Cheap Trick are no strangers to the “album show” concept, having played their first three albums in “three night stands” in various American cities in 1998-99 and in London in 2001, plus “Budokan” shows in 1998. However, it has taken until now for them to succumb to fan pressure and play their 4th studio album, the classic “Dream Police” in its entirety. The intimate Northern Lights Theatre in wintry Milwaukee was playing host to six successive weekends of “Dream Police – Live” in January and February.
Like with so many other special CT events, this was one not to be missed. I had already booked to go to the last two shows in February, but when I heard how good the first night had been (plus the fantastic setlist), I figured I had to try to go earlier too. I was able to squeeze some time off work early in February and at the time of booking flights, the Chicago Bears were still in with a chance of playing in the Superbowl that same weekend. What’s not to like? So I was travelling in for the 4th and 5th Feb shows… what could possibly go wrong?
Well, this was the Midwest in winter, and weather can always be a concern. All the more so when I heard on Monday 31st Jan that a big winter storm was forecast to sweep across half of America, hitting the Midwest on the Wednesday and with Chicago likely to get hit badly. Oh dear. So I kept an eye on the weather news, along with getting on-the-ground updates from girlfriend Patricia, and followed events as Chicago indeed got buried in snow overnight Tuesday and most of the Wednesday morning. Twenty one inches in places, and turning out to be the third heaviest snowfall in a single storm since records began. Nice. Luckily I read that Chicago’s O’Hare Airport remained open albeit with barely a plane moving. Thursday brought better news, with international flights landing and leaving O’Hare, so hopefully that meant that my flight the next day from Amsterdam would make it in.
BUT… (sorry, but there is always a BUT when I’m rambling on about travel and weather!)… another weather complication arose. Whilst the eastern USA was getting hit by snowstorms, it was getting windy in Europe. On checking the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines website on the Thursday to check on USA flights for Friday, I spotted another announcement. Strong winds were forecast at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport for Friday (my travel day), which could lead to delay or cancellation of some European flights. <sigh> My routing, as usual, was the short hop from Manchester to Amsterdam and connecting with the transatlantic flight to Chicago. So maybe my feeder flight would be cancelled. Before bed on Thursday evening I checked online that the last flight from Amsterdam to Manchester had flown as normal, so I knew that the plane for my 6am flight was actually at Manchester. Surely a good sign…?
OK, sorry for the very long introduction, but I had to set the scene. Let’s recap… Cheap Trick? Check. Dream Police? Check. Heavy snow in Chicago? Check. Strong winds at Amsterdam? Check. Flying on the day of a show? Bad move, but check! OK, let’s roll…
Friday 4 Feb – Travelling there, and…?
With getting home from work late, packing and staying awake to check the last flight from Amsterdam to Manchester on Thursday night, I didn’t get much sleep before rousing myself out of bed at 2am on Friday morning. It was of course still dark, wet and windy too. I left home at 3am for the 70 minute drive to my parking service close to Manchester Airport. It was a pretty tough drive because of the strong winds, particularly over Saddleworth Moor where Yorkshire and Lancashire meet, and which is the highest piece of motorway in Britain. However, I made it without my little car getting blown over, parked at 4.15am and was at Manchester Airport twenty minutes later. Check-in was quick, security was empty, and by 4.55am I was in the Skyteam lounge enjoying my first (and necessary) coffee of the day!
I went down to the gate at 5.35am for boarding as the flight was due to leave at 6.05am. Waited around, the crew showed up and boarded. Soon they came back up the jetway. Uh oh, that’s never a good sign. The ground agents didn’t make announcements, but word spread that the flight was delayed due to a “mechanical fault”. Great. Oh well, I had a 3 hour layover at Amsterdam, so providing we didn’t leave too late I should still be OK for my connection to Chicago. At about 7am the ground agent finally made an announcement (Hurrah! The microphone doesn’t bite after all!) The fault was being fixed but we wouldn’t board until after 8am. Not good. So I went back to the lounge to wait it out there.
At 8am the agent in the lounge advised me that the fault on the plane (a leaking toilet) was fixed but the flight was delayed further and wouldn’t leave anytime soon. I should instead go to the Information Desk to get rebooked, <sigh> So I went and joined about 25 people there, and we were soon told that passengers for Johannesburg, Cape Town and Chicago should wait to one side. Obviously we were the ones who’d miss our connections. We waited around for a good half an hour before finally being told (at 8.40am) that we were being rebooked on alternative flights. We’d therefore need to go through Passport Control, get our luggage that was being unloaded from the delayed flight, and go land-side to the Ticket Office in Departures to get our new tickets. <sigh>
An agent walked the 30 or so affected people down to Passport Control where she left us to go through. The Arrivals Hall was quiet and empty as we waited for our luggage. The group of delayed people included an elderly woman in a wheelchair and a mother with two young children. We waited. And waited. Nothing happened. We were in “no mans land” without a ground agent. We couldn’t go anywhere until getting our luggage. <sigh> After 45 minutes I asked the people at the Baggage Handling desk (who were nothing to do with our situation) if they could find out what was happening. They kindly made a call, and to my utter amazement (# 1) we were told that no one had instructed the baggage people to unload our luggage. <sigh> So we waited some more. I can tell you that Arrivals Halls aren’t the most fun to hang around in. There are no shops, no TV’s, no nothing. I soon got bored of counting the luggage trolleys lined up in one corner. (The answer was, of course, 42). After 30 minutes our luggage started arriving on the carousel. I got my case and hurried out. With over 30 people affected, I knew there would soon be a long and slow line at the Ticket Office counter. Luckily I knew my way around and got up to the Ticket Office before the rest. Survival of the fastest I’m afraid! By now it was nearing 10.30am, and to my utter amazement (# 2) I discovered that neither I, nor anyone else, had actually been automatically rebooked on alternative flights. This despite the airline knowing two and a half hours ago that we’d miss connections (and by now that 6am flight was officially cancelled) <sigh> It took twenty minutes for them to rebook me, so lucky that I’d rushed up here. Due to the long delay waiting for luggage, I’d missed one possible (and ideal) alternative, the direct American Airlines flight to Chicago that left mid-morning. Instead I got booked onto the 12.30pm Delta flight to Atlanta, connecting there to a Chicago flight which would get in towards 9pm. So that was that, tonight’s Dream Police show was a no-go for me. I couldn’t possibly make it :-( To be fair I haven’t had too many travel problems in a long time. But when things go wrong, they go badly wrong. I’d worried about weather problems delaying me, and instead it only took a blocked toilet on an airplane.
So I had to go and check-in with Delta, go through security again, which by now (11am) was much busier than it had been at 4.45am. And then back into the Skyteam lounge to write a quick e-mail and let Patricia know the bad news. The Delta flight took off at 12.45pm, over 8 hours after I’d got to the airport and nearly 7 hours after I was supposed to leave Manchester. By now I should have already been over 2 hours into my Amsterdam to Chicago flight and eating lunch. Annoyingly my Delta flight passed only about 300 miles east of Chicago on its way to Atlanta, and landed at rainy Hartsfield Airport 9 hours after take-off. What can I say? It was a long flight and nothing special. I was through immigration pretty quickly, but it took maybe 20 minutes for my case to get onto the carousel. And then about another 20 minutes to shuffle slowly in a long line to get through security.
The Chicago flight finally took off 45 minutes late but we did land at Chicago at 8.45pm, pretty much on time. After a marathon travel day I was pleased to finally get here. But at the same time I was bummed, knowing that by now Cheap Trick would probably be about halfway through tonight’s show :-( Patricia kindly picked me up at O’Hare at about 9.20pm. It was pretty cold, and lots of snow still on the ground although the roads were absolutely fine. Ah well, at least I’d be rested for tomorrow night’s show, and only something like an alien invasion was going to stop me getting to Milwaukee tomorrow afternoon!
After some shopping and chores in Chicagoland on Saturday morning, we left for Milwaukee at 3.30pm, along with one of Patricia’s co-workers, Stacey. We got to the Potawatomi Casino at about 4.50pm, eventually finding a parking space in the parking garage. The casino is large, crowded and smoky… lovely (for a non-smoker)! Patricia and Stacey went to the Fire-Pit restaurant to meet other friends, whilst I was lucky to be able to go and sit in on the hour-long rehearsal in the Northern Lights Theater from 5-6pm.
The theatre is much as I’ve described for previous visits, though the seating arrangements have been updated recently. The main floor has seven levels of bar-type, bench or booth seating rising gently to the back wall and the sound and light desks. Above is a balcony with several steeply banked rows of seats. It’s not a big theatre, capacity is around 500, so there really isn’t a bad seat in the house.
The stage is mid-sized, though a little reduced for the band because of the set-up for the orchestra. Oh, and the stage was framed by a nice decorative surround. Onstage was the familiar set up for the band, with Magic Cristian’s keyboards set up to the rear of the stage behind Tom. In addition, there was a microphone and music stand to the rear of the stage behind Rick, for Miles Nielsen (additional vocals and guitar). Right behind the drumkit was an 8-9ft high video wall. Above that was a level where the 18 piece “Bombastic Symphonic Philharmonic” orchestra, conductor and the 3 backing singers (aka “The Rhythmic Noise Mind Choir”) would be situated. Behind them all was another video wall, and a video wall would also be lowered in front or the orchestra and singers at one short point during the show.
Rehearsal was done by Rick, Tom, Daxx, Magic and Miles, and was a hard-working affair. Between them they played through “Everybody Knows” three times without vocals, making sure that everyone understood how certain parts of the song should be played. They also played “Hot Love” and “Stiff Competition” (both without vocals), plus two goes at the ending of “Writing on the Wall”. That was followed by “I Want Be Man” with Magic vocalling some of it. At this point Rick joked to me from stage about “Invaders of the Heart”. This has been something of a running joke for a long time, about my wanting to hear it played live. Well, the joking onstage today went on for about a minute, before the band actually messed around and played parts of the song, with Magic vocalling a little. This was totally impromptu, unscripted, unrehearsed and ad-lib, and lasted maybe 90 seconds all told. I think they were as surprised as I was that they’d done this, but it was just a couple of minutes of fun to mess with my head. Don’t expect to ever hear it live during a show! Still, I had a grin from ear to ear! The band quickly got back to serious work, running through “I Want Be Man” again, whilst a video montage of “CheapTrick At The Movies” was projected onto the video wall. The rehearsal ended at 6.10pm. The band went off and took a well earned break, whilst I went to join Patricia and good friends for a bite to eat and a drink in the bar. Interesting to see a few casino staff (and many patrons) wearing green and yellow Green Bay Packers jerseys – the Packers were of course playing in tomorrows Superbowl.
Back at the theatre lobby an hour later, I bought some of the nice, new Dream Police show clothing that was on sale. Patricia, Stacey, Dawn and I also decided to have a photo taken with the large Dream Police display. Any of the band members faces can be removed and you can go behind and stick your face through the hole! I don’t know about in America, but this sort of thing used to be popular at British seaside resorts years ago! Fun stuff. One of CT’s good people (Hi Patrick!) takes the picture and has a copy ready to collect at the end of the show, fun stuff indeed and worth spending a few dollars on! Who was I? Well, all I’ll say is that I wish I’d taken dark glasses with me! And a false moustache!
We went into the theatre about 7.30pm, being shown to our seat and given a small programme/booklet together with a “prize draw” slip stapled to it. Using this, you can enter a draw run by the casino (not CT) where the prize each night is a guitar signed by the band. Anyway, the curtains on-stage were closed, with a big Dream Police badge projected onto them. In addition, there are video screens high up to stage left and right, apparently showing live footage from one of the backstage rooms.
At 8.10pm, there was a short vocal announcement that the show would start in one minute. The voice then welcomed the Bombastic Symphonic Orchestra and the Rhythmic Noise Mind choir and then the lights went down. The first thing we heard was bells, and a Big Ben chime, then the familiar drone. Small lights were projected onto the theatre ceiling. Then the Mind Choir sang the “Can’t stop the music” lines from “Stop This Game”, and the curtains opened to show Daxx, Magic and Miles onstage, together with the orchestra and choir. They performed “Heaven Tonight” with Miles singing lead vocals. There were cool laser lights plus random lighting on the video walls, and the stage lighting was mostly dark purple, green and blue. A very nice opening to the show.
Then a light curtain was lowered, and the familiar Cheap Trick logo was projected to the music of “IWYTWM”. All of the album covers were displayed, then band member pictures and interview snippets. Then the Bob Dole footage “… my Congressional record, and my favourite record, Cheap Trick Live at Budokan”. Then the “Fast Times at Fairmont High” CT mention, Simpsons “I prefer to listen to Cheap Trick”, “Dream Police” promo video footage, the “Hello Wisconsin!” shout from That 70’s Show intro, a bit of backstage footage and then the curtain dropped!
RN – Black pants, black jacket, black & white Beatles logo
shirt, Beatles bowtie
Intro, Heaven Tonight, Dream Police, Way of the World, House is Rockin’, Gonna Raise Hell, I’ll Be With You Tonight, Voices, Writing On The Wall, I Know What I Want, Need Your Love, High Priest of Rhythmic Noise, I Want Be Man, The Flame, Just Got Back, Hot Love, Everybody Knows, Stiff Competition, Smile. I Want You To Want Me, Surrender
The band started up with a high energy “Dream Police” with cool DP shield logo’s all over the video walls. Also some dry ice on stage. That was followed by “Way of the World” which has been a popular set opener during 2010. After that, Rick spoke, “Yeah! Thanks for being here at the Northern Lights. We love Milwaukee, hope you do too!” The band then went into another big song, “House is Rockin’” with an image of a burning hut on the video wall, and then flames. Cool to see some of the orchestra swaying along to the song! That was followed by another of CT’s monster songs, “Gonna Raise Hell” which is normally a show closer. But tonight, in keeping with the albums running order, it was the fourth song of the set! Boy, did the band have to hit the ground running with this show. The video wall has speaker graphics displayed, and Robin stood up with the Mind Choir when doing his “Motherrrr!” screams. Since this wasn’t the closing song, the band didn’t do the extended ending that many fans have become familiar with.
Next up was “I’ll Be With You Tonight” which I haven’t heard in over 30 years since my first CT show at Londons Hammersmith Odeon in November 1980. Very cool to hear once more after so long.
After that came a rarity… Tom spoke! “Well, well, well… we’re really happy to be here. There’s just one ballad on Dream Police. It’s called “Voices” and features our lead singer, Robin Zander”. After a very nice “Voices” it was Robin’s turn to briefly address the crowd, “I can speak for the rest of the band that it’s a privilege to work with such a great songwriter as Rick – he starts the next song”. Rick did indeed play the introductory riff to “Writing on the Wall”, another song not played live in 30 years, and one I’ve never seen performed live before. The mid-vocal parts “Alright Tokyo… Alright Los Angeles…” etc were the same recordings as on the album. A simple but nice graphic of a brick wall was used on the video wall during this song.
This was followed by a two minute bass solo from Tom, leading into his singing “I Know What I Want”. The start of the third monster from the Dream Police album, “Need Your Love” saw dry ice swirling on the stage, and a blue graphic on the video wall. This 7 minute song took us to the end of the Dream Police album segment, and very impressive it had been. It’s a truly great album. But the fun didn’t stop there, oh no! Rick, Robin and Tom left the stage, but the show continued with “High Priest of Rhythmic Noise” performed by the orchestra, choir, Daxx, Magic and Miles. The lead vocal was sung by Miles whilst the electro-voice was done by Magic. Very nice job, though I noticed they didn’t do the “Don’t give up, shut up sit down” vocal lines countering the electro vocal lines. Hey, you know the song so you’ll get what I mean! Oh, and graphics from Robin’s “High Priest…” comic book were displayed early on in the song, very nice.
Next up was another audio visual treat, with the band returning to perform another live rarity, “I Want Be Man” from 1982’s “One on One” album. At the start of this, a video wall came from the roof to join up with the one behind the drumkit to provide a giant wall. Throughout the song, this displayed a video montage of clips illustrating “Cheap Trick At The Movies”. We saw clips from the following movies, with text naming the Cheap Trick song(s) featured in that film:- Transformers, Heavy Metal, Over The Edge, Daddy Daycare, Top Gun, The Colbert Report, Private Parts, Joe Dirt, Grown Ups, Say Anything, and Roadie. At the end the wording on screen says “To be continued…” Perfectly synchronised and timed, the song and video finished at the same time, very impressive. The top part of the video wall went back up, to reveal the orchestra and choir again. Rick then thanked the orchestra – “… excellent players… Sean O’Laughlin, Conductor… thanks for being here”. He continued by also thanking the Rhythmic Noise Choir – “… no, they’re NOT from Pittsburgh!” (a reference to the Packers’ opponents in tomorrow’s Superbowl, the Pittsburgh Steelers). He added “The next tune did fairly well around the world… OK, it was number ONE around the world… even in Milwaukee! Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Robin Zander, my favourite lead singer”. Robin started up the bands biggest commercial hit, “The Flame”.
Aftwards, Rick spoke again – “Robin Zander! Alumni of the Stone Toad, Humpin’ Hanna’s, The Scene, County Stadium, the Bandstand… we’ve played them all and now we’re here! Thanks for coming.” He then went on with introductions – “… This is our band, the 4D Players. Magic Cristian on keyboards, Miles Nielsen on third guitar, Daxx Nielsen on drums… the Mind Choir singers… I think Daxx starts this one, here we go”. The next song did indeed start with the drums, a rousing “Just Got Back”. That was quickly followed by “Hot Love”, “Everybody Knows” and “Stiff Competition”. Phew quite a run of songs there.
The show continued with a very poignant “Smile”, accompanied on the video wall and side video screens by a montage of mostly vintage pictures of the band members.
The show drew to a close with two more of the bands signature songs. “I Want You to Want Me” had the crowd on its feet. Robin sang the “bummer version” chorus, and Rick highlighted the brief solo by the clarinet player in the orchestra! Finally we got “Surrender”, which had the crowd singing along and which featured a large Cheap Trick logo graphic on the video wall behind Daxx, and also on the one behind the orchestra. I got my fingertips to the flying album flat mid-song but it went past me! Towards the end of the song, a huge amount of black and white confetti came raining down over the audience, clearly a trick taken from last summer’s “Sgt Pepper Live” shows in Las Vegas.
The show ended at 9.54pm, and, slightly biased as I may be, I have to say it was outstanding. The performances had been flawless, and having been at rehearsal, I knew that the band worked hard to make sure everything went perfectly. The orchestra and backing singers contributed a huge amount, particularly to the songs from the Dream Police album, the band’s most orchestrated studio release. The video wall technology was also impressive. It’s nothing new of course, with the likes of Def Leppard having employed it to great effect for years. This was Cheap Trick’s first use of this type of video that I can recall, and it worked really well. It was not overused and didn’t detract from the music, but complimented it. Overall, the show is a great concept and very well designed and executed. Add to that, great lighting and great sound, and you have a wonderful (4-D!) Cheap Trick offering. Whilst the original album shows were more basic and raw, this was in keeping with the Dream Police album – polished and both a visual and sonic treat.
After collecting our DP album cover picture taken before the show
(and finding out I hadn’t won the signed guitar!), we said our goodbyes to
friends and left the casino at 11.15pm for the 75 minute drive back to Chicago.
It had been a pretty good night out…!! :-)
After the excitement of last nights show, today was quiet and leisurely. It was another cold but bright day, the sunshine not warm enough to melt off the thick layer of snow still around. We did odds and ends before settling down for the Superbowl together with Chinese takeout food! And Leinienkugel’s Honey Weiss beer! Hmmm… I’ve only just realised that Leinies is of course brewed in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin (I’ve even done a brewery tour there), so I guess subconsciously I was supporting the Green Bay Packers even though they’d put out the Chicago Bears in the Championship game a couple of weeks ago. (If the Bears were playing in tonight’s big game I’m sure we’d have been somewhere more crowded rather than at home!) Anyway, the Packers took an early 14-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers, who later rallied. It became a great game with the Steelers pulling close, only for the Packers to score again, then the Steelers pull back again, and so on. The Packers eventually ran out winners by 31-25.
I also partook (is that a word?) in those other Great Superbowl
traditions – watching the commercials (nothing that stunning) and watching the
halftime show. The Black Eyed Peas, together with Slash and Usher and lots of
dancers, some in luminous outfits. Umm… I think the NFL would have done better
to get Cheap Trick! They’d certainly have been better musically… and hey,
they’ve done NFL halftime shows before, in Japan and in Indianapolis.
Monday 7 & Tuesday 8 Feb – Let it snow…
OK, time to fly home and back to work. I had a quiet morning whilst Patricia was at work, and she kindly took me to O’Hare Airport during her lunch break. It was another cold day, with grey overcast skies (but not really a hint of what was to come). I got to O’Hare at 1pm, so had over 3 hours before my 4.15pm flight. Check-in was open but very quiet so that didn’t take long. And security was quiet too, as it was a bit early for the crowds from the mid-late afternoon flights to Europe. So I was soon settled in the Air France lounge.
I noticed just a few light snowflakes just before 2pm… yeah, you know where this story is going don’t you? The snowfall was still relatively light at 3.30pm when I went to the gate for boarding, though the plane did visibly have areas of very light snow on its body. However, the plane was de-iced before we left the gate, so all was fine. As we pulled slowly away, the windows quickly covered again with snow, I don’t think I’ve ever flown where the outside windows were obscured. We taxied for awhile, but I have no clue where we went as I couldn’t see a thing outside to get my bearings. Eventually the Captain announced that, although we were in line to take off, we’d go back to the terminal to de-ice. So we taxied back and the plane was squirted again with de-icing fluid. One of the stewardesses later said that she’d heard that the runway had also been getting slippery and a couple of other planes had aborted their take-off’s. No complaints from me, better safe than sorry. Mind you, I could afford to be sanguine as I was going home. During my delay outbound on Friday, I was obviously more frustrated as I knew I was going to miss that night’s Dream Police show.
Anyway, freshly de-iced and with clear windows we took off at 6.55pm, over 2 ½ hours late. Oh well. It didn’t take long for dinner to be served, I guess it was heating up whilst we were on our second de-ice. After that I skipped the entertainment options and instead I tried to sleep (“…they’re wide awake they won’t let me alone…”!) Well, I wasn’t really plagued by Dream Police, but as usual when flying I dozed fitfully rather than sleeping.
We landed at sunny Amsterdam at 8.45am local time (1.45am back in Chicago). With the long delay I’d missed my scheduled 8:05pm flight back to Manchester. I had automatically been rebooked on the next flight (thank you this time KLM) due to depart at 10:05am. Mind you, getting that was a bit of a rush. We may have landed at 8:45am, but we arrived on the furthest runway so took 10 minutes to taxi to the terminal. Then of course it takes a while to get off the plane, and then it’s a good 10 minute walk to the next gate where you stand in a long line for security screening. The plane was already boarding by the time I got through that and got my boarding pass swiped.
OK, enough complaining! We took off at 10:20am, and landed at sunny (!) Manchester fifty five minutes later. End of story? Not quite! It didn’t take long to get through immigration, and only a 10 minute wait for cases to start coming onto the carousel. I watched them come round - black ones, silver ones, strapped-up ones, red ones… you name it, every type of case except mine! Yep! I had to report it missing at the baggage claim desk (where I’d been during my delay leaving last Friday morning, remember?) who checked the computer and saw it was still in Amsterdam. <sigh> “It’ll come in on the 2pm flight” they told me. I got the shuttle bus to the parking place, got my car and drove home. And then forced myself to stay awake (gradually more difficult as the day wore on) until my case was delivered by courier to my house at 9pm. I was in bed about 60 seconds later!
There are always well deserved thanks after a show trip, and this
was no exception. THANKS to Cheap Trick, Carla and the crew. They did a
fine job as always. THANKS also to Patricia for her fine hospitality as
ever, and thanks to the many good friends I met at Milwaukee on Saturday
night. Until the next time… don’t let the Dream Police get inside your brain!
(Note: A large number of my photographs from the Dream Police shows two
weeks later can be found within the Pictures secion on the official website -
This Site and all material held within it are Copyright by Kim Gisborne