Ummm… no, not those Four Seasons, there’s not a Franki Valli in sight in this review. All will become clearer as you read on, hopefully.
This was booked to be a 2 show long weekend, taking in two Cheap Trick shows in Austin Texas and then Durant Oklahoma. The Austin show in particular was exciting to go for, since it would be the bands first appearance at the prestigious South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival. Hell, they’ve done most everything else in their career, but never SXSW. So that would be cool to experience, plus personally it would be nice to return to a city where I’ve mixed memories from previous trips. A bonus was that, after booking my air tickets etc, it became known that CT would also record a performance for the “Austin City Limits” TV show. No indication of when they’d record, but it turned out lucky that I booked flights out to Texas on the Wednesday…
It would also be a nice break from a prolonged busy spell at work, and hopefully, from the seemingly never-ending winter of either cold weather or snowy weather here in England. At the time of leaving, that had lasted 3 straight months and was just continuing…
Anyway, let’s leave work and British cold & snow behind, and head out to Texas, where everything is bigger. And hopefully warmer.
Wednesday 17 March
As usual, an early start to my travelling day but not insanely early. Instead of a 6am flight out of Manchester, my first flight was at 10am. I still had to be up at 5am and leave by 6.15am, so that my 70 mile drive from Leeds to Manchester Airport would avoid the Manchester motorways morning traffic jams. I did hit a couple of logjams on the Manchester orbital motorway, but nothing major.
I’ll skip through the flying pretty quickly (if only I could do that in real life). The 10am flight from Manchester to Amsterdam on KLM was a short 45 minute hop. I had a quick visit to the Lounge at AMS before going early to the gate for my Minneapolis flight on Delta – with a full security check & hand luggage x-raying at the gate as has been the case for some years for US bound flights. The 8hr 20m flight to Minneapolis was a drag, but at least my front economy seat had some legroom and no seat-in-front reclined in my face. I read some of my Steig Larsson book (great reading!) and watched “District 9” on the video. Immigration etc at Minneapolis St Paul was pretty quick, in part because I was one of the first off the plane (Immigration Officer: “You’re going to see Cheap Trick in Texas? Are those guys still going?” Me: “Yep, 35 years on and as good as ever!”) and also because my priority labelled rollercase was actually one of the first to hit the carousel.
My last flight of the day was from MSP to Dallas Ft Worth. The evening Delta flight took 2 hrs. Sadly with Delta having consumed Northwest Airlines, I’d lost my KLM/Northwest perk of automatic 1st Class upgrades on domestic NW flights, but no matter. This was only 2 hours, plus by now I just wanted to arrive. I landed at DFW at 9.25pm, we taxied for about 9 miles around the terminals (I’d forgotten how big DFW is), and I eventually got my case off the carousel about 10pm. My girlfriend Patricia arrived from Chicago at another terminal at roughly the same time, and we finally met up at the rental car centre a couple of miles from the airport.
I’d booked us at a La Quinta hotel about 7-8 miles from the airport, plus I’d brought my US GPS/satnav unit (“Janet”), so it wouldn’t take long to reach the hotel, right? Wrong. Janet got confused with the major roads around the airport, so did I, and after finally getting on the right road and going in the right direction, we couldn’t find the hotel. We drove in a circle a couple of times around quiet roads beside an interstate before spotting the hotel sign on the opposite side of the interstate… Finally got there, checked in and sank into bed. After 24 hours awake I was ready for sleep.
Ooops, sorry, the travelling bit was longer than I’d intended!
Thursday 18 March – CT at Austin City Limits, Austin TX
Show day #1 started off sunny but chilly. Pat mentioned a comment that mutual Welsh friend Darran had said to her online shortly before she’d left Chicago yesterday afternoon… and upon checking online, I found that Gary Johnson, the manager of my football team (Bristol City) had left the club on Weds whilst I was travelling. That was disappointing to read. We had breakfast by the hotel lobby – did you know that you can get waffle makers in Texas that create waffles in the shape of Texas? True, Pat discovered that. Were they bigger than waffles in the rest of the US? Probably.
We left north Dallas around 10am, drove close by downtown (seeing Dealey Plaza and the Texas School Book Depository as we swept by on the freeway) and headed on south to Austin. After a couple of brief stops en-route, we reached Round Rock (some 20 miles north of Austin) early in the afternoon. The weather was bright, sunny and spring-like, very pleasant. We checked into our hotel and had a late lunch nearby, which would probably be it for eating for the day. We left the hotel before 4pm to head into Austin and find the TV studio. A few days before flying, we’d been lucky enough to get tickets for the “Austin City Limits” show which was taking place this evening (see what I mean about the lucky timing of flying to Texas?) We hit some heavy traffic en-route, but managed to find a parking spot near the TV studio which was on the edge of the very large university campus north of downtown. A little later whilst in line, it was good to see several CT friends, particularly Lisa J and her son Zach who was celebrating his birthday! Funnily enough it was in Austin that Lisa and I had first met back in 1999 for the 3 nights of album shows at La Zona Rosa, and it was cool, 11 years on to see her with one of the new generation of CT fans! Other fans we saw included Anneke and Raquel from the CT.com boards, Chicago Mike and his wife, and the Texas “Trick Chicks”. Whilst waiting in line it was interesting to hear a group of people discussing the band with a printed bio in their hands. It seems that quite a few people come along to ACL tapings, even without knowing who is playing.
We got let into the KLRU TV studio just after 7pm. We entered in batches of around 10 people, as the entrance was on the 3rd floor but we had to be taken by elevator to the 6th floor. On exiting the elevator on floor 6, we got handed an information card about the evenings show, passed by a merchandise table selling ACL items and a show specific poster, and past tables of free beer (yes! Free beer, already poured into plastic glasses!) and then into the studio. From my TV game show appearances here in England during the 90’s, I knew studio’s were pretty small but look bigger on camera, and this was no exception. We entered at the back of the studio and the stage was facing us, together with its famous Austin skyline graphic. There was banked seating to both sides of the studio, from mid-stage to the back of the studio. There was also banked seating at the rear of the studio. At stage front was standing room, but a line was drawn about 7-8 feet from the actual front of the stage and fans could not stand closer than this line. That very front area was for the TV camera’s to move around in, as well as a couple of photographers. We were lucky enough to get front seats to Rick’s side of the stage, right by his steps. Couldn’t ask for a better view. We had Lisa and Zach beside us by side stage, and other Texas fans to our right.
At 8pm the producer took to the stage to say a few words, to thank various sponsors, to announce this was the last season that ACL would be filmed in this studio, and to tell us a little about how the evening would go. At 8.05pm the familiar CT audio montage started, with the band coming on at 8.07pm to a warm welcome from a full (200-300) studio audience.
black suit, black/white Beatles logo shirt, bow tie
audio montage intro, Stop This Game drone, Way of the World, When The Lights Are Out, If You Want My Love, I Want You to Want Me, These Days, Baby Loves to Rock, Sleep Forever, Heaven Tonight, 70’s Song, Miracle, Miss Tomorrow, Sick Man of Europe, Closer - The Ballad of Burt & Linda, Surrender /(encore)/ Voices, Dream Police, Gonna Raise Hell
OK, first things to notice – Daxx Nielsen on drums, and two sets of keyboards, with long time associate Magic Christian on one and Jellyfish member Roger Manning on the other. Both helped provide backing vocals.
The set opened as usual recently with “Way of the World”, and from the start the band looked to be enjoying themselves in this intimate setting. The stage area was smaller than they generally use, but they made best use of it, with Rick and Robin in particular playing to the TV cameras. No reason was given for Bun E’s absence, but Daxx was a very capable substitute and of course he’d covered for Bun back in 2001 when the latter took time off for back surgery.
Interesting to see Robin Z jnr stand by Magic during “Lights Out” and help out with backing vocals. And although this was a TV recording, the band weren’t changing their show style. Rick still said a few words to the enthusiastic audience after many of the songs during the set. After “Lights Out”, Rick told the crowd “It’s great to be here at Austin City Limits, it’s quite an honour to be here”. He followed that up with a reminder for those who weren’t familiar… “We’re Cheap Trick, accept no substitutes please!”
As usual, Rick changed his guitar after every song, whilst Robin played several different guitars. Tom stuck with his stunning sparkly “peacock” design 12 string bass throughout.
Cool that Rick came over and gave Zach a Happy Birthday greeting during “If You Want My Love”, and of course the new fans as well as the old timers knew “I Want You to Want Me” which kicked up the enthusiasm of the crowd up even further. After that song, Rick dryly noted “We’ve been in a lot of other buildings before they got torn down!” He added “We’re playing a smaller venue tomorrow… twenty to thirty thousand… I prefer right here, though our manager prefers us right there!” He finished off by holding up the “Latest” 8-track and announcing “We have the biggest selling 8 track in the world… we’re selling 8 track players… but they’re in cars!”
Robin wore the familiar straw hat for “These Days”, and Rick followed up with a guitar solo before the band went into an energetic “Baby Loves to Rock”. Nice to hear that one again. Afterwards Rick told us “That was recorded a mere 30 years ago”. Never one to miss the opportunity to embarrass anyone, he spotted a couple of people leaving off to Tom’s side (not hard to spot in the small setting) – “Where are you going? We’ll have the drinks brought to you! We’ll even have the bathrooms brought to you!” He then moved on into more serious territory, announcing that “Last night a friend passed away – Alex Chilton, who was due to appear here at SXSW. He wrote a song we play, In The Streets, and we decided to dedicate a couple of songs to him. For Alex Chilton, here we go”.
Robin produced a stunning, haunting vocal of “Sleep Forever”, before the band went into a long, intense “Heaven Tonight” which is always amazing to hear live. To complete the tribute trilogy was “That 70’s Song”, Cheap Trick’s adaptation of “In The Streets”. Those 11 minutes were a very fitting tribute.
At the end of “That 70’s Song” Rick delivered the line “Alright Wisconsin Austin Texas!”… which I guess covered the bases! After the song Rick once again addressed the crowd, “On the keyboards, Mr Magic Christian. He’s been with us off and on for the last 25-26 years… mind you, we missed him for the last 24!” Magic has been back with the band regularly since last summer. Rick continued “From Jellyfish, Roger Manning. On drums, Mr Daxx Nielsen. They told us not to wear anything flashy… so Tom brought his 12 string bass!” Tom displayed his stunning, sparkling bass, and Rick noted “The bass matches the lights!” – indicating the lit up skyline backdrop.
“Miracle” was next up, followed by the start of “Miss Tomorrow”. The band stopped during the first verse, and Rick quipped “That’s a very short song we do!” The band quickly restarted the song, and this, like all of the other new material from “The Latest” came across well, interspersed with the older classics. After “Miss Tomorrow” was another short break of a minute or two – “Thank you… we have to change tape”. Rick returned to the mic a few seconds later to say “When they tore down the MGM Grand, we were the last ones there.” He then informed us that “This one reached number 2 in England… and nowhere in the United states”. The band went into the fairly short but hugely high energy “Sick Man of Europe”, which is particularly notable for the totally amazing quicksilver bass runs that Tom plays throughout the two minutes. Amazing to see. Afterwards, Rick noted the performance, “Tom Petersson on 12 string bass”. He then changed to his Uncle Pepper guitar, holding it up and fibbing “I painted this myself!” Yeah, we believe you Mr Michelangelo Nielsen!
The band went into another new song, and another that I’d not heard live before. The Uncle Pepper guitar was the appropriate one to play for the Beatlesesque “Closer, The Ballad of Burt and Linda”, with its catchingly haunting chorus. Very impressive, and I think this one may become a live favourite. The main set closed with the classic “Surrender”, which was pure and simple, classic Cheap Trick. The band rocked, the crowd rocked, even the TV cameramen were seen to be singing along. At the end Robin thanked the crowd, “We’re Cheap Trick, we’ll see you down the road apiece”.
After the usual minute or two break, Rick returned to the stage to ask that redundant question “Does that mean you want us to do one more?” The response was a huge “YES!” from the crowd that almost took off the studio ceiling. Rick told us “It’s taken us 36 years to get onto Austin City Limits… it’ll be 36 more till we come back. Actually we’ve already been asked back… to clean up later!” On getting given his next guitar by his tech, he added “Jeff Beck lent me this guitar… I hope I don’t run into him soon!” The band surprised me a little by starting the encore with “Voices”, but it went down well and sounded great (I was only surprised as it’s normally in the main set and not the encore). “Dream Police” was again hugely well received, at the end Rick saying “Thank you very much, this has been great for us”. It had actually been pretty good for us in the audience too Rick, but the band had kept their piece-de-resistance till last. I expected to hear Tom’s bass intro for “Aufie” or perhaps the start of “Goodnight Now”. Instead, it took a few seconds to process Daxx’s drumbeat as being the start of “Gonna Raise Hell”… holy crap! I hadn’t heard this in several years, and it was simply scintillating. Huge, intense, a monster, and a total joy. Robin’s vocals were amazing, Tom and Rick jamming together mid-song was a treat, and Daxx was solid and beat perfect throughout. What a way to end the show.
The show ended at 9.28pm. Funny, it felt like it had lasted much longer. Soon after the band left the stage, the side stage areas and even the stage itself were swamped with people picking up picks, setlists and almost anything else they could find, to the annoyance of CT’s crew. The organisation at ACL had been terrific right up until this point, but sadly security at the end of the show was very slow to secure the stage (to the frustration of CT’s crew). Anyway, that didn’t detract from what the band had done on stage. They’d performed a terrific show in front of a very enthusiastic crowd, and hopefully that’ll project well when its broadcast in the US in the latter part of 2010.
We soon headed back to Round Rock, but we’d be back in Austin tomorrow.
Friday 19 March – CT at SXSW, Austin TX
A cool and overcast start to the day. We had breakfast in the hotel before heading downtown mid-morning, to look around and to shop. We parked in a dusty parking lot close to Stubbs (where I’d seen CT and Wayne Kramer back in 2003) and also just a couple of streets away from 6th Street. Immediately you could see the evidence of SXSW, with various roads closed off, a couple of small outdoor stages nearby, and already a couple of vans with people unloading drum cases, guitars, amps and other kit. Pat & I wandered along 6th Street, which was fairly quiet but getting busier as time went on. We went into many shops along the way, in the last I finally found one that actually t-shirts with one my favourite designs on. I’d bought one back in 2003, but over time it’s sadly shrunk. I mean, it must have… its not like it was *me* that put on weight <LOL> Anyway, this was the only shop with the design, so I bought more than one XL… future proofing, see? Who knows when I’ll next be in Austin.
By late morning 6th Street was alive with musicians carrying kit to various bars, SXSW delegates walking around with their laminates prominently displayed, lines starting to form outside more than one club or bar, and the sound of live music coming out of various places. We were lucky enough to meet up with old buddy Steve Crawford, his wife and daughter and we shared a light lunch and drinks with them on the upstairs, open air patio of one of the bars. That was fun – good company, the sound of live music, and by now the sun had come out and it was turning into a lovely, warm day.
We left them at 1pm, but we’d see them later at the show. Tonight’s gig was a free, outdoor show so it was time to go get in line in order to hopefully get a good spot later. We eventually found our way to Auditorium Shores park by 1.30pm, found somewhere to park the car and walked over to one of the main gates. People-wise it was very quiet, with only Anneke & Raquel in line. However, CT were soundchecking, and we could see the stage a couple of hundred yards away through the wire fence. We heard “Miracle”, and discovered they’d already played “Speak Now” and “Welcome to the World”. We sat in the sun all afternoon, it was beautiful, warm and like a summers day. Well, I think summers days in Texas are hotter than this, but from where I come from, this was about as good as it gets! Tonight’s show featured 3 bands, and at 3pm we heard the Wisconsin based Bodeans soundcheck. I’ve liked them a lot since I saw them support CT at Streetscene in San Diego back in Sept 1998, and so it was a pleasure to get them on the bill. I took a brief walk around at one point, and found the cool statue of local legend Stevie Ray Vaughan down by the river. Around 4.30pm, Cracker started their soundcheck.
By now there was quite a line of people waiting, both at our gate and at another further along. At 4pm a van from local Channel 8 News came along, and interviewed Anneke as first in line. Thanks to Chicago Mike, they also decided to interview me. Did they understand my weird English accent? Who knows. I just talked and talked anyway! The reporter then asked us at the front of the line if any of us would be willing to hold back when they opened the gates at 5pm for a live interview on air. Oddly enough we all declined… after being there all afternoon, the last thing we’d want to do was miss out on trying to get a good spot!
Gates opened at 5.05pm and it was a race to run to the stage. It wasn’t exactly flat terrain, but it was OK, and we managed to snag a front stage spot. With 20-30,000 expected, we didn’t want to get stuck further back. But funnily enough, we needn’t have bothered to rush! Most of the crowd ambled in, and set up spots on the raised grass further back from the stage, or went straight to the beer booths. The front stage area stayed fairly empty for quite some time!
The stage was large and open backed, so the Austin downtown skyline could be seen behind. There was a large video screen to stage right (Tom’s side), to help those folks way at the back. The unscheduled opening band were the Dallas based Ray Johnstone Band, two guitars and a sax, who played a short, funky 10 minute set from 5.40pm. They were OK, but at front stage their sound was lousy, hopefully not how CT would sound later? Hmmm… After a very quick stage changeover, Cracker came on a 6pm. They’re a 4 piece band, formed in part from members of Camper Van Beethoven. And this was our (those of us at front stage) first taste of the photographers scrum that lasted for the first 3 songs of Cracker’s set. Something like a dozen photographers plus a video cameraman all vying with each other for the perfect shots. Oh, this’ll be fun when CT come on :-| During their 30 minute set I noticed several women in green shirts off to/below right (Tom’s side). I soon realised that one was doing sign language of the song lyrics for a group of deaf people who were all together near stage front. That was cool. Cracker were OK, but the sound at stage front was again poor and I could barely hear the vocals.
Another quick stage changeover saw The Bodeans come on 17 minutes later at 6.47pm, to a warm welcome from the sizable crowd behind us, and happily the sound was much better too. They played for just over an hour and did a nice set. Interesting how they changed some of the song arrangements or tempo’s over the years, slowing a couple of songs down. They were able to get the crowd to sing along with the chorus’s of 2-3 songs, and were very well received. I enjoyed them a lot. Oh, photographer scrum again for about the first ten minutes.
By now the park (what we could see behind us) was packed, as was a VIP viewing area off to Rick’s side of the stage. In fact some people with VIP passes couldn’t even get up to that area so it looked.
By now it was dark, but still pleasantly warm, and the lights went down at 8.16pm and the familiar audio montage started up. The band came on at 8.18pm to a very loud welcome from the crowd.
black pants, black/white shirt, bow tie, grey jacket with black/red stripes
audio montage intro, Stop This Game drone, Hello There, ELO Kiddies, Welcome to the World, I Want You to Want Me, These Days, Wrong All Along, Sleep Forever, Heaven Tonight, 70’s Song, Taxman, Ballad of TV Violence, Oh Candy, Miracle, Miss Tomorrow, Sick Man of Europe, Closer - The Ballad of Burt and Linda, Surrender /(encore)/ The Flame, Dream Police, He's a Whore, Gonna Raise Hell, Goodnight Now
With Daxx again on drums, it was a guess whether the setlist would change or not from last night. However, that uncertainty was soon quashed with an opening of “Hello There” followed by “ELO Kiddies”. I must admit that I got fooled (and I *swore* that I wouldn’t get fooled again!) by the drum intro, expecting the band to go into “Lights Out”. Happily for us at front, the photographers were ushered away by security after “ELO Kiddies”. And happily again, the sound was just fine!
After “ELO Kiddies”, Rick reminded the crowd “Just in case you’re not sure, we are the one, the only, accept no substitutes Cheap Trick! It’s great to be in Austin and South by South West”. The band went into “Welcome to the World” which hasn’t been in the setlist since early last summer. Nice to hear again. Next up was “I Want You to Want Me”, which, as you can guess was a total crowd pleaser. It was hard to gauge the size of the crowd when looking back from our spot, but I can guess the band had a fine view of the very large crowd, and it must have been fun for them to see 20,000 or more rocking along. After “IWYTWM” Rick did indeed note that it was a “…fine looking crowd. He added that they’d be doing some stuff from The Latest, and informed them about the worldwide #1 selling status of the 8-track.
“These Days” was next, followed by another cool surprise, “Wrong all Along” from the 1997 “Cheap Trick” CD release, and which hasn’t been played live in some years. Fun stuff.
Rick then announced that “As you probably all know, a good friend of the musical community left the building. He also wrote the song we recorded for that 70’s Show called “In The Streets”. We’re going to play a couple of songs for Alex Chilton… Alex – wish you were here”. Robin then sang the short but very poignant “Sleep Forever”, accompanied only by unobtrusive keyboards. It was a reminder, if we needed one, of what an amazing voice Robin has. The band then went into the intense and dark “Heaven Tonight”, which was chilling. A number of musical greats like Steven Tyler and Billy Gibbons cite that as their favourite live CT song, and you can understand why. It’s right up there in my top 5 CT songs too. The tribute trilogy continued, of course, with the more uptempo “70’s Song”.
After that, Rick introduced “… a couple of people. A good friend who used to be in Jellyfish, Roger Joseph Manning junior! And on keyboards, Mr Magic Christian. He went into rehab right here in Texas… he’s all better now! The good looking man on the drums is Mr Daxx Nielsen. My favourite lead singer in the whole wide world, Mr robin Zander! And on the 12 strong bass, Tom Petersson! Here’s something from the first album”. And another cool surprise, with the intro to “Taxman” starting up. That was cool to hear, as was the following, “Ballad of TV Violence” and then “Oh Candy” – a trilogy of wonderful songs from the bands debut album.
I missed Ricks couple of spoken lines after “Oh Candy”, but then the band went into “Miracle” from the bands newest album. Afterwards Rick asked the crowd “How are you doing?” The crowd responded with a roar. Rick then asked “How are you *really* doing?” He then asked “How about that Robin Zander?” The crowd showed their appreciation, before Robin gave a terrific vocal to “Miss Tomorrow”.
Afterwards, Rick noted “As you can see, we’re filming, so smile… or give the finger! Or smile whilst giving the finger! The next song features Tom Petersson, this was voted #2 in England for best song of the year”. The band went into the fairly short but very energetic “Sick Man of Europe”, with Tom’s neck hand really flying. I wonder if he could cope if that song was 2 minutes longer? Maybe he’d explode!
Rick then held up his “Uncle Pepper” guitar before the band went into “Closer – The Ballad of Burt and Linda”, which featured a long ending and is a cool song. That was followed by another classic guaranteed to turn even the most benign crowd into a frenzy, “Surrender”! Happily the crowd were already very enthusiastic, so this could only take them up a notch! At the end, Robin said “Thank you very much for having Cheap Trick, we love you guys, we’ll see you down the road apiece”.
After a couple minutes well earned break for the band, Rick came back on to ask “Does that mean you want to hear some more? … Are you SURE you want to hear some more?” I can tell you that, yes they did want to hear some more!
The encore started with “The Flame” followed by “Dream Police”, both of which went down well of course. We then got treated to “He’s a Whore”, during which it was funny to see Rick flick a couple of picks at Magic, nailing him with the second! At the end Robin went and whispered to Rick, then to Tom, and Tom to Daxx… Chinese whispers? No, far better than that. We were treated to an unscheduled “Gonna Raise Hell”, which I later discovered wasn’t on the setlist. What can I say, it’s a great song that highlights every band member, and which just takes you to a great, great musical place. Well, it does me anyway. The show ended with “Goodnight Now” with two short endings (and Roger Manning standing and playing tambourine behind Daxx), finishing at 9.53pm. The band looked to have had a lot of fun, and they’d no doubt got a lot of energy from the reaction of the huge crowd. I don’t know exactly how many were there, between 20-30,000 were expected, and I later heard that this had seen the largest crowd ever to attend a single gig at SXSW. With both the Austin City Limits recording and then this show (plus a full media day on Weds 17th), the band could have done absolutely no more to highlight themselves. Outstanding shows, and one can only hope that they didn’t go unnoticed by some of the industry bigwigs in town for the week.
Oh, I forgot to say that it was so cool to watch the women doing sign language during CT’s set, they looked to be having a lot of fun. In particular, the woman signing during “Gonna Raise Hell” looked to be having huge fun for the whole 9 minutes of that. They looked to do a great job.
We slowly made our way out, there was no use in hurrying as the roads were jammed. We eventually started driving out after 10:30pm, discovering that the GPS wouldn’t switch on :-( However, I knew roughly how to get back to the highway, and soon we were heading north. En route we stopped to pick up some Arby’s food – beef sandwiches and curly fries! And luckily Pat remembered which exit we needed for the hotel! Going online back at the hotel to post a short review to CT.com, we saw that a short announcement had just been posted during the evening, to inform that Bun E was not touring but was still a member of the band. That explained why Daxx was substituting on drums here.
Saturday 20 March – CT at Durant, OK
Awoke early this morning to low rumbling. Hmmm. I looked out the window to find a major thunderstorm going on, with torrents of heavy rain. So what happened to the summer-like weather of yesterday? Oh well, we’d at least been lucky that the bad weather had held off until after CT’s outdoor show. Waiting out in line in heavy rain would have been no fun… been there, done that many times over the years. Wet feet are not pleasant.
Anyway, we left Round Rock mid-morning. The rain had eased off by now, but it was chilly, probably 25-30 degrees cooler than yesterday, brrrr. We drove north, back towards Dallas and beyond. On the way we stopped at a Walmart for me to get a couple of things. Pat bought me a George Strait CD which we listened to as we continued north. I did not know that it’s apparently a state law that when driving in Texas you must listen to George Strait. Look it up!
Oh, one “funny” story I must share. Both Pat and I had bought one of the show posters at Austin City Limits. They were on heavy card, so we wanted to protect them for our respective flights. We stopped north of Dallas to try to find poster rolls. Eventually did some shopping in an Office Max. At the checkout, I was asked for my zip code. I replied to the woman that I didn’t have one as I was a visitor from overseas. The woman asked from where, I replied England, to which she asked “What zip code is that?” Oh, come on! I gritted my teeth as I said “It doesn’t have a zip code, it’s a country”. I eventually managed to pay my $10 or whatever, but really? You can’t spend money without a damn zip code? And England is now the 51st state? I guess I must have missed that news. A bizarre little incident.
We continued north until we reached our hotel at Sherman mid-afternoon. We checked in, and thankfully it was much warmer indoors than out. We got ready for the show and headed out again at 4.15pm. Unbelievably, small snowflakes were now blowing around outside. We drove about 20 miles north, crossing the state line, until we reached the Choctaw Casino a little south of Durant, Oklahoma. We went into the big casino to try to find the concert venue, unfortunately starting off in the smoking part of the casino. Eventually we discovered that the concert venue was a totally separate building about ½ mile away. So we went all the way back to the car and drove to the Event Centre. At 5pm it was very quiet, but we were able to get our tickets at willcall, and also got a look at the venue. The Events Centre had a huge lobby, and then the concert venue/room was huge too. Very large stage, and a large, square main floor with rows and rows of purple flat seating. To the rear were 3 rows of banked seating, and far off to each side were about 7-8 rows of banked seating. I’d guess you could comfortably seat a couple of thousand in here. There were video screens to each side of the stage. The ceiling was black with exposed ducting.
We took the little shuttle bus back to the casino and had dinner with CT friends Dia and Randy and a buddy of theirs. Nice to catch up after several years. Back at the Events Centre, they started letting people in at 7pm, and a pleasure to see Lisa, the Trick Chicks again, also Brian from Dallas, and Bill Tolles and his family. I haven’t seen Bill in a few years, and he’s recently done at least of couple of tours in Iraq in the US military. I salute him for his bravery. AND he’s a big Cheap Trick fan!
By 8pm the venue was probably ¾ full, with most of the floor seats occupied, though most of the rear and side seats were empty. The lights went down at 8.07pm, and the audio montage started. The band came on at 8.09pm. Our seats were front row was off to the right (Tom’s side), almost side on to the stage. Our view of Rick, Robin and Tom was a little restricted at times, but we did have a good view of Daxx and Magic and it’s good to get a different view at times.
black suit, black/white patterned shirt, Beatles bowtie
audio montage intro, Stop This Game drone, Way of the World, When the Lights Are Out, Miracle, I Want You to Want Me, These Days, Baby Loves to Rock, Sleep Forever, Heaven Tonight, 70’s Song, Miss Tomorrow, Don't Be Cruel, Voices, Sick Man of Europe, The Flame, Closer - The Ballad of Burt & Linda, Surrender /(encore)/ Dream Police, Ballad of TV Violence, Goodnight Now
The crowd were enthusiastic from the start, mostly standing as soon as the show started with “Way of the World”. That was followed by “Lights Out” and “Miracle”, and “I Want You to Want Me” was of course a huge favourite as it always is.
Rick then reminded the Oklahoma crowd that “Just in case you’re not sure, we are the one, the only Cheap Trick”. Whilst Rick was talking it was very cool to see Tom actually leave the stage on our side and come round to stage front right to give one of his picks to a young girl there. What a gentleman. Meanwhile Rick was reminding the crowd that “… The Latest recording is on CD and vinyl, and most importantly 8 track! Since it’s release it’s been #1 in the world of 8 track sales!”
The show continued with “These Days”, then the “Stiff Competition” riff twice leading into an energetic “Baby Loves to Rock”. Rick then announced that “The next couple of tunes… the first is on The Latest, written for someone we used to know… his daughter is in the front row – Jenny Candas, we’ve known her since she was a baby. This and the next couple are for her”. A very heartfelt intro to the next few songs starting with “Sleep Forever” which was written in tribute to a long time Texan friend of the band, John Candas. That was followed by “Heaven Tonight”, after which Rick told the crowd how much Steven Tyler & Billy Gibbon’s love that song. The “70’s Song” went down well, with lots of people recognising it from the show.
After “Miss Tomorrow” Rick introduced “On keyboards, Magic Christian… he got out of rehab 9 months ago… long time in rehab!” Poor Magic, getting this introductory spiel every night! Rick continued by introducing Daxx, Tom and Robin, before finishing “We were the first band to have a Top 5 hit with an Elvis Presley song… because it’s fuckin’ cool!” And our bonus for this evening was a very nice “Don’t Be Cruel”, which featured an extra long intro for some reason. At the end Rick handed his silver guitar to the security guard at the front of the stage. He jokingly looked at him and asked “You think you can do any better?” He then told the crowd “My cousin here works in law enforcement in Oklahoma!” Looking at the guard he added “Do you want to come on stage with us?” The guard smilingly declined before Rick’s tech came out to retrieve the guitar. A fun little interlude.
The show continued with “Voices”, then “Sick Man of Europe”, “The Flame” and “Closer, The Ballad of Burt and Linda”. That last song features a nice guitar solo by Rick for the latter of the song, with Robin standing to the rear of the stage on Tom’s side adding backing vocals. The main set finished with “Surrender”. Robin thanked the crowd: “Thank you very much for coming out to see Cheap Trick, we love you, see you down the road apiece”. Rick left the stage on Tom’s side, but immediately came around to the front of the stage on our side as he’d spotted a couple of guys holding up a large banner with a graphic of both sides of an old 70’s era Rick pick! He managed to get them to pass over the banner, and moments later he walked back on stage, held up the banner and then wrapped it around his steps! “Does that mean you want to hear some more?” he asked the enthusiastic crowd? He got a very loud “Yes!” in return. But just in case, he asked “Are you SURE you want to hear some more?” Twice.
The encore started with “Dream Police”, in the middle of which Robin came over to Tom’s side of the stage, messing with some fans off on our side. However, I think he still had his mic, and Rick went to centre stage and mouthed his “persecution” piece with no mic! Robin soon realised and brought back the mic stand, allowing Rick to start over! From our viewpoint I could see it was a little confusing for Daxx but he kept the beat going and it all worked out fine. I think most casual fans in the crowd probably wouldn’t have realised this was an unscripted event! Next up was “The Ballad of TV Violence”, followed by “Goodnight Now” with 3 endings. The show ended at 9.33pm, and a nice show it had been. The casino setting meant that it didn’t quite have the feel of the Austin shows, but the band played great and the crowd got their money’s worth.
Got to speak with a few friends before we left, Chicago Mike said that he and his wife has seen both Anneke and I on a TV news report on Austin TV news this morning whilst at Austin airport.
When we went out to the car, we found a thin coating of snow, frozen on, and snowflakes blowing around. Brrrr! We had to wait for the car to warm up and melt that off the windows before driving to our hotel.
Sunday 21 March/Monday 21 March
So the Cheap Trick part of the weekend trip was over, but the “fun” wasn’t. Woke up to see it white outside, with several inches of snow having fallen overnight and light snow still being blown around by the chill wind. We left the hotel just before 10am, having first had to clear off the car windows. We headed south on highway 75, slowly. It was four lane highway, two in each direction, but at times the drifting snow narrowed that down to only one lane southbound. In many years of driving in the US I’d scoffed at the “Caution: Bridge may be icy” signs… but that warning was very true today. Whilst the road itself was often relatively clear, at least for one lane, every bridge we crossed for probably 40 miles from Sherman was still covered in snow and ice on both lanes, and very slippery. And for probably the 30-40 miles down to the first outlying suburbs of Dallas, we saw many, many cars and pick up trucks off the road. Not just on the hard shoulder, but way, way off to the side or on the snow covered central median where they’d skidded off. I’ve done a lot of driving in snow this winter in England, so I just took it easy and let the crazy rig drivers pass at over 50 miles per hour, even on the snow covered lane or on icy bridges. Crazy stuff.
It was 70 miles to Dallas from Sherman, and in the city is was mostly snow free though still very cold. Our respective flights were around 4pm, so we had time to go downtown and visit Dealey Plaza and the 6th Floor Museum. I’d been here before, some 13 years ago, but it’s still chilling to see the actual location (with two white crosses painted on the road where the fateful shots hit JFK) and then in the museum, the famous black & white movie pictures of that world shaking event back in 1963. We also had time for a quick lunch in the newly re-opened Hard Rock Café a mile or so away. Some cool stuff on display, particularly by Texan artists but sadly no Cheap Trick items to be seen.
And so back to the DFW car rental centre by 2.15pm to return the car, and then onto separate shuttle buses to our respective terminals.
My check-in and security check was relatively quick, so I had plenty of time before my flight at 4.40pm. That was a non-stop, overnight KLM flight to Amsterdam. What can I say? I couldn’t sleep a wink so the 8 hour flight dragged. An hour after landing at AMS, later I boarded my plane for Manchester, landing there at 9am local time with Manchester familiarly cloudy and overcast! But no, it wasn’t raining for a change. Anyway, end of story? Not quite. I watched the cases go round the baggage carousel about 6 times before I realised nothing more was coming out, and my case didn’t make it :-( The baggage desk had no record of it being delayed, so all I could do was file the missing case report and head off the get the shuttle bus to my car parking place. This was Monday morning at about 9.30am, with 3-4 more KLM flights due in later in the day from Amsterdam. I expected my case to be delivered at home that evening… but no. I finally had to collect it from a courier office in Leeds on Weds evening after, for some reason, it had been sent to Birmingham. Luckily it had been the one in England, not Alabama!
And so ended a very busy but memorable long weekend trip, which has included three wonderful Cheap Trick shows, particularly the two in Austin. And the "Four Seasons" I mentioned at the very start? Well, perhaps calling them seasons was stretching things a bit, but the astute amongst you may have spotted what seemed like a year round variation in the weather we experienced over just four days. Spring-like weather on Thursday (sunny but cool), summer-like on Friday (warm and sunny), autumnal weather on Saturday with a heavy thunderstorm and chill winds, and finally and most definitely winter weather on Saturday night and Sunday with snow! Who’d have thought we’d experience such variations in Texas in late March?
As always, I must thank people. Many thanks to Patricia for her great company and remembering how to get back to our hotel on Friday night when the GPS failed! Many thanks to Carla as always, and to Cheap Trick for three wonderful shows and for putting up with seeing me yet again! And thanks also to the friends we met up with at the shows and the warm welcome from them.
(Note: More of my show pictures from the Austin SXSW show can be found on cheaptrick.com)
Gisborne - Leeds, England, 04 April 2010
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