pants.

Ain’t That a Shame, ELO Kiddies, Downed, On Top of the World, I Want You to Want Me, I Know What I Want, Wrong All Along, 70’s Song, 8 Miles Low, Voices, Heaven Tonight, Southern Girls, Surrender / Tell Me Everything, Dream Police, Lot to Lose, Goodnight Now w/guest Sushi Man).

Being side/rear stage, I couldn’t actually see much of the stage because of Rick’s amps/lights. There were a few other people sidestage too. However, I was able to see Sven prepare each of Rick’s guitars, and watch Bun E drumming. Boy, it was a real treat to watch one of the great drummers so closely, it made me wish I was a drummer so I could appreciate the technicalities more. Got a great view of half of the crowd (on Rick’s side), it was fun to get the view of the crowd that the band get, to watch them sing along, dance, scramble for picks (fun in water!) and have a great time. Tell Me Everything was played with Rick’s new Girl Brand guitar, only its second or third public appearance I think. Just before Lot to Lose Rick got Sven to sort out a guitar for Mitsuru, and after his initial shock, Mitsuru chose one and was ready to go out and play guitar with Rick on Goodnight Now! Way cool, and Rick mentioned that it had been Sushi Man’s birthday. He did a fine job and was a terrific surprise guest!

The band headed off very quickly after the show, and the fans chose to meet up in the Mandalay Bay’s blue ceilinged bar. This eventually happened, but it took quite a while. All afternoon and before/after show I was in the hotel looking for people and places, and it was impossible! The Mandalay Bay is too damn HUGE to find anybody or anything, particularly around 11pm when the casino was buzzing! Many fans turned up to have a beer and hang out, though it was too noisy to talk much. I left after midnight for my more modest yet managable hotel/casino about ¾ mile away, I was exhausted from the early start and the gradual toll of the trip! Still, this had been a great show to end my 3 show tour with.

The Rest…

Well, Sam and I stayed on for a couple of extra days to see some of the Vegas sights. I’d last been in March 97, but there’s been so many developments since then. July 4 was fairly quiet, we got to visit the Excalibur, New York New York and the wonderful Luxor (hotel casino’s) before meeting up with many friends from SFO, LA and Portland. We later left them eating a Japanese meal at the Hard Rock Hotel, and late on we returned to the Hard Rock Café to meet up again and to see a little of the show by a good Rolling Stones cover band. They were joined on stage by the actual Stones saxophonist Bobby Keyes. Good, but very very loud. However, it was strange not to see any fireworks or special celebrations anywhere for Independence Day – a real surprise and let down. Of all places, I thought Vegas would be spectacular for that. We must have missed the Stratosphere fireworks… The following day we got to play tourists again in the desert heat, going to places like the Venetian (yep, it really HAS got canal’s and gondola’s inside and out), Caesars Palace, MGM, seeing the choreographed fountains outside the Bellagio, the erupting Volcano at the Mirage, and the fabulous lightshow at the Freemont Street Experience, two different performances and worth seeing. Got to play the slots and discovered complimentary drinks… ah, my 7-Up’s tasted SO MUCH better! But I ended up losing about $14… yeah, call me a High Roller (sorry!).

Thursday 6th saw me drop me Sam off at the airport early in the afternoon before heading back along I-15 to LA. Ouch, the mid afternoon sun was brutal, and I really loved remembering various folks telling me about cars overheating in the desert due to having the AC on… So I turned it on and off sparingly, and pretty much baked! At Baker I passed the world’s largest thermometer, which registered 110 degrees at 4.10pm. Wowah! At 5pm I detoured to visit the Ghost Town of Calico, which was quaint to walk through but quiet. During the day they have people dressed up in period outfits, mock gunfights and all that stuff, but as I arrived, the cowboys etc were leaving for home, to kick off their boots, grab a beer and probably watch baseball on TV!

Friday 7th saw me bid farewell again to Robyn & Tony’s house in north LA early in the morning, and drive down to the airport at LAX. Dropped off my car with Alamo, with the mileometer showing 1900 miles driven in just 9 days. Phew! No flight upgrades this time, coach class through from LA to Minneapolis, a 90 minute stopover there before boarding the Northwest flight for London Gatwick. And then we sat at the Gate, then on the tarmac for nearly 3 hours… due to a mechanical fault. No journey of mine is complete without SOME airline problem… true. It didn’t get fixed, but it wasn’t safety critical so the pilot eventually decided to fly rather than cancel. Got given a voucher for up to $100 off a future flight by way of compensation. Got back to London late next morning, having only grabbed 4 hours poor sleep on the plane (actually, that was good for me, I don’t usually get ANY sleep). Bus to Heathrow, bus to Windsor, break for coffee with my friend there, and then a 3 hour drive north to Leeds. I was exhausted before I got home!

So that was it. A long, and very tiring trip, but 3 great and very different shows (in terms of venue as well as set lists), and I was again lucky enough to meet up with so many great CT friends from around the world. It was great to see ALL the friends I met up with! As always, some THANKS to dish out… Helene in Windsor, Rhonda in SFO, and particularly Tony & Robyn in LA – thanks for your kind hospitality; the friends who’d bought me tickets for Saratoga and Las Vegas (yes, I paid them back!!); and as ever, thanks to Carla and Cheap Trick for their kindness.

Oh well, real life and work again for 4 weeks before the Denver, Colorado Springs and Santa Fe shows in August!

Kim Gisborne (Leeds, England) – 13 July 2000)

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