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APPLETON WI & CHICAGO - DEC 1999 (by Kim Gisborne)

Fri 10 Dec - Appleton WI

It was bright, sunny but very cold. We set out from Madison for the 2+ hour drive up to Appleton, not too far south of Green Bay. The venue, "The Checkered Flag" was very nondescript outside, we walked into a large bar area, with windows at the back which faced into a large sports type hall. As well as people setting up the stage and CT's crew, there were a number of people from WAPL radio hustling around. Trick were headlining the radio stations first annual Christmas party here tonight.

The venue was actually an indoor volleyball hall, probably with space for 3 courts side by side. The stage was set up at the far end of the hall, with a pretty basic bar along the left hand wall, and a number of portable toilet stalls along the rear of the opposite side. The floor was solid but uneven. The volleyball courts were sand, so were covered over by matting or tarpaulins. It was cold, very cold ! Well, it *was* central Wisconsin in December... brrr ! Speaking to the radio station person in charge of the nights promotion, I was told that 2,200 tickets had been sent out to phone-in winners, with another 200-300 guests. So a crowd of up to 2,500 were expected.

The band arrived for soundcheck around 4pm, Robin, Tom and Bun E - Rick wasn't with them. In between taking turns to talk briefly to the radio station DJs who were set up in an alcove of the front bar, the band soundchecked, playing It All Comes Back to You". Tom was well wrapped up, thick coat, woolly hat, and Robin looked cool in a Hard Rock Cafe jacket.

The stage set up was much as usual, but with the exception of having seasonal decorations festooned across the amps - large red bow's, green, blue and silver Xmas lights, baubles and fir garlands. As well as the usual suspects on Rick's amps (satanic Tweety, grapes candle), there was a Furby wearing checkerboard, and a small framed drawing of Homer Simpson The rafters of the hall had snowflake lights, to add to the Festive feel.

The crowd were let in at 6pm, and those who'd been hardy enough to line up for up to an hour in the freezing cold were pleased to be let in. Strangely enough, the crowd were pretty mellow, with no mad rush for front stage. Folk's mainly went to one of the bars, ventured down near the front, then wandered back. A real contrast to what I've seen this year at GA shows both Stateside and in Japan.

The radio station DJ's were in real party mood, kicking proceedings off at 6.45 pm by having a man strip down to his underpants and a diaper, and a Cowboys fan getting his butt spanked (quite hard at times) by a *dominitrix*. Hmm, so this is what passes for fun in Wisconsin in winter.... First band up at 7pm were a 4 piece local group, The Marc Golde Band. They played for an hour, which I'm afraid was around 40 mins too long for me. 8 to 8.20 pm saw more radio station *fun* and giveaways on stage, before the second local support act came on. Three piece band "Blind" also played an hour. Whilst better than the first act, again I found their set overlong.

The crowd was now pretty thick, and the air hazy with cigarette smoke. The radio station climaxed their party by doing the final set of giveaways, based on ticket numbers. They ended up giving away a Tom Petty baseball bat (so who does he *play* for ... ??), and guitars, signed by WAPL DJ's, Megadeth, Lenny Kravitz and The Scorpions. As far as a radio station party went, it was mostly a lot of fun, and the crowd seemed to enjoy the party atmosphere.

The crowd were pretty excited by the time Cheap Trick took to the stage at 9.50 pm

RN - black suit, black R's t-shirt
BEC - grey flowered shirt, black pants
TP - black pants, big cowboy hat, 3/4 length cream leather jacket, black turtle neck jersey
RZ - white/gold t-shirt, long dark brown velvet jacket, black pants.

The set list was pretty much the standard one:-

IWYTWM, Come On Come On, Hot Love, I Can't Take It, Ain't That a Shame, I Know What I Want, Wrong All Along, If You Want My Love, That 70's Song, Voices, Need Your Love, Southern Girls, Surrender, Ghost Town, Dream Police, Never Had a Lot to Lose, Goodnight Now.

During Wrong All along, Bun E changed from wearing his customary cap to wearing one of the new, navy blue CT "bucket" hats. Despite our location, Robin *didn't* sing "We're still rockin... in Wisconsin" during That 70's Song, shame. Robin then did something I've not seen before, he mistarted the vocal, twice, at the start of Need Your Love. The man is such a perfect singer, it really stands out when he makes the smallest mistake ! But that was his only error of the evening - as usual, all the band played well. During Ghost Town, Rick activated the Furby on his amp ! Rick played that very cool white and gold Gretsch guitar for Never Had a Lot to Lose, then the Gonna Raise Hell guitar for Goodnight. The band took off from the stage into the bitter night air, but leaving a very warm room of satisfied customers. They had indeed been rock-in.. in Wisconsin, and I think they were pretty much all-alright !!

Saturday 11 Dec - Chicago, Park West

Another cold but bright day, with a hard overnight frost. The locals said it was kinda warm for the time of year.... I drove the almost 4 hour journey to Chicago, bypassing Milwaukee. We eventually found a parking garage 2 minutes from the Park West, and walked back to the venue.

The venue was very cool. The front lobby area was small, all the more crowded by having both CT's merchandise stand, plus the stand for the nights charity beneficiary. The theatre itself had a really cool 70's feel. It had a domed ceiling, a dance floor in front of the stage, then around 3 tiered levels of booths and seating. Around the top was a balcony, running around the side of the somewhat curved rear of the theatre. It felt very roomy, yet intimate. There were giant snowflakes suspended from the ceiling, plus garlands with Xmas lights along the whole of the front of the balcony, plus radio station banners. The stage setup for Cheap Trick was similar to that in Appleton, with the same Xmas decorations. The dance floor was strangely set up with long tables radiating out from the stage. The last (and only) time I'd seen that was at Ventura CA in June, where the tables were for those people with meal vouchers. This time, they were GA, with the booths further back being *reserved* for larger groups.

The band arrived for soundcheck around 4pm, and since the stage wasn't quite ready, Bun E came down to a booth near the stage, and proceeded to read my Interview question sheet and fire back answers ! I honestly can't recall everything he answered, though I'm pleased that my recorder actually worked this time (unlike a year and a day ago at Aurora, when my 30 min interview with Rick didn't make it to tape).

The soundcheck started at 4.30. The band played half of Christmas Christmas, then the whole of Losing You. That was awesome, it only lacked a *proper* ending since Bun E needed to adjust something at the end. Rick, Tom and Robin improvised before finishing minus a drum ending. Well known local photographer Paul Natkin snapped some shots during the soundcheck.

The show was another radio station one, being sponsored by WLUP, "The Loop", but was entirely in aid of The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. The performers, and the venue had given their services for free, which was extremely cool. On stage, it was a big contrast to the festivities the night before, as the reason for the show was explained etc between acts. 750 tickets were sold for the evening's entertainment.

Doors opened at 7pm, and first up at 8.05pm were Local H, who played about 4 of their own songs, the last containing the riff of Gonna Raise Hell. Rick and Bun E joined them on stage for their final number, a storming He's a Whore (shades of Metro last year) ! At the end, Bun E threw out his CT bucket hat into the crowd, which was very swiftly and cleanly caught by a fan at the front !

Next up at 9pm was Chicagoan Dennis DeYoung, of Styx. He got an extremely enthusiastic welcome, and proceeded to play for 20 minutes, just singing and playing keyboard. I'm no Styx fan, but I thought he performed well. He was assured, warm, and built up a good rapport with the crowd. They sang along loudly to The Best of Times, Desert Moon, Babe and Sail Away. He also threw in a few bars of Dr Roboto along the way. At the end, he brought on a guitar signed by Styx, which a WLUP DJ auctioned. It was pretty cool, with two guys in a bidding war right up to $2500. Since the proceeds went to the Homeless charity, kudos to the guy who paid up that amount. Next auctioned was a Bun E signed Zildjan symbal, which went for $600. And finally, a Fender guitar signed by the nights headliners ! I was tempted ... but my credit card wasn't !! The auction was sluggish for quite a while, before it hotted up with another 2 man bidding war. The guy in the red shirt, who'd missed out on the Styx guitar finally won through, at the cost of $3500. Wowah !

Cheap Trick took to the stage at 10.05 to a great reception.

RN - Black suit, black t-shirt
BEC - Blue flowered shirt, black pants
RZ - Purple (or blue) velvet suit, white t-shirt
TP - long red velvet jacket, black pants, black shirt.

The set list was broadly similar to the previous night. It All Comes Back to You, Need Your Love and Ghost Town were all crossed off the set list, but substituted by Downed and Shelter.

I Want You to Want Me, Come On Come On, Hot Love, I Can't Take It, Ain't That a Shame, I Know What I Want, Wrong All Along, If You Want My Love, That 70's Song, Voices, Downed, Southern Girls, Surrender, Shelter, Dream Police, Never Had a Lot to Lose, Goodnight Now.

The band were in awesome form, in front of a partisan home crowd. Each of them performed as well as ever - Bun E was just awesome; Tom was both relaxed yet playing at his best, Robin performed like the brilliant singer that he is, and Rick was... well, Rick ! Rick introduced Downed as being in memory of Rick Danko of The Band, who died the previous day. Another sombre introduction from Rick, as he introduced Robin to sing Shelter, an extremely appropriate song given the evenings charity beneficiary. And Robin performed it superbly to an very quiet and respectful crowd. And it was moving to see Tom standing side stage, eyes closed throughout the first two verses, just listening to Robin and seemingly really taking in the song. All in all, a memorable show.

As always, people to thank. First and foremost, Rhiazann for her hospitality etc in Madison and on the road trip. And as always, Cheap Trick and Carla, and particularly Bun E for allowing me the interview. And finally, the cool friends I met, once again

Kim - 16 Dec 1999

This Site and all material held within it are Copyright by Kim Gisborne