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When I decided three months ago to go to the Dec 30 and 31 shows in the Midwest, I really didn’t think then that the weather might be a big factor in the trip. But as the trip got closer, and more detailed plans got made, the possibility of snow loomed larger and larger… and by December 11th, the nightmares became reality as the Midwest were hit by the first of several blizzards. The snow hadn’t cleared by Christmas, which meant that it was to be be a "very" interesting and cold trip…

Set out from home in Leeds early on Weds 27th December, to see my first Cheap Trick New Years Eve show. Caught an early bus into Leeds to get the airport bus connection, on a clear but freezing morning. Whilst waiting at the bus station around 8am I got to wondering if I’d switched off a heater at home… so I got another bus home (still with all my luggage), checked to make sure (yes, I "had" switched it off…), and got another bus back. Missed my planned 8.30am airport connection, but caught the 9.45am one, which would still get me to check-in on time.

Got my flight OK down to London’s Heathrow Airport, and had well over an hour to catch my United Airlines flight to Chicago. No problems, watched the movies (United’s 777’s have a personal video screen for each economy seat in the rear of the seat in front) including Toy Story 2, and actually got into a cold and snowy O’Hare about 40 mins early at 3.30pm. That was good… except we had to sit on the tarmac for 20 minutes until a Gate became clear! I got through customs and immigration quickly, and got over to Terminal 1 to get my flight up to Madison, Wisconsin. As I was early, I managed to get booked onto an earlier flight leaving at 5.30 instead of 8pm, which turned out to be good as the 8pm flight was apparently later cancelled. Whilst getting to my Gate, I noticed that the Christmas decorations in Terminal 1 were very spectacular and festive, as the always are in the States! Boarded the small domestic hopper plane OK, the captain worried the passengers by reporting problems with auxilliary power, but we did actually get away. Spectacular views of the lights of the Chi suburbs as we headed north, and of downtown Madison and its Capitol as we approached the airport there 35 mins later. Finally met up with my friend Sam there, and drove back through streets surrounded by piles of snow – brrrr!

Thursday 28th was uneventful, except that we shopped during the afternoon to get supplies for the road trip to Michigan/Indiana, and whilst out it started snowing with a vengeance. That made the thought of a 450 mile drive next day somewhat scary…

Friday 29th dawned cold and white, with a fresh 5 inch covering of snow. We got out early (8.15am) to drive the 3 miles to pick up a hire car. We needed more space than my friends car had, as we would be later meeting two Japanese friends/fans in Michigan. We got the car and set out in light snow flurries, heading south down towards Chicago. The roads and interstate in Wisconsin were still pretty snowy, and progress was slow. As we were due to meet Mariko at Saginaw Airport in Michigan at around 5.30pm, the slowness of the traffic was frustrating. Plus of course we’d lose an hour due to the time change. The roads were much better cleared as we got into Illinois and drove down past Rockford towards Chicago. However, all the way down we saw vehicles that had skidded or driven into the deep snow of the central median, some overturned too, scary. We eventually passed through murky Chicago, and in southern Michigan we had to call friends at 5.15pm. We were still some 150 miles or more from Saginaw (MBS) Airport, and Mari was due to land at 5.30. We left a message for Jeff to page Mari at the airport and explain that we’d be late, but that we "would" still collect her!

From then it was a further long and tiring 3 hour drive up to MBS Airport, in the dark and with snow flurries and icy roads . We got there at 8.30, I went in and found Mari forlornly waiting in a corner of the small and quiet regional airport. She’d got in on time, and after a long flight in from Tokyo via Minneapolis had had to wait a further 3 hours for us… I felt pretty bad. Luckily Jeff had managed to reach her by phone, so she knew we’d be late. Anyway, we were finally there, and we drove the last 40 miles to Mt Pleasant in central Michigan, dropped Mari at her hotel to finally get some sleep, and checked into ours (it was by now 10pm). Our actual road journey had taken over 11 hours... phew!

Despite our tiredness, we needed to eat, so drove the short mile to the Soaring Eagle casino, venue for CT next day. The large sign with two eagles over the road welcomed us into the huge parking lot. This place was very very big, well lit up, and definitely one of the main places of this town. We took a walk into the casino, walked to the buffet to check the menu, and ran into CT’s merch man John, plus Tony, Rick’s temporary roadie. I’d heard a day or two earlier that Rick’s regular tech Sven had re-damaged his shoulder, so wasn’t doing these two shows. Rush tech Tony was called in, nice guy. John and Tony both told us about their tales of travel misery to get here. We left them to get some rest, and eventually went and ate at a nearby Shoney’s. It was good to drop into bed that night.

Saturday Dec 30

Showday number one! I was up around 8am (though I got confused, as my watch said it was 7am… which it was over in Wisconsin!). It was another bitterly cold day with light snow. We picked up Mariko at her hotel over lunchtime and drove the mile to the Soaring Eagle. Despite it being only 1.30pm, the casino was busy with gamblers, trying to win money in what is reputed to be (according to testimonials on their website!) the meanest paying casino in Michigan! We soon met old friend Lisa J and her husband, and at around 3pm, Jeff and Andrea, plus their young daughter Emily (she appeared on the Alt.Tribute 3 CD – check outt the credits!) and Mika from Japan. Mika had got into Detroit yesterday morning, so had spent the day and overnight with Jeff and his family. Good to see them all!

A little later Bun E came walking through the casino to the venue, so I got to say hello and give him some stuff I’d brought over for him. Despite the tight security, he took me into the venue to talk a little more and allowed me to stay in for soundcheck (Thanks BC!). The venue was large, and a typical Vegas type casino theatre layout. Four tiers of flooring, each with bench tables seating ten people. The stage was a good size, and the room was tastefully decorated in a countryside mural. The ceiling, with lots of tubular ducting, was painted a sky blue.

It took quite awhile for all of the band to get together and soundcheck, and time was fairly tight. Soundcheck actually started at 5.25pm, with doors due to open at 6 and the show starting at 7pm. I was surprised to hear Don’t Be Cruel as the first soundcheck song, less surprised to hear it followed by Walk Away. Tom stayed on stage after the others had left, and so doors didn’t open until 6.20. Good to finally see others who’d made the trip to deepest Michigan, like Laurie, Mike, Rhonda and Carolyn from Chicago, Lars and Rosie from Sweden, from Japan - Junko, Noriko and husband, and Mutsumi, husband and baby, and the SF/Bay contingent which included Lisa R, Elsa, Teresa and Kim.

Around 7pm, an announcer from the venue came on, and did an introduction of do’s and don’t (no laser pens, photography allowed but no flash etc – good that he let people know that they "could" take pictures). Went into a couple of short promotional games, one of which was a set up for a marriage proposal, though no one that I knew. Cheap Trick took the stage just after 7.05pm, there was no support.

RN – Black pinstripe suit, black t-shirt with yellow design

TP – Big white cowboy hat, length white jacket, black pants, black turtle neck sweater

BC – Black/white patterned shirt, black pants

RZ – Black patterned suit, dark mauve shirt, yellow tie with black dots

Ain’t That a Shame, Speak Now (slightly different arrangement), House is Rockin’, Don’t Be Cruel (including pause), I Want You to Want Me, I Know What I Want, You’re All Talk, 70’s Song, 8 Miles Low (long intro as RN awaited his guitar, Tom improvised), Voices, Heaven Tonight, Surrender / Flame (RN had to change guitar early on in the song), Dream Police, Lot to Lose, Goodnight Now

The setlist posted on stage included Walk Away (which was dropped in favour of Voices) and Southern Girls (after Heaven Tonight) which was dropped.

Interesting show. Robin looked very smart, with a real 70’s look of suit and tie. His son, little Robin was seated on the right hand side of the stage, and drummed along on his legs to almost every song! He was so into it, and got plenty of encouraging smiles from his proud Dad. Sam and I were on a front table on Tom’s side. As Jeff and Andrea were sitting a table back from the stage, they’d asked if Emily could come and stand by us for some of the show. No problem, and she ended up sitting on Sam’s knee for the whole show, except for Lot to Lose and Goodnight Now when she stood on the table! During the show it was cool that Rick noticed her and gave her a pick!

This was Rick’s temporary tech’s first night with him, and there were a lot of problems. Several times Rick had to wait for a guitar between songs, or change his guitar during a song. This made the show somewhat stop/start, which didn’t help it to flow though did give us some cool moments too. For example, Tom improvised a cool long intro to 8 Miles Low whilst Rick waited for his guitar, and before Heaven Tonight, Rick berated some people who’d just arrived to take their table at front centre! He teased them whilst waiting for his guitar, then the rest of the band starting softly jamming "Day Tripper" before Rick started singing some lyrics leading into a couple of lines of "Who do you love?". Very interesting. Right after Voices, Rick also picked out a 7 year old youngster (Alex) near the front, who was wearing shades. He got Alex up on stage and briefly asked a few questions… the poor kid was somewhat nervous. However, when Rick asked him if he wanted to go back to his Mom, or stay up on stage, he seemed in no hurry to go sit down again! During the show Rick also said that the Rockford 25th Anniversary Show would be screened in February on the DirectTV channel.

The venue was about full, and the bench seating made the atmosphere somewhat weird (in my opinion anyway). Almost all of the crowd remained seating throughout, apart from a few people who stood up and danced along during songs. Being at the front, I found it hard to stand up, knowing that there were folks behind me who wouldn’t be able to see if I did, and who’d bitch like hell too. So for most of the show I stayed sitting too, an odd and not terribly satisfying experience. All in all, a good though somewhat disjointed show from the band (due to Rick’s guitar problems), but the seating arrangements weren’t ideal.

After show, many of the fans I mentioned above headed to the bar at the hotel, then the fireplace lounge. Whilst there, we saw several of the band and crew check out, there were heading straight out to Merrillville. Most fans then went to eat, we drove back and had another late buffet at Shoney’s before getting back to our respective hotels for bed.

Sunday December 31

Another cold morning, though slightly less chilly. We picked up Mari and Mika from their hotel and set out from Mt Pleasant at 10.15, for the 4 hr drive down to Merrillville. We had to cross country on two lane M-46 before picking up picking up I-131 south, and some of the snowy countryside we passed through was just so pretty. We listened to CD’s of the recently webcast King Biscuit Hour (part of the 3/80 Providence RI show), also the Alt.Tribute.CT #3 CD (still a great listen!) and some of The Who’s Greatest Hits. Passed the time along nicely before we reached the familiar Radisson Hotel/Star Plaza at M’ville at 1.15pm local. Good to see a number of folks like Danny, Rusty and Grace already there and keeping the bar staff busy! We got to check in fairly quickly, and rejoined the earlybirds in the bar… I even had a beer I think! No sign of Ron or Cheap Track though. Mika, who was to be their translator and "tour manager" was worried…

Heard that soundcheck was due at 3pm, so Sam and I headed out to the theatre and stood outside the stage door in the freezing snow, hoping to hear what got played. We were soon joined by Ron R and his buddy Mike (see credits for Bone Daddy on the ATCT #3 CD!) who were waiting to see Robin. It took awhile for the band to start playing anything, but we eventually heard Robin singing parts of "Love Comes" and "The Flame", before the band did all of "Oh Candy". They then played part of "If You want My Love", with a slower tempo than normal, it sounded much more relaxed. Ron and Mike had left by now, which was a shame… because we heard the band play another song, and the freezing cold was soon forgotten as we realised that it wasn’t anything we knew! They played a couple of verses of this song, which we kept hearing the line "She does…". They then played a long instrumental of the song, just too cool! When all was quiet, we headed back into the hotel, and on a chance went to the 3rd floor, where the walkway connects the theatre to the hotel. As luck would have it, within a minute or so Robin came walking across. Some other people waiting there greeted him, before he turned to us. I asked him about the new song, he smiled and replied that it was titled "She’s Alright".

Back in the bar, saw that those others who’d been at Mt Pleasant had arrived, and good to see (amongst others) Rick from Sweden, and Chicago area locals Brian and Mike B. Also finally met up with Cheap Track in the hotel lobby. We went and had dinner (part of the expensive, inclusive hotel/show deal) at 6.30, and I ran into other friends in the buffet restaurant including Mary G from Chicago, and after dinner, with Dawn, Dayna Mindy and others.

Headed to the theatre at 9.15, as Cheap Track were due on at 10pm and CT at 11pm. Bought one of the dark blue tie-dyed NYE shirts, and ran into Helene who’d finally got in from London. She told me about heavy snow back in England, the day after I’d left, and it sounded like she’d been lucky to get to the Midwest since many flights from Heathrow had been cancelled. Went backstage around 9.45 with Ron to wish Cheap Track luck. They were ready, but nervous. We got back to our 7th row seats as the lights went down and Cheap Track were introduced. They’d been specially invited by Cheap Trick to come in from Tokyo to open, and I gather the members of Trick did watch parts of their special opening guests set. Cheap Track’s set was:-

Just Got Back, Clock Strikes Ten, Big Eyes, Woke Up With a Monster, Speak Now, Stop This Game, Oh Candy, Don’t Be Cruel (Kinko had a bass guitar rigged up like Tom’s ala 1988 for this!), California Man

They played a cool set, though had been asked to sing everything in Japanese instead of English which they normally do. Shige had a cool "Cheap Track" drumhead which Jeff had made especially for this show. Sushi Man was flicking his trademark picks ala Rick throughout, and a few of us took some photo’s. However, despite having been told that taking flash pix of Track was OK, about halfway through we started getting hassled by the secuity guards which sucked. That was the start of the heavy handed security, about which more later.

I don’t think most of the audience knew what to make of Cheap Track, particularly with their singing in Japanese. A few of us tried to whip up some enthusiasm and response, but sadly most of the audience seemed indifferent which was a real shame as Cheap Track recreated CT’s sound perfectly. At the end, Sushi Man thanked Cheap Trick for inviting them, and he threw out a Cheap Track baseball jersey (ala the one that Cheap Trick currently sell with the 6x logo)!

Cheap Trick came on at 11.10pm…

RN – Purple jacket, black pants. NYE t-shirt

TP – Black turtle neck shirt, black pants, black length jacket

BC – Flowered shirt, black pants

RZ – white shirt, long jacketed black velvet suit

Fantastic long jam intro, maybe 3 minutes, into… Speak Now, House is Rockin’, Taxman, I Want You to Want Me, Waiting For The Man, 70’s Song, 8 Miles Low (I couldn’t hear RN’s vox), You’re All Talk, She’s Alright (*New Song*), Voices, Auld Lang Syne, If You Want My Love, Surrender / Flame (couldn’t hear RZ’s guitar at first), Dream Police, Goodnight Now

The set list posted on stage also included Heaven Tonight (after Voices) and ATAS (start of encore, before Flame), both of which were dropped, though didn’t show Auld Lang Syne (of course there was no way of knowing at which point the clock would strike twelve!)

Again, I found it an odd night, like the previous night in Michigan. This time everyone stood up when the band came on, but it seemed like a lot of people, even in the front rows, just weren’t into it. I had really expected more intensity and a NYE party atmosphere amongst the crowd. The couple next to me just stood still and expressionless throughout the show… it was weird. I looked back at the crowd, and found many of them pretty much motionless too. That just reiterated to me that, despite the drunks etc, I far prefer bar/club shows. At least there’s always a buzz, atmosphere and excitement. During the show I heard that some of those in the front circle had phoned and gotten their tix that afternoon, whilst other fans who’d booked the hotel/show one night package two months ago ended up with seats way back by the mixing desk.

The crowd came alive around midnight, although there wasn’t a countdown. At the end of Voices (at midnight), the band briefly huddled together on stage, and then came back and played Auld Lang Syne. That was the cue for lots of balloons to eventually and intermitently drop from the ceiling. At least in the front area, that made "If You Want My Love" interesting, as people punched the balloons around, and started popping them too. Towards the end of the song, it was like hearing firecrackers go off non stop. At the end of the song the front of the stage was covered in balloons and Bun E’s tech unsuccessfully tried to clear them back into the crowd. But as fast as he pushed them out, they just kept on coming back…!!

Security were a pain. Definitely heavy handed, they kept wading into those people who were standing/dancing at the front of the stage, and demanding to see tickets. A few people had gotten down front from some of the rows further back (but still in that front circle of seats), but I heard that Security were threatening to throw people out, or even get them jailed. It was nuts, it wasn’t like a wholesale invasion of the front area by the whole theatre, it was maybe 20 people. Sadly this happened several times, including during the new song.

I enjoyed the show, and have to say that CT played three songs that I’d hoped to hear – something new, Waiting for the Man and Taxman, so I was pretty pleased with the set. However, the atmosphere of the crowd was much less than I expected for NYE, and Security sucked. Even more about them later.

After show I had another surprise, running into Dr Mark from Florida, who I hadn’t seen since TF2. He’d made a late decision to come to the show, and it was great to see him.

Caught up with Cheap Track backstage, and much later I found a bundle of paper and tape crumpled up on stage, waiting to be swept up. Upon closer inspection, I found it to be a setlist and RZ’s lyric sheets from the show for House is Rockin’ and She’s Alright. Too cool! Did goodbye’s and thank-you’s to Bun, Robin, Tom and Carla.

Back to the hotel bar around 1.45am, the whole of the bar and central area was heaving with people, as the hotel was hosting other NYE parties too. At 2.30 the lights suddenly came up, and Security said we had to leave. We got very quickly herded like cattle, first in one direction, then back in the opposite direction. That particularly sucked as we were being forcibly sent down a corridor where two staff were busy trying to clear up a load of broken glass. Heavy handed Security had the last word of the evening… <sigh>.

Monday 1 January

It was very quiet in the lobby and restaurant as I took a wander around at 9am. There were more people around at 10.45 when we had buffet brunch. We finally left the hotel at 12.30, after having said goodbyes to many friends. It was bright, but snowy and cold as we drove Mari and Mika up to O’Hare. The skyline of downtown Chicago, also Comisky Park, looked spectacular in the afternoon sunshine as we passed by on the Dan Ryan Expressway. Dropped Mari and Mika at the airport Hilton, as they’d be flying home to Japan early next morning, and completed the journey back to Madison by around 4pm. It was definitely much colder up in Wisconsin than in Indiana, it had dropped to just 6 degrees F at 6.30pm, so I’ve no idea how cold it got overnight.

Tuesday 2 Jan was fairly quiet, the only CT item of note was that I found a computer game called "Backstage Pass", which on the front says that it features music from lots of groups, and listed four one of which was CT. On the rear of the box, one of the graphics actually shows a question, which went something like "From which classic album is this sound clip from?" It was obviously IWYTWM with the choices being "In Color…", "At Budokan" and "Cheap Trick"! I didn’t have $20 to spare right then to buy it, maybe next time.

Weds 3 Jan was the day I was to fly home. Got to Madison Airport at 1.50pm to check in for my 3pm flight to Chicago O’Hare, then the early evening flight to London, then onto Leeds. Found my booked 3pm flight to Chicago O'Hare cancelled. Therefore I would miss my booked flight from O'Hare to London Heathrow. Got booked onto the 5.55pm to O'Hare. That got cancelled. Booked onto the 6.45pm flight, that eventually left Madison at 8.05pm. Landed at O'Hare at 8.36pm, and I had to run from gate B20 to C18 to get onto the 8.55pm flight to London (last of the evening)... I made it with 5 mins to spare. At 9.20pm the flight got delayed for 10 hours due to technical problems. I got booked into the airport Hilton, and ended up having a late meal there when I should have been halfway to London.

On Thursday morning (4 Jan) I was up at 5.30am as the delayed flight was due to leave at 7.30am. Tried to sort out connecting to Leeds, as I knew we’d be getting in late. United weren’t helpful, "We can’t do anything as British Midland are a totally different airline" customer service told me. That was helpful… considering that United and British Midland are part of the Star Alliance, one of several airpline partnerships that supposedly offer an integrated service. At least KLM never told me that Northwest Airlines were "nothing to do with them" when I’ve had past problems flying with those airlines. We eventually took off at 9am. Landed at London’s Heathrow Airport at 10.15pm local, and as expected I'd missed the last flight to Leeds Airport. Also, my case didn't arrive. So, I had to file a lost luggage report <yawn>, then get checked into a local airport hotel at approaching midnight.

Friday morning (5th January) was damp but mild, and a relief to see no snow after a week of the stuff in the Midwest! I was up at 5.45am and at Heathrow by 7.15am. I was actually booked on the 12.45 pm flight to Leeds but advised on arrival the previous night that I could try to be on "standby" for the 8.30am flight. I wanted to do that, as I was supposed to be at work this morning. I checked in and was refused "standby" as my case was somewhere in transit. So, I faced a 5 hour wait, but at least British Midland allowed me to use their Business Lounge, so I could get coffee etc. At 8.20 I was paged, and had to chase from the lounge at Gate 6 to Gate 74 (phew!) to join the 8.30am flight... I arrived in Leeds around 9.30am, almost 38 hrs after checking in at MSN, though my case still didn't arrive. Got a bus to Leeds centre and went straight into work around 11.20am. I had been due in at 7.30am, but I saved the vacation day, though was very tired despite the hotel stops. That lunchtime I called United Airlines at Heathrow, they couldn't trace my case on any of the 3 inbound flights from Chicago which arrived that morning. Yeah, so what’s new… Anyway, I got a call in the afternoon, somehow my case arrived at Leeds Airport, and I got it safely delivered home that evening. Good job too, it included my NYE shirt and RZ’s setlist and lyric sheets from NYE!

So ended another long and tiring trip, yet a very worthwhile one. For me, any CT show is worth travelling for (though I know some people might disagree). A pleasure to see so many friends, to hear stuff like You’re All Talk, Waiting for the Man and Don’t Be Cruel, as well as a real bonus in the new song. As ever, many thanks to Carla and the band. Thanks also to Sam in Wisconsin, and to everyone else I met who made the shows fun!

Kim Gisborne – 10 January 2000+1

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