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12 Days in April - 3 shows, 16,904 miles, 3 great chords and 2 lousy guitar picks! 

Well, I hadn't quite planned for things to work out this way, but the middle part of April 2004 certainly turned out to be a busy time… to put it mildly!

The Background

With the three months from mid-March to late-June pretty much committed to the support slot on Aerosmiths "Honkin' on Bobo" North American tour, the chances of any Cheap Trick-only dates looked slim in January 2004 when I was trying to plan what to go to. So at that time I'd decided to only travel to the Quebec City and Montreal shows in mid-April. Being Aerosmith's tour, ticket prices would be high, the shows would be in large arenas and CT would be playing only 45 minute sets. It didn't seem worth going to more than a couple of shows. I'd hoped to try to get to one of the early shows in March at which Jon Brant would be covering for Tom, but it just didn't work. So plans were made for Quebec in mid April, flights, hotels and rental car booked, and show tickets bought. I chose these dates because I'd never been to Quebec (or any part of Canada except for the Vancouver area last year) so this seemed like a good way to both see CT and visit some new places!

OK, now to start complicating things! Another band I've enjoyed a lot in the past couple of years have been the young and energetic Norwegian band, SPAN. Some may remember reading that Span opened for Cheap Trick in the UK in April 2002, and since then they've gigged a lot for Britain and Scandanavia, signed a recording contract and released their debut CD in the UK in Feb 2004. I've seen them a few times in the past two years, and they announced a number of UK dates in mid-late April 2004. Unfortunately they'd be nearest to me (Manchester) whilst I'd be in Montreal for Aerosmith/CT :-( Bad timing. It looked like I'd be missing them this time… when an opportunity arose in late March for me to arrange a couple of business meetings in Birmingham on the day of Span's first show of this run of dates, in nearby Wolverhampton! The only drawback was… it was the day before I was flying to Montreal! Ouch! So, the prospect of a late evening and 130 mile drive home and a few grabbed hours of sleep before heading to Leeds Airport. I thought it over long and hard… OK, for maybe 2 minutes… and went for it! As is my philosophy with shows, got to grab the opportunity whilst it's there!

Are you still with me? Good! To complicate things further, a handful of Cheap Trick-only dates started appearing on the tour schedule in between Aerosmith dates. I started to consider these, and tried to get flights for the date in Memphis on March 20, Jon Brant's first headline show with CT in 16 or 17 years. But I only started considering that one maybe 10 days before the show, so I just couldn't find affordable flights. But just a day or two after deciding on going to see Span, I thought about CT's next scheduled headline date which was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This time I had just over TWO weeks to sort something out! So I researched flights and literally within 24 hours of first thinking about it, I had booked flights into Atlanta. I planned to drive to Myrtle Beach from there and back again. But then I started talking with a few friends in Atlanta and plans quickly started to evolve, and I got talked into going to the Aerosmith/CT show in Atlanta which was due to start 2 hours after I landed at Hartsfield Airport!

OK, that's the long introduction over with! So what was going to just be a 5 day trip to Canada had become a double transatlantic saga, with some Norwegian "machine gun rock'n'roll" in England's Black Country in between! Gosh, I'm tired just having written this opening piece! Anyway, onto the action! Grab a coffee (or a beer) and get seated comfortably, there's a long haul ahead of us!

Fri 9 April - Cheap Trick in Atlanta

An early start on a crisp English Spring morning saw me out of my house at 7am, to catch a bus into Leeds centre and then a train to Manchester Airport. Instead of my usual flights through Amsterdam, my best deal for this (short notice) trip to Atlanta was through Chicago. Manchester Airport was busy on this Good Friday morning, with lots of people heading away for the Easter weekend. I checked in with little delay and spent a little time in the British Midland lounge before boarding BMI's late morning flight to Chicago. The flight was uneventful, though I mostly listened to music or tried to doze as none of the movie choices were particularly appealing (BMI have seatback video in Economy with around 10 movies to choose from). I'd either seen them before on flights ("Lost in Translation", "Something's Gotta Give", "Finding Nemo") or just didn't fancy them.

Clearing Immigration and Customs at O'Hare didn't take too long and I soon found myself at the somewhat shabby Terminal 3. I normally pass though either T1 or international T5 at O'Hare, so the slightly dark and weary T3 was a surprise. Now, my arrival time in Atlanta was going to be very tight in order to make the pre-show Meet'n'Greet, and so I really needed the fates on my side. Well, on this Friday afternoon they decided to mess with me a little… My seat was 36E, right at the rear of the plane, so I'd lose time waiting for everyone else to haul their cases from the overhead lockers and get off the plane. It was a full flight too. Then we left Chicago 20 minutes late, at 4.16pm Atlanta time. As the M&G was apparently somewhere between 6 and 6.30pm, I really gave it up at this point. Anyway, we landed at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport, to then sit on the tarmac for 5 minutes waiting for a Gate to clear. By now it was after 5.45pm, and the only consolation being that we got directed to a "B" gate and not a "C" one as originally announced, so a little less of a walk to the main terminal building. I finally got off the plane, and ran through the long tunnel walkway to the main Terminal. Luckily I only had carry-on luggage for this short trip. I ran up the escalator and quickly spotted a thin, long haired dude wearing a black t-shirt with "Aeroshit" printed on the front! Good old Rusty, always looking to fade into a crowd! It was good to see him again and he'd really gone way beyond a friendly gesture - he'd offered to meet me at the airport despite knowing my flight arrival time would likely cause him to miss the M&G with Cheap Trick. Anyway, we got to his car and once we'd cleared the airport he emulated the driving of his namesake (Nascar star Rusty Wallace!) in getting us downtown and parked close to the Phillips Centre in about 13 minutes! We hurried up to the Willcall windows to see a group of CT fans (including old friends Jan and Rhonda) just about to be taken inside. Luckily Willcall was fairly quiet and both Rusty and I got our show tickets and M&G passes in time to go in with the group! Whew, it was now just after 6.35pm and no way did I expect us to make it!

We got taken inside the arena and downstairs to an elevator lobby area where we were told to wait. I think Aerosmith had the best (only?) rooms for their M&G… for which I understand their fan club members had paid over $500 for a front seat and the "possibility" of meeting them before the show. Very cool that Cheap Trick's M&G was free to members of Trick International! After about 10 minutes, Robin came along to see us all, followed soon after by the other band members. Carla distributed a colour promo photo to everyone and the band members, each armed with a Sharpie pen came along, signed and said a few words. They stayed for about 15 minutes before leaving to get ready for the show. We were taken back upstairs, and by now doors were open so we were free to get a drink and chat (and to meet up with old Trickfest buddy John M!) before finding our seats.

As this had been a short notice trip, I had bought one of the worst seats on the house. I tried to find a way to section 410… a helpful usher told me I needed to get an elevator! This I did (but no "Love in an Elevator" on the way!), walked into the arena seating area, and then had to climb up a long, steep flight of stairs. My seat was in the last and very highest row, about halfway back on Rick's side. This giant hockey (and basketball) arena had large American and Canadian flags high above the main floor… and I was seated higher than the flags! As support bands usually do, Cheap Trick had only a small part of the stage area, and I guessed were not allowed to use the walkway that Aerosmith had set up going from the stage to around the middle of the main floor, nor the two walkways to either side of the stage. There was a large white backdrop behind Bun E's drumkit, and when the band came on at 7.59pm it had projected on it two sets of the Cheap Trick 6x logo, side by side.

RN – Black suit, Darkness t-shirt

RZ – White shirt, white pants

TP – Long cream jacket, dark pants, dark shirt

BC – Black t-shirt, black jeans

Drone intro, Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Pop Drone, My Obsession, I Want You To Want Me, Dream Police, The Flame, 70’s Song, Surrender, Scent Of a Woman

Since I was so far away (and there were no video screens) the fashion report is somewhat vague! But I knew Rick had on a "Darkness" t-shirt as I heard he'd been to see them play in Atlanta the previous evening and he wore that shirt at the M&G.

Early on in CT's 45 minute set, the arena was around 50% full, though by the time they reached "Dream Police" the place was around 75% full and Aerosmith's fans were giving CT a great reception. Given the short set, Rick wasn't able to talk as much as usual, though made the usual introductions to a few songs, mentioned the "new" "Special One" CD etc. At the start of "Pop Drone", the Special One artwork was projected onto the backdrop. The crowd roared at Robins "I want you… to want ME!" intro and the other "greatest hits" such as "The Flame", "70's Song" and "Surrender" were all greeted with enthusiasm. CT had played a nice, tight set, though the sound where I was sitting wasn't great. The venue was cavernous and this was to be expected seated so high up. It was odd during the show to hear Bun's drumming out of synch with what my eyes could see, but of course the sound had some way to travel to reach me. Being high up I was somewhat detached from the show. However, that allowed me to observe the crowd from on high (and ignore the young couple a few seats away from me who were making out for much of CT's set!), and it was colourful to see lots of flashing blue/red Aerosmith badges down in the crowd.

After CT I managed to get myself down from the last row before the altitude sickness kicked in, and went back down to the main level to meet the others. And what a couple of cool surprises - first running into Brian and his wife Cheri from Chicago, always a pleasure to see them! Rusty had said he was in town for the show (and the Cubs baseball visit) so it wasn't a total surprise to see him. But it was another nice surprise to walk along and then spot good friend from Japan, Mika! I'd last seen her in Texas nearly 6 months ago so it a delight to see her again! Rusty, Rhonda and others soon joined us until it was close to Aerosmith time. Some of us had decided to skip Aero, but when we heard the crowd roar I had to run in to at least catch a glimse of them as the played their first number at the end of the walkway, in the middle of the main floor.

Having seen Aerosmith (!), John, Rhonda, Rusty and I went to a sports bar in the adjoining CNN centre to eat, drink and chat. We left around 11pm as the Aerosmith crowd were coming out, but my long day wasn't over yet! At first I thought they were joking, but Rusty and John were serious in suggesting we drive across Atlanta to see Yngwie Malmsteen who was playing at a club. Well, I'm not a fan but I'll try anything once, despite being tired. So off we went, briefly stopped at Johns house to drop off my stuff, and walked into the club sometime after midnight to find Yngwie already on stage and unleashing the force! I did wonder which of the Malmsteen brothers I'd be seeing… Yngwie or Yngwie J! (It’s a bit of a joke but Yngwie added the J initial to his name some years ago for some unknown reason... so he didn't get confused with all the other Yngwie Malmsteen's out there?? Who knows!). Anyway, tonight it was Yngwie F that we were seeing. I know this because the t-shirts on sale bore the helpful, bold legend "Yngwie Who? Yngwie F*cking Malmsteen that's who!" It was weird, he had a line of about 5 amps behind him, taking up maybe 2/3 of the stage, and the 3-4 other members of his band were all left to share the left 1/3 of the stage! Yngwie needed a lot of stage! I'm not sure how many songs he/they played, but the 50 minutes or so seemed like it was only the one song, punctuated by long, frequent and technically proficient guitar solo's by the Swedish guitar legend. After being awake for something like 26 hours by this time, I couldn't take too much of this aural assault and we ended up leaving around 1.15am. I was pleased to fall into Johns guest bed a little later!

Sat 10 April - Cheap Trick headlining in Myrtle Beach, SC

It was a warm and bright morning, and a few hours of sleep helped a lot as I prepared for another long day. Our first stop was at the Brewhouse pub at Little Five Points, where John and I had a mid-morning breakfast (with lots of coffee for me!) and watched live soccer from England, Birmingham City v Manchester United. And the cliché of Man Utd fans living everywhere but Manchester was proved true as there were about half a dozen other people there, all cheering for Man Utd during the game. Afterwards John kindly drove me to Hartsfield Airport where we met up with Rusty at check-in for the short flight to Myrtle Beach. I'd originally planned to rent a car and drive there but Rusty advised that it would be less hassle to fly, and he'd found cheap fares with a local budget airline. We said our goodbye's to John (who wasn't able to come along to Myrtle Beach), went through security and found Rhonda at the Gate.

We soon boarded the small commuter plane, Rusty and I getting both seats in row 13, the last row of the plane. The flight took under an hour, though in that time I'd realised how long the drive would have been from Atlanta. On arrival at Myrtle Beach we picked up a rental car and headed north. We briefly stopped at the pyramid that is the Hard Rock Café, to allow me to quickly shop. The restaurant was Egyptian themed inside too, very odd though also very cool, and it reminded me a little of the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. We drove on the 10 miles up to north Myrtle Beach, quickly checking into our hotel before driving the couple of miles back to the House of Blues. Good to meet up with Jimmy (the "Carolina Man") and Randy, my roomie for the Chicago Metro shows trip in 1998! Later I also briefly saw Teri from NYC and Andrea from Boston, friends from Tennessee and a number of other fans kindly came up and said hello too!

This House of Blues was similar to others in the chain. The outside was very rustic with weathered and rusted aluminium sheeting, similar as I recall to the HOB in Hollywood. Inside it was similar to every other HOB I've been to, I think they must have a single template design for the interior. There was a dancefloor in front of the stage, with bars to both sides and the rear. There was a large bar/balcony upstairs to 3 sides too, and the place had a very rustic feel with lots of dark wood and religious iconery on the walls. To the rear of the stage was a large HOB logo.

The crowd came in and there was plenty of interest in the merchandise table. As well as all the usual t-shirts etc, there were free, large, pick shaped, heavy cards advertising the Special One CD as well as the upcoming Japan 2003 DVD and remastered "Silver" CD. There were 4 designs, one for each band member.

First on stage at 8.30pm were The Butchies from Durham, North Carolina. They were a 3 piece, female rock band and although I didn't get to actually watch them, I thought they sounded OK.

Cheap Trick came on at 9.28pm to a great reception from the large and enthusiastic crowd.

RN – Black suit, black t-shirt

RZ – White suit, white shirt with light stripes, white tie, white hat

TP – Black suit, white open necked shirt

BC – Black t-shirt, black jeans

Just Got Back, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, My Obsession, Best Friend, I Want You To Want Me, She’s Tight, Tonight It’s You, Voices, Never Had A Lot To Lose, The Flame, 70’s Song, Surrender / Dream Police, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight Now

A slight variation to Rick's introduction to "If You Want My Love", in that he mentioned that it was "the greatest tribute to Cheap Trick that we were asked to do a song for one of the greatest movies of all time… Joe Dirt!" After IYWML, Rick then mentioned that Cheap Trick were currently on tour with Aerosmith and "we took the night off to be with you!" He also announced that the "Special One CD was on sale at the merch table for $10 and also mentioned the forthcoming Japan DVD… he then tossed out a CD case into the crowd. There was a big roar as many (like me) thought he'd thrown out the DVD… but it turned out to be a "Special One CD"! "My Obsession" was introduced as getting airplay everywhere except Myrtle Beach, and after that song he got a bit tongue tied in announcing that "the next tune has 3 chords… 3 great chords!" I think he meant to give the "4 Great Guys, 3 Great Chords" line! After "I Want You to Want Me" Rick announced that "We'll slow things down a bit, this is from the album One on One"… and then launched into "She's Tight"! Good feint there! After "Tonight Its You" Rick noticed a sign in the crowd announcing Mike from Rockford's 40th Birthday, and Rick also brought on a youngster from side stage who he announced as Tom's nephew! He introduced him… then told him to scram! "Voices" saw some lusty singing from the crowd, though Rick didn't have his yellow plexi guitar along for this song. At the end of "Never Had a Lot to Lose" Rick handed his guitar to someone at the front of the crowd, and his tech got booed when he quickly went to retrieve it. During "The Flame" it was interesting to see Rick snap fingers on both hands during the late line "Snap your fingers and I will come running", I've never noticed him do that before. "Surrender" saw Robin very demonstrative of the lyrics. The boisterous crowd called for more and Rick slowly and theatrically walked back on, then pretended to notice the crowd. "Auf Wiedersehen" was a real treat and had been requested by several fans who'd seen the band leaving after soundcheck. "Goodnight Now" had a big Bun ending which was cool. At the end, Bun laughingly said something to Rick, who asked the crowd if they wanted one more? Of course they shouted "Yes" and Rick and Bun played a big 5 second chord ending! As mentioned earlier, Rick and Bun had gone to The Darkness' show in Atlanta a couple of nights previously. The Wildhearts had opened and at the end of their set, they apparently did that teaser of asking the crowd if they wanted one more song, playing a big, 5 second chord and leaving with a "Thank You!"

The show was a marked contrast from Atlanta, at least for me. I think it's a given that the show will feel far more intimate in a crowded club type venue than a large arena, but there really did seem to be an extra energy about this show. The crowd was wildly enthusiastic, and I guess for the band it was nice to get away from the time driven and restrictive 45 minute opening slot. It certainly looked as if the band members were all really enjoying themselves, and they sounded as good as I've ever seen them. Rick was as Rick as ever, Robin was great and was very obviously into many of the songs. Tom was as cool as usual, and paid a lot of attention to his nephew and relatives sidestage, and I was able to watch Bun more closely than usual which is always particularly interesting (as anyone who has attended one of his drum clinics will understand).

There was the usual post show rush on merchandise, after which I joined the others like Randy, Rusty, Rhonda, Jimmy, Mika, Mike and Jennifer and some very nice folks from Texas in taking group photo's and then sitting outside in the balmy evening air having a late drink. But after another long day it didn't take me long to fall asleep after getting into bed around 1.20am.

Sun 11 April - Back to England

Up early to shower and go and have some breakfast in the hotel lobby. I embarrassed myself in totally failing to work out how to flip the waffle iron… but the helpful lady on reception had to come to the aid of several others after me so I didn't feel so bad! Rhonda, Rusty and I got the mid morning flight from Myrtle Beach back to Atlanta, with Rusty and I again placed in the rear of the plane. Was it something personal, or had they been pre-warned about us? <LOL>! Anyway, it was overcast at Hartsfield as we landed and said our goodbye's. I got myself to United's gates to try to get an earlier flight back to Chicago, but because of an earlier cancellation I was unable to get onto the 12.15pm flight. So I had to kill more time in United's small lounge. I finally left Atlanta at 3pm, arriving at sunny O'Hare an hour and a half later, and nice to get an hour or so with Patricia there before having to get to the International Terminal to get my overnight flight back to Manchester.

Mon 12 April

The overnight flight was much as these things ever are, though I had a little extra legroom in the "New Economy" cabin which helped a bit. Watched about half of "Big Fish" before dozing off… and I missed the ending later on before we landed. Dang! Will have to look out for it again on a future flight! Manchester was dull but dry and mild as we landed at 7.30am, and it was a rare pleasure not to have to go straight into work. Easter Monday is a holiday in the UK, so I was able to train and bus home and get some bonus rest before being back at the office tomorrow. And I'd used no vacation days for this trip since it was the Easter holiday weekend!

Tues 13 - Thurs 15 April - At work… <sigh>

I was at work in the office. I don't think anyone wants to read about what I did at my desk, so we'll move swiftly on!

Fri 16 April

A work day, but with live music and a CT connection! As mentioned in the Introduction, I'd arranged to go to Birmingham for a couple of meetings, so I drove down the 130 miles during the morning and my meetings took me to around 4pm. Then crawled through early rush hour traffic leaving Birmingham to the city of Wolverhampton some 15 miles away. It was raining as I parked close to the Wulfren Hall, where Cheap Trick were actually scheduled to play a few years ago before that series of European shows were cancelled. Tonight I was here to see young and energetic Norwegian band SPAN, and before the show it was nice to find long time CT friend Mike Hayes (gosh, we go back over 23 years I think!) and one of his sons. The show was all ages, and I REALLY felt old whilst standing in line, in the rain, surrounded by 15-18 year olds. I certainly felt like the Daddy who should have stayed in High School!

The venue was a large hall, all standing, with a good sized stage at one end. We had to endure a couple of opening bands before Span came on at 10pm and the crowd was the biggest I've seen at any of their shows in the past couple of years. For anyone interested, their setlist was:-

Stay As You Are, Diamonds, Don't Think The Way They Do, Buckle, Outside, Peaceful, When She Stares, Entitled, Found, Mental Surgery, On My Way Down, Papa / (the encore should have been - Missing in Stereo, Odour 11, Baby's Come Back - but not played)

It was very weird that they finished at 11.05pm… and then didn't come back to play the encore. All the more so as they hadn't yet played their signature song "Baby's Come Back"… sort of like Cheap Trick not playing "I Want You to Want Me". I later found out that they'd not been allowed to come back on as the "rock disco" had to start. Friday night and all that. <sigh>. Anyway, I had to drive home in the rain, getting to bed at 2.30am and wondering if it was worth going to bed at all!

Sat 17 April - Travelling to Canada

The third transatlantic flight in 8 days, and by now my body was starting to feel it! I had about 3 hours sleep before getting up, but luckily had packed my bag for Canada on Thursday night! Well, some stuff I just didn't need to unpack between last weekend's trip and this one!

Got a bus into Leeds centre and another out to Leeds/Bradford Airport and I was checked in and sitting in the lounge by 9am. I could have had a few extra minutes in bed as the inbound plane from Amsterdam was late, hence my flight back there was delayed. Ah well, at least the lounge had unlimited coffee! My flight finally got away 45 minutes late, so on arrival at Amsterdam Schipol I had to go straight to the gate for the Montreal flight. That left at 2pm UK time, and the next 7 hours were much as Transatlantic flights ever are. The movie in Economy was "Something's Gotta Give" which I think I've already seen twice, so I read, listened to music and tried to sleep. I was surprised to see that the flight was full, I didn't know that Montreal was such a popular destination.

It was dry but overcast as we landed at Montreal's Dorval Airport. A Greek plane was taxiing in just ahead of us, and remembering how crowded Canadian immigration had been when I'd landed in Vancouver last year, I was eager to hurry off the plane. I needn't have worried too much, because after hurrying past slower passengers I found the arrivals hall fairly quiet. I was only waiting maybe 10 minutes to be seen (as opposed to well over an hour at Vancouver), and then was quickly through Immigration and Customs. The small international arrivals hall, crowded with waiting people just reminded me of London Heathrow's terminal 3 but on a much smaller scale! I was actually surprised at how small and retro Montreal's airport is, though it is currently undergoing expansion and modernisation work.

I had to wait about 30 minutes for Patricia to come through from her flight in from Chicago. We then quickly got our rental car from Alamo (with a free upgrade - hint: if you book and pay for a "economy car" you'll get upgraded to "compact" or "full size" as Alamo doesn't have economy sized cars at Montreal!) So I gingerly drove from Dorval in a full size, somewhat bigger than what I drive at home. We soon got onto 40 heading towards Ottawa, our stop for the night. No, there wasn't a CT show there or anything, but it seemed a shame to be nearby and not get to visit Canada's capital albeit briefly. Once out of urban Montreal the land was mostly flat, brown and scrubby, sort of like parts of southern Wisconsin or northern Illinois in the winter. And of course the Spring and Summer here are a bit shorter than in the US since its further north. The big road sign announcing the level of fine for ever 10 kph driven over the speed limit was certainly a good incentive to stay legal! It started off at around $90 for 10kph over, rising to $200 for 20kph over and so on. Yikes!

After some misdirection by our Mapquest directions, we got to Ottawa's downtown Parliament Hill around 7pm and soon found our hotel. After checking in, we took a walk out in the pleasant evening air, walking back along Parliament Hill past Canada's Supreme Court and the impressive green copper roofed parliament buildings and Big Ben-esque clock tower. We headed down to the interesting Byward Market to the Hard Rock Café. That was cool, it had a Beatles Gallery with stained glass pictures of each Beatle, but even better it had a Rick Nielsen signed guitar above the merchandise counter! (See my Hard Rock Café page for picture - hardrock.htm). As far as HRC's go, it was a good one with lots of interesting stuff including upstairs.

Sun 18 April - Cheap Trick in Quebec City… NOT

Today should have been a show day, except that this date was cancelled just over two weeks earlier apparently due to poor ticket sales according to a music website. But, our hotel in QC was booked and paid for so we’d decided to still go. However, we decided to walk out in Ottawa in daylight before leaving, and the limited amount we saw around Parliament Hill and some of downtown was very clean and spacious, and I liked the feel of the place. Maybe as a civil servant I felt some subliminal affinity with Canada's centre of government, I don't know! But what little we experienced of Ottawa was very pleasant.

We set off late morning towards Montreal, hitting the busy city through-traffic a couple of hours later. Like in any large city, the traffic was heavy and my guide book had warned me about driving in and around Montreal. I was finding out the hard way how nuts it is! But we soon headed north east and away from urban Montreal, again passing through flat and fairly colourless scenery. I imagine in summer and autumn the countryside must be beautiful, but in mid April it was somewhat bland. We reached Quebec City at 5pm in late afternoon sunshine and after checking into the hotel, we took a walk around the old, walled city of Vieux Quebec. It was very French/European, with narrow streets, concentrated housing, some steep hills and some strong French influence in much of the architecture. The most well known sight was the impressive, green copper roofed Hotel Frontenac which faces onto the river. The number of small guest houses and restaurants within the crowded, walled city were testimony to how popular the city is in the tourist season. I have to admit that as we walked around in the early evening light, I was thinking that we should have been at the Colisee Pepsi getting ready to see Cheap Trick. But it was a very pleasant walk around the wonderful old city, so it wasn't a wasted evening at all.

Mon 19 April - Montreal here we come!

A grey and damp morning, but that didn't stop us taking a walk out again, through the walled city and up to the old citadel overlooking the river. We didn't get to see as much as I'd hoped, as construction work was being carried out, plus it's actually still an active military fort (albeit a small one). Despite being in Quebec City just a few hours, it was nice to have been able to get a flavour of this old and very French city. The positive side of losing the Aerosmith show last night was that it gave us more sightseeing time here even though we only had time to scratch the surface of what to see here and nearby.

We left QC around noon and drove through patchy rain showers back to the busy metropolis of Montreal for our last base of this mini tour. After driving in Ottawa and Quebec City, driving into downtown Montreal was a nightmare! The roads were busy, the drivers aggressive, the roads weren't always well marked, the one-way roads downtown were sometimes confusing and within the Montreal city limits there is no right turn on red. I was glad to reach our hotel, and gladder still to finally park the car after I found out that parking was in a tight, underground car park beneath the hotel/college block. Another thing for visitors to be warned of in Montreal, parking anywhere downtown is expensive! Ouch!

Late in the afternoon we took a walk out to explore, and ended up at the Hard Rock Café a few blocks away. This was pretty cool as far as HRC's go, with the main floor dominated by a large stained glass design inspired by the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds". The menu was the same as everywhere else, but my quest to find Cheap Trick items in HRC's hit paydirt here! Not one but two guitars! In the merchandise store was a black Fender with a Japanese flag pickguard and was signed by all of the band in 1989. And above the main entrance was a black Hamer signed by Rick "To HRC New York 11-19-96". How odd (but cool) to find CT-signed guitars in both Canadian HRC’s visited this week! By the time we finished dinner it was raining hard outside, yet enthusiastic people were coming in wearing hockey shirts. The local team, the Canadiennes were playing the deciding game 7 of their play off with Boston tonight, and as the game was being played over the border all the hockey fans here were glued to TV's. The rain soon eased and we walked around some more, to take in the cosmopolitan city streets and also to find the Bell Centre where tomorrow nights Aerosmith/CT show was to be. On the way back to the hotel later, we popped into a small supermarket near our hotel, and were at the checkouts when the radio commentary announced a Montreal goal in the hockey! At least one worker on the checkouts was delighted, dancing around and shouting gleefully in French to his colleagues!

Tues 20 April - Cheap Trick in Montreal

The morning started overcast and chilly but dry, and we were out around 9am to take in some more sightseeing before tonight’s show. We walked back into downtown, passing wide streets with interesting rows of older buildings with a French architectural flavour. We eventually found our way to the "Underground City", a series of linked underground shopping malls. In view of the severe winters here, underground/indoor shopping is a particular boon, if not a necessity! After some exploration there, we headed down to old Montreal, an area with crowded, narrow European style streets, some cobbled. The Basilique Notre-Dame was quite impressive on the outside, but spectacular inside. Very ornate and colourful, it was definitely worth the visit. The nearby Hotel de Ville was typically grand and green copper roofed, in keeping with many other public buildings in Quebec and in nearby Ottawa. We headed back through the small Chinatown, and it was interesting throughout our walk (and shopping) to hear French as the predominant language spoken. All of the road signs were in French too and both Quebec City and Montreal were an interesting mix (in many ways) of North American and French.

We headed down to the Centre Bell in the late afternoon sunshine, and whilst collecting our tickets at Willcall we got talking to a local family wearing CT t-shirts and who were waiting to join the Meet & Greet. The lady of the family informed me that the "Ghost Town" video had been shot in Montreal, a fact I didn’t know (yes, I pulled out the video when I got home and recognised a few brief shots of the Olympic Stadium, near the Hotel de Ville and by Vieux Port!). Around a dozen people were taken inside for the M&G around 6.15pm, which was similar to the one in Atlanta a week ago with the band spending around 15-20 minutes with the fan group.

The crowds built up outside as doors weren’t opened until after 7pm, and we finally got in and to our seats by 7.20pm. The show was supposed to start at 7.30pm but Cheap Trick didn’t take to the stage until almost 7.45pm. The venue was another hockey arena, with three levels of steeply banked seating and a strip of distracting video advertising between the first and second levels. And I was glad that we’d got far better seats than I had in Atlanta, being a little above floor level halfway back on Rick’s side. In fact we were close to the side exit through which Aerosmith entered later on.

RN – Black jacket, black pants, Darkness t-shirt

RZ – White suit, white shirt with light stripes, white tie

TP – Long black jacket, black pants, green shirt

BC – Black t-shirt, black jeans

Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Pop Drone, My Obsession, I Want You To Want Me, Dream Police, The Flame, 70’s Song, Surrender, Scent of a Woman

As in Atlanta there was a white backdrop behind the band, on which the 6x logo was projected at the start of the show. The arena was around 30% full when CT hit the stage but by the time they reached "The Flame" around 80% of the audience were in their seats or standing! After "Big Eyes" Rick shouted "Go Habs Go!" referring to last nights ice hockey win for Montreal over Boston. He said they’d been here last night and glad they’d "kicked Boston’s ass!". Rick always knows the right thing to say! After "If You Want My Love" Rick said CT were pleased to be playing with Aerosmith, "… shame they’re from Boston! Go Habs Go!". The Special One artwork was projected at the start of "My Obsession" and interesting to see Rick playing what looked like a tortoiseshell patterned Les Paul. We were too far away to make it out clearly or see if it was new though. As usual, a big crowd reaction for the start of "I Want You to Want Me" and the crowd were certainly well into this segment of greatest hits. Robin came on to sing "Dream Police" minus his jacket and tie and was now sporting a plain, black baseball cap. Afterwards, Rick again milked the "Go Habs Go" and played a short, few second burst of what sounded like "Birthday". There was a big cheer for the start of "The Flame" and early in the song Rick beckoned a nearby drinks vendor in the crowd to come to stage-front. Rick leaned down and took a carton of soda, and gave it to one of the crowd nearby! Not sure if the vendor ever got paid for that one! Rick’s guitar momentarily cut out during the intro to "70’s Song" and a handful more times before the end of the show. Cool to see most of the crowd on the main floor standing by the time the band reached the "70’s Song".

All in all, a well received set, with CT finishing at 8.29pm. We stayed on to see around 9-10 songs of Aerosmith’s set, and whilst the crowd had received Cheap Trick well, they took the roof off for Aerosmith. Opening with "Toys in the Attic" they performed that and "Love in an Elevator" all together in the middle of the main floor at the end of the walkway. They then went to the stage (whilst their crew quickly dismantled the drumset etc at the end of the walkway) and continued with a mix of older songs and cuts from their new CD. I’m not a fan of Aerosmith, but it was interesting to see how Steve Tyler and to a lesser extent, Joe Perry worked the crowd, both on the walkway to stage front as well as those to each side. Also interesting to see a back-up musician/singer to the rear of the stage who seemed to sing a lot of the same vocals as Steven as well as some backing vocals. I was glad to stay and watch some of their show, though I was happy to leave halfway through the show. Maybe I’ll stay for the full set next time!

Weds 21 April - Au Revoir Montreal!

The time had just flown by, and it was time to go home. Patricia had to take a very early shuttle back to the airport for her morning flight back to Chicago, whilst I got a little extra sleep and then packed my bags. The day was cool, breezy and overcast as I left the hotel around 11am to do a little more sightseeing before my evening flight back to Europe.

I drove north up Rue Sherbrooke towards the Olympic Stadium. Downtown was very busy and slow moving, but after the first mile or so the traffic thinned out and moved more freely. The road surface became pretty poor in places, a result of the pretty severe winters they get here I guess. I reached the Olympic Stadium complex at 11.45am and it was by now very breezy and spitting with rain. I couldn’t complain though, most of the weather we’d had in Canada had been far better than had been forecast. I didn’t go up the leaning tower but did take the 45 minute tour which included the pool area and the main stadium (which was being prepared for the first home baseball game by the Expo’s in two days time). I then drove back into the centre and eventually managed to drive up some of Mont Royal, a small mountain which dominates the city and from which the name of "Montreal" is derived. Had a spectacular view looking north, back up towards the Olympic Stadium which stood out in the urban sprawl. By now it had started warming up and I drove out to Dorval Airport through the busy mid-afternoon traffic to return the rental car and check in for my return flight.

I killed a couple of hours in the Air France/KLM lounge (when I eventually found it) before boarding the plane for the flight back to Amsterdam. Again it was a full flight, so it was a bonus to be upgraded shortly before take off. As usual there was a drinks trolley service soon after take-off and then dinner. But as the flight to Amsterdam was only 6 hours that left only 2 hours or so to try to doze before the lights came on again a breakfast was served. Oh, during dinner I did finally get to see the ending of "Big Fish"!

Thurs 22 April

We landed at Schipol at 6am and so I had nearly 3 hours to kill, dozing in a KLM lounge before catching my flight back to Leeds. I went straight from the airport to work as usual and by 11am was back at my desk, tired, but having had another memorable trip. It was also the end of an intense 12 days in which I'd flown just shy of 17,000 miles. Ouch!

As Always… THANKS!

As always there are people to thank! In Georgia and South Carolina I must particularly thank Rusty (for so much help, booking flights to Myrtle Beach and driving like a maniac to get us to the venue from Atlanta Airport in time for M&G!), John (for kindly letting me sleep at his place in Atlanta), Rhonda (for her offer of a sofa bed, also booking the rental car in Myrtle Beach and for being fun to travel with!); also Mika, Jan, Jimmy, Randy, Mike, Jennifer, Teri and Andrea, and the other friendly folk along the way - it was a pleasure to see you all!

In Canada I must thank Patricia for all her help in research and booking up, her directing my driving, and for being such fun to travel with! Oh, and she had to listen to my lousy French too! Merci beaucoup!

And last but never least, thanks to the guys in Cheap Trick and their crew for putting up with seeing me yet again, to Brian for letting me invade his merch turf (!) and special thanks to Carla.

Kim Gisborne, Leeds England 28 April 2004


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