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The 12 Day Marathon - California & Milwaukee, Feb/Mar 2007

Winter is always a bit of a depressing time, what with Christmas over and done with, and a few months of bad weather to look forward to until the spring finally comes around. Well, I already had three Cheap Trick shows to look forward to in early March, the long-booked three night run at the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. However, with my temporary job not being a whole lot of fun, I finally decided in early February to give myself a bonus and try to fit in the three shows in southern California, the weekend before Milwaukee. My work allowed me the time off (a decision probably sweetened by the fact that, as a temporary worker they wouldn’t have to pay me for my time off) and I managed to find affordable flights at fairly short notice. But what would make this a more gruelling couple of weeks was the fact that I’d have to fly home in between the two sets of shows, even though I’d be back in England for only about 36 hours. With my flights to the Midwest having been booked before Christmas, the conditions of the airline tickets meant it was cheaper and less complicated to fly home from Los Angeles and back out to Chicago than try to adjust it to a single trip.

So join me at the start of this 12 day marathon, as I embark on a 21,000 mile, double transatlantic journey and six shows! Oh, and a day back home at the office too!

Wednesday 21 Feb – Manchester to Amsterdam to Los Angeles to San Diego

The start of the trek was very early as usual. My flight out of Manchester was scheduled to depart at 8.40am but I chose to get to the airport by around 6am because of the early build-up of rush hour traffic on the Manchester orbital motorway. So by 6.15am I was in the Air France lounge having breakfast and coffee to give me a morning jolt. My KLM flight to Amsterdam was 40 minutes late in leaving cool and overcast Manchester, but the delay wasn't significant as I had plenty of transit time at Schipol Airport. My non-stop KLM flight to Los Angeles left Amsterdam at 1pm UK time, and the flight was due to take nearly 11 hours. What can I say about such a long flight? As usual it was somewhat tedious… I didn't fancy the Costner movie… the food was square, to fit the little square plastic trays… I dozed a bit but didn't really sleep… and I was glad when we finally landed at sunny LAX at 11.45pm UK time, but just 3.45pm in the afternoon local time.

After slowly clearing immigration (how could I have been one of the first 40 off the plane yet one of the last through the immigration process?) I quickly found my case on the carousel and went outside to wait for my regular Californian travelling companion Tricktoria. She eventually made it through the heavy traffic, and we headed back onto the 405 heading south. As usual this freeway resembled a huge, snaking parking lot, with traffic either only crawling along or just plain stopped. Well, it was rush hour… though the 405 is a lot like this at any time! How people live and commute in Los Angeles I have no idea, it would drive me crazy. We eventually edged over into the carpool lane which was intermittently moving slightly faster, and eventually we reached clearer road as we headed down to meet I-5 and onwards down to San Diego.

We made it to our hotel on Hotel Circle at 7.45pm, and after checking-in, we went to a nearby Mexican restaurant for dinner. The "special" was very good, but I could barely finish half of it… a real bargain at around $11 (roughly UK£6). I was happy to be in bed by 9.45pm as my day had lasted about 27 hours!

Thursday 22 Feb – Cheap Trick at San Diego

The advantage of driving down to San Diego yesterday evening was that today could be a little more leisurely. After a mid morning breakfast, we left the hotel around 11am and drove to do a bit of shopping, ending up at the pleasant, tourist orientated Seaport Village (which I've visited several times before). The morning had been fairly overcast, but the sun finally broke through when we were at Seaport. Being a weekday morning it was fairly quiet. Probably the most noticeable thing for me was of seeing a huge aircraft carrier moored further along the waterfront, dwarfing all the other fishing boats. We didn't get any closer, but it looked to have been moored for people to actually visit.

We managed to park on the street near the downtown 4th & B venue a little after 4pm. Victoria and Laura went to eat at the nearby House of Blues whilst I went and met several friends already in line at the venue. They'd apparently already eaten at the HOB - 4th & B is part to the HOB chain so if you ate at the HOB and retained your meal receipt, you could get priority entry to the venue. After chatting and catching up with a few folk I popped inside the venue, to find Bun and Tom soundchecking. The merch guy for these shows was Chad, and he was busy setting up in the foyer by the main entrance, and openers Trash Daddy were hauling in their kit. I left a little later and caught up with Victoria and Laura at the HOB, where I hurriedly ordered some fish nuggets and sweet potato chips for dinner. Significant detail? Hmmm…

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Doors opened at the venue at 7pm, and those who'd eaten at the HOB got let in first. The venue was a long, dark room with a high ceiling. There were raised levels of seated booths to the rear, and a glassed-in bar area upstairs to stage right (Rick's side).

Trash Daddy came on at 8pm and played a fun set of trailer park rock! They've opened for Cheap Trick several times before in this area, with Trash Daddy's drummer, Todd Trent being a long time friend of the band as well as the Ludwig artist rep on the west Coast. During the 55 minute set, it rained heavily outside, and leakage was soon apparent in areas of the venue. Much of the main floor became wet, and there were also a few places where water dropped down from the ceiling. Although annoying, the water leakage wasn't serious enough to affect the show at all.

Cheap Trick came on at 9.31pm

RN – black suit, black t-shirt
RZ – blue jeans, black long sleeve t-shirt, black sleeveless fleece
TP – black suit with long jacket, cream shirt
BC - black t-shirt, black jeans
TH - white shirt, multicoloured striped pants

Hello There, Big Eyes, Oh Candy, Welcome to the World, If You Want My Love, Ballad of TV Violence, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, I Know What I Want, Voices, If It Takes a Lifetime, Flame, 70's Song, Surrender // (encore) Dream Police, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight Now

You'll note a fifth name in the fashion list above. Longtime band friend and San Diego resident, Tod Howarth was placed to sidestage near Tom and played keyboards for this show. Many fans will know that Tod has played keys occasionally with CT for many years.

After the familiar introduction by tech Dave Rule and "Hello There", the first thing I noticed was Robin's beard. After "Big Eyes" Rick quickly won over the full venue by announcing "We're Cheap Trick, and we're happy to be back in California once again". After "Oh Candy" Rick handed off his guitar to Tony Hartt or Danny Saint (not sure which from where I was standing), adding "I'd like to thank Jeff Beck for loaning me this guitar". I'd find out more of this story in a few days. After "Welcome to the World", Rick almost handed his guitar to the crowd again, but teased and didn't.

During "If You Want My Love" Robin wore a khaki army cap. Tod H briefly left the stage during "TV Violence", I'm not sure why but it appeared as if he wasn't getting anything from his stage monitor. After the song Rick remarked in sarcastic style "Ah yes, Cheap Trick ballads…" He added "Tom has just informed me that that record came out 30 years ago this month". He also spotted a woman in the crowd near the front - "Lake Geneva, 74-75… you haven't changed a bit!" He then held up the regular San Diego CHPTRK1 licence place brought by a longtime local fan. Then, continuing in this long pause, a small, replica checkerboard toy guitar was handed to him from the crowd. He mimicked playing it, saying "I feel like Tiny Tim of the next generation!"

The band went into "Best Friend" which was a monster as usual. The crowd was large and enthusiastic, despite much of the main floor being wet, and the band were putting on a nice performance. "I Want You to Want Me" was the perennial crowd pleaser. Rick then thanked Trash Daddy, and noted that "the latest issue of Vintage Guitar magazine has a full 7 page spread of Mr Tom Petersson! Tom then played an unfamiliar 1-2 minute solo (not the Hendrix "Midnight Lamp" any more) before launching into a nice, energetic version of "I Know What I Want". Afterwards, Rick noted that "It just doesn't get any better than that. I hope we're recording tonight, that was excellent". He turned to Tom and asked "How many thumbs?" Turning back he informed us "Two thumbs way up says Tom Petersson!" I guess Tom must have enjoyed himself!

The band then went into "Voices", though the first line was off and they stopped, before quickly restarting. After "If It Takes a Lifetime" Rick tried to get Robin to start "Take Me to the Top" though RN forgot some of the lyrics. He then did the introduction - "And now someone who never forgets the words or the meaning behind the music… the chords… the meaning… the lyrics… Robin Zander". That was a pretty nice introduction, and Robin then started up "The Flame".

During a rousing "Auf Wiedersehen", Rick strummed his guitar with the licence plate mentioned earlier, and "Goodnight Now" saw Rick playing a (new?) flames patterned Explorer and 3 endings to the song.

The show ended at 10.53pm, and after helping Chad with the post show merchandise rush, I joined Victoria and Laura about 25 minutes later, and I got to bed around midnight for what was to prove a long night.

Friday 23 Feb – Cheap Trick at Agoura Hills, CA

My day started around 2.45am, as the first effects of what turned out to be a 48 hour intestinal bug hit me. I'll spare you all the gory details, but I didn't get any sleep after I first awoke. We left it until late morning to leave the hotel, as I'd hoped things would settle for the 3 hour drive back up to LA. I was a very bad passenger, laying out and dozing instead of keeping Victoria company as she drove us north in heavy traffic, but I just felt so tired and drained and I couldn't face eating or drinking a thing. "Washed out" describes it well. Victoria herself was suffering with back pain, so I think she was as happy as I was when we reached our hotel north of LA. After getting in the room around 3pm-ish, I lay down, hoping to wake up fresher and feeling up to going to the evenings show some 20 miles away in Agoura Hills. Unfortunately the bug just kept me laid low and running to the bathroom often, so I had to decide not to go. That felt a little strange as it was going to be the first time I'd ever missed at CT show that I could have gone to. Instead I dozed the evening and night away, and many thanks to Victoria for choosing to also miss the show and instead keep watch over sick me. That was beyond the call of duty.

So, I'm sorry but I can't tell you anything about the show first hand. I gather the setlist was similar to San Diego, but with California Man replacing (I think) TV Violence.

Saturday 24 Feb – Cheap Trick at Indio, CA

I was awake around 6am, feeling very tired and washed out but a little better. Had a very light breakfast with Victoria and Laura, my first food in nearly 40 hours. After doing a couple of things locally, Victoria and I left Woodland Hills around 11.30am and drove across the top of LA, then headed south east on I-10 towards the desert cities. As we approached Palm Springs we drove by a forest of enormous wind turbines standing out there in the warm, rocky desert, which was a slightly odd sight. The desert cities of Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Indio and La Quinta literally sprawl alongside I-10 in a single metropolitan mass, even though they are separate towns/cities. We even passed by the tennis complex at Indian Wells soon after turning off I-10 to look for our hotel in La Quinta. The desert cities seem to be surrounded by low craggy mountains, and it was weird to see how green and perfectly manicured so much of the grass and other scenery is in the city environs. Oh, and we passed by several date farms too. After checking-in at the hotel and having a rest, I decided I was well enough to go to this evenings show. We left the hotel at 4.30pm, and stopped at a nearby family restaurant for dinner - I needed bland food so meatloaf was just what I wanted.

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At 5.30pm we parked near the entrance to the Riverside County Fair and Date Festival, which was very large and very crowded. We fought our way through the crowds, and it was odd to see camel rides being offered, though probably not so surprising since the Fair had an Arabian theme going on. We finally reached the open air venue for the concert, to find a large crowd already lined up waiting to be let in. I left Victoria in line and went in to find Chad and offer help. The venue was basically a large field, with a large GA standing area in front of the stage and then a lot of rows of flat seating. I gather the venue could hold something like 3,000 people. The stage was large, with a large video screen to each side.

Gates opened at 7pm, with the GA area in front of the stage filling up quickly. I stayed at the merch table for most of the evening, located maybe some 50 yards from the stage off to Rick's side. By the time the band came on at 8.01pm the venue was pretty much full.

RN – black suit, black t-shirt
RZ – black leather fringed jacket, coonskin hat, black leather lace-up pants, black fleece shirt/jacket
TP – black hat, black jacket, black pants, black zip-up shirt
BC - black long sleeved t-shirt ("The Heavy Metal Shop"), black jeans

Hello There, Big Eyes, Taxman, Welcome to the World, If You Want My Love, Come On Come On Come On, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, I Know What I Want, Voices, If It Takes a Lifetime, Flame, 70's Song, Surrender // (encore) Dream Police, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight Now

This was pretty much a typical Fair show, and whilst the band played well enough, I didn't really enjoy it. I wasn't feeling 100%, plus many people milled around noisily during the show. The concert was free once people had paid to enter the Fair, so they could come and go as they chose. So whilst those at stage front were very into it, some people to the sides and further back were getting some free entertainment because it was there. Ah well, it's all good I guess.

Early on after "Big Eyes" Rick typically worked the crowd, stating that "It’s a pleasure to be once again in the greatest State in the Union, California!" Nothing like winning over the crowd early. "Taxman" was a nice surprise to hear, third on the setlist. Afterwards Rick informed the crowd that the song was from the bands first album which came out 30 years ago this month. He then pointed out each band member and thanked Jeff Beck for "loaning me his guitar for the evening".

After "Come On Come On Come on" Rick clarified "That was Come On Come On Come On… not to be confused with Come On Come On or Come On!" He then had the lights turned up, and spotted and then held up a large "Cheap Trick Way" road sign that had been brought by a fan. "I'm not sure exactly where it is, but we're going there to party tonight!"

Before "I Know What I Want" Tom was again introduced as being featured in the latest "Vintage Guitar" magazine as well as being "the inventor of the 12 string bass guitar and former resident of the great state of California".

At the end of "If It Takes a Lifetime" Rick held up his square Rockford guitar to the crowd. Much of the audience was enthusiastic for more, and "Goodnight Now" saw 4 endings. The show ended at 9.20pm, so it was a relatively early night. Victoria and I left the Fair and camels behind around 10pm, and it was good to get to bed by 11pm.

Sunday 25 Feb – Travelling home, pt 1 (Los Angeles – Amsterdam)

And so the end of the first half of this double-header. It was a lovely sunny morning out here in the desert, though my stomach was still a little upset. But we managed to leave Indio at around 11am, stopping at the Wheel Inn at Cabazon for a quick lunch. Loved the two life-sized dinosaurs behind the restaurant! And stopping here made it evident why there were wind turbine farms nearby, as it was very breezy.

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Traffic was heavy once we hit the LA metropolitan area, but we made it to LAX by 2.30pm, so I had plenty of time to check-in for my flight to Amsterdam. Good job too, given the long, slow lines to: 1/ check-in for the flight, 2/ give checked luggage to a security screener, 3/ get checked by security that you could go and be fully screened by security, and 4/ finally get security screened with any hand luggage. That all took over 90 minutes. Anyway, I boarded the KLM plane at 5.15pm, and an hour later we took off. The 10 hour flight was full and long, and I must have dozed for a few hours though it didn't feel like it.

Monday 26 Feb – Amsterdam to Manchester to home

The overnight flight from Los Angeles got me to Amsterdam early afternoon local time, and so it was around 3.30pm before I got back to Manchester Airport and around 6pm by the time I got home to Leeds. I had time to unpack and check my e-mail before crashing out and catching up on some sleep, my alarm clock would wake me at 5.30 am in the morning for work.

Tuesday 27 Feb – Leeds!

If it’s Tuesday it must be work! Yes, a whole day in Leeds, at work. Nuff said! Back at home early evening, I packed for the Chicago trip tomorrow. It felt very odd, after unpacking only 24 hours earlier…

Wednesday 28 Feb – Manchester to Amsterdam to Chicago

It was with a strong sense of déjà vu that I was up early and got myself to Manchester Airport by 5am for my flight to Amsterdam and onward to Chicago. It was raining as my KLM plane left Manchester Airport at 6.35am, and wet and grey at Amsterdam Schipol when we landed 50 minutes later. After a few minutes (and a couple of quick Heinekens!) in one of the KLM lounges, I got myself down to the gate to get in line for the security checks. After a few minutes of standing and waiting for the gate to open, I half spotted a familiar logo in the distance. I did a double take, and recognised Swedish friend Lars, wearing a Cheap Trick shirt, walking to the gate with his long time partner Rosie. The Swedish pair of Nilsson and Petersson! I hadn't seen them in quite a while, so it was a pleasure to see they were on my flight to go to the Milwaukee shows, and in fact ended up seated just 3 rows behind me on the plane!

The flight took off from Amsterdam at nearly 11am local time, and the flight to Chicago took nearly 8 hours. The movies were the same as on my flight to LA just a week ago, so I read and listened to MP3's and tried to doze. We landed some 40 minutes early at snowy Chicago O'Hare, and luckily we were the only international flight in at that time. So it didn't take long to see an immigration officer, though it was almost scary that he glanced at my passport and greeted me with "So what are you doing on this visit, Kim?" My small case was quickly on the baggage carousel too, and a little later I left Lars and Rosie to get a cab downtown, while I met with Patricia (who'd kindly come to collect me as usual). The rest of the day in north Chicagoland was quiet, which was good as the following three days would be busy and with late nights!

Thursday 1 Mar – Cheap Trick at Milwaukee (night 1)

Patricia was working in the morning, so I caught a mid-morning train up to Milwaukee. I met up with Jon, the merchandise man and we got to the Potawatomi Casino over lunchtime. I helped set up the merchandise stand near the entrance to the Northern Lights Theatre and helped with a few other odd-jobs during the afternoon. The crew soundchecked around 4pm, playing "Rocky Mountain Way" and fans started arriving from late afternoon, meeting up in the restaurant near the theatre.

The theatre itself was intimate, with a capacity of around 500 I believe. It had a medium sized stage with a curved front into the crowd and an ornate surround. Closest to the stage was a row of tables, then a row of booths. There were then two further levels or raised seating, each with tables then booths. The balcony had 5-6 rows of steeply banked seating. The theatre décor was mostly light wood and beige.

I won't begin to try and name all the fans I knew for fear of missing out names. They came from near and far, with "local" fans from Wisconsin and Illinois, joined by those from further afield… from New York to California, as well as from countries such as Japan, Scotland and Sweden. Good to see them all.

The band came on stage at 8.14pm to an enthusiastic welcome.

RN – black suit, black "Bun E mask" t-shirt
RZ – blue jeans, beige boots, dark blue long sleeve t-shirt, black zip up jacket, no hat
TP – black suit, white shirt
BC - black t-shirt, black jeans

Hello There, Big Eyes, Oh Candy, Welcome to the World, If You Want My Love, Ballad of TV Violence, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, I Know what I Want, Voices, If It takes a Lifetime, Flame, 70's Song, Surrender // (encore) Dream Police, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight Now

Towards the end of "Big Eyes" Rick had to change guitar, and finished the song holding the replacement guitar (he hadn't had time to get the guitar strap over his head). At the end of the song he passed the guitar to Mike who was sitting in the front row, and announced "Thank you, that's a brand new guitar given away". He went on to add that "The part of Rick Nielsen tonight will be played by a guy with laryngitis, but he looks just like me!" Poor Rick, he suffered with that bad throat all three nights. He then introduced the next song as being "from an album that came out 30 years ago this month" and the band went into "Oh Candy".

After "Candy", a mystery was solved. Rick thanked Jeff Beck… "If you were in California last week you'd know he gave this guitar to me… well, he charged me $15,000!" He played the guitar for "Welcome to the World", and at the end caressed the back of it against his cheek! I guess it was his new favourite guitar!

The band were both looking and sounding good, apart from Rick struggling with some of the backing vocals and talking. But the sound in the small theatre was good, as was the lighting. Before "If You Want My Love" Rick said "Since I'm having a hard time singing, please sing along". At the beginning of "TV Violence" Rick stood at stage front playing a single note, before the band intro'd into the song. After the song, Rick recounted some of the places they used to play in Milwaukee, such as Humping Hannah's, the Blind Frog and Stone Toad, each name greeted with a cheer by locals in the crowd. The band went into "Best Friend", which was frenzied as always, and Robin's vocal was terrific, though Rick struggled manfully with his falsetto backing vocals. The lighting through this song was particularly effective too.

After "I Want You to Want Me" Rick pointed out a few familiar faces, including the Swedes, Nilsson and Petersson. He then introduced Tom by way of the spread in Vintage Guitar magazine, as well as recalling their High School days when he jokingly noted "I taught Tom to drink, smoke, and kick asses together… we still do that!" Tom played a two minute solo before launching into "I Know What I Want". In the break after the song, Rick tried to sing a couple of lines of "Blackbird", but then commented "See? I don't know the words to any song!"

After "If It Takes a Lifetime" Rick started singing/playing "Julia". He did just one line, but certainly had some sort of Beatles thing going on tonight. He also joked with local fan Ron, before holding up the Wisconsin TRIKFAN licence plate, and asking if the bands original vocalist Xeno was here? "He's a Bad Boy" Rick added, joking with the name of Xeno's band.

During the "70's Song" multi-coloured swirls were projected onto the stage backdrop, and during "Surrender" the album flat got stuck in the lighting rig high up near the ceiling of the theatre!

The band continued their high energy into the three song encore, though "Goodnight" sounded speeded up and it had 3 endings. The show ended at 9.35pm, and Rick took off his jacket and preened before leaving the stage. All in all it had been a nice, well delivered show. It hadn't been spoiled by Rick's laryngitis, though he had obviously found it difficult to perform all of his vocal duties as normal.

I helped dismantle and store away the merchandise, and Patricia, the Scotsman Elliot, Stacey and I left the venue at 10.40pm to drive back down to north Chicagoland. We got back there at midnight.

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Setlists for each night.   Note: the setlist for night 2 that I got was obviously an early version

Friday 2 Mar - Cheap Trick at Milwaukee (night 2)

I was awake pretty early, though Elliot and I had a quiet morning and Patricia was working. It was another cold morning, even colder than yesterday, with light snow falling. However, it wasn't bad enough to stop us driving back up to Milwaukee and we left at 2.15pm, though each brought a small overnight bag just in case we got snowed in up there.

I again did some merchandise duty whilst fans met up in the bar/restaurant. The band took to the stage at 8.07pm tonight.

RN – black suit, black t-shirt
RZ – white cowboy hat, black CT logo t-shirt, black leather fringed jacket, black lace up pants, shades
TP – pale grey suit, white shirt
BC - black t-shirt, black jeans

Hello There. 70's Song (Big Eyes intro), I Can't Take It, Welcome to the World, She's Tight, Dream The Night Away, I Want You to Want Me, Voices, Tonight Its You, If It Takes a Lifetime, He's a Whore, Flame, Don't Be Cruel, Surrender // (encore) Dream Police, California Man

One of the attractions for the hardcore fans of this three night run was that the setlists would most likely change a bit each night. Well, the band played their first "cheap trick" (sorry!) early on. They opened as usual with "Hello There", then going into the familiar beat of "Big Eyes" which was exactly the same as last night. But the "Big Eyes" beat suddenly gave way to that "70's Song", fooling everyone! As last night, a psychedelic multi-coloured swirl was projected onto the backdrop during this. It was then nice to hear "I Can't Take It".

Rick again played the Jeff Beck guitar for "Welcome to the World", caressing its back after the song. With Jeff Beck being a musical hero of Rick's, it's no wonder Rick was so pleased to have bought one of Beck's guitars. Rick then jokingly told the crowd "If you were here last night you'd know that I didn't have a voice, tonight I have it back"… in a croaky voice. His laryngitis was clearly no better.

The show continued with "She's Tight", at the end of which Rick stood Uncle Dick on its two legs before handing it to someone in the front row. He then noted fans from Yokohama, California, Loves Park… and MILWAUKEE (which brought a big cheer!) He added "I'm sorry I've lost my voice… but you probably aren't!"

Our next surprise, and a real buzz for many was hearing "Dream the Night Away", only the second time its been played live since the "Rockford" album was released. It sounded very good indeed. After "I Want You to Want Me" Rick asked "How many have never seen us before?" to which a few hands went up. His next question of "How many will never see us again?" brought some laughs. And "How many will see us for the next 30 years" brought a BIG cheer!

It was nice to hear "Tonight Its You" again, and after "If It Takes a Lifetime" it was nice to see Rick hand his guitar to longtime fan Teri from NYC down at the front. He was then messing about and going to sign something I believe when "He's a Whore" started up. That caught him by surprise and he had to go and grab his guitar quickly! At the end he handed the guitar off to Lisa J from Texas.

Rick then held up a copy of the Guitar World magazine with Tom's feature in it. "Tom Petersson - 'Cheap Trick's Low End Innovator' it says here… sounds like a discount store or worse!" he commented. He then asked Tom to sign the magazine… "To Rick?" asked Tom… "That's Rick with a C and a K" confirmed the guitarist. He then asked Tom to also write something for him, Tom reading aloud as he wrote "You Sir are the greatest" causing Rick to reply "You're talking about yourself" in this mutual admiration-fest! "Rick told the crowd "This is the first time I've ever done this" as he exited stage left, reading the magazine as he went! But there's no doubt how much Rick admires Tom's bass skills.

The band went into "The Flame" and during this I wrote on my notepad how much the constant waitressing bugged me. Everyone was sat at either a table or booth, so waitresses kept coming to every table, taking drinks orders and serving. They were only doing their jobs, but it was very distracting.

After the "Flame" Rick started to introduce the next song as "this one we haven't done in ages" when he diverted to say hello to a couple of people and asked "who's the cute girl at front?" It turned out to be Robin's daughter Holland, and Robin helped her up onto the stage to take a round of applause. The band went then into "Don't Be Cruel" which is one I haven't heard in years.

It was good to see many fans standing for the encore, which ended with "California Man" and finished at 9.23pm. Again, it had been a sharp, well performed show. One could only hope that Rick got some of his voice back by tomorrow.

After finishing and packing away merchandise, I joined people in the bar as we weren't hurrying back as quickly to Chicago tonight. It was nice to get to chat with many friends, and I heard that rarity of a line from Danny Saint - "Tonight I'm the designated driver!" He was indeed, and good for him. Patricia, Elliot and I left the casino at 11.20pm, and it was bitterly cold with a few snowflakes swirling, but the roads were clear and we got back at 12.40am.

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Saturday 3 Mar - Cheap Trick at Milwaukee (night 3)

Another bitterly cold morning with light snowflakes in the air. As Patricia and Elliot needed to wait for Stacey, I caught an early afternoon train up to Milwaukee as I needed to be around to help set up merchandise at the venue. The afternoon was much as previous ones, with fans arriving from late afternoon onwards, meeting up and eating/drinking before the show.

The band came on at 8.09pm.

RN – black suit, black t-shirt
RZ – black leather fringed jacket, black leather lace-up pants, black CT logo t-shirt, shades
TP – black suit, green shirt
BC - black t-shirt, black jeans

On Top of the World, ELO Kiddies, Taxman Mr Thief, Welcome to the World, High Roller, Come On Come On Come On, I Want You to Want Me, Waiting for the Man, Ghost Town, If It Takes a Lifetime, Flame, 70's Song, Surrender // (encore) Dream Police, Clock Strikes Ten, Goodnight Now

Tonight promised to be the highlight of the three shows, and the setlist didn't disappoint. The show opened with "On Top of the Word", followed by the wonderful and infectious "ELO Kiddies". After that, Rick announced that "This is our third date with you… my voice was crappy on the first night and non-existent last night. So please sing along with the parts I should be singing… I feel like I'm neglecting my duties". Sadly his voice sounded no better. Anyway, the band then went into a favourite of mine, "Taxman", and Rick gave his guitar to a woman at stage front at the end.

After "Welcome to the World", the band appropriately went into "High Roller" which is the perfect song to play at a casino! The next highlight (in my opinion) followed "I Want You to Want Me", with "Waiting For the Man" given a rare outing. I haven't heard this in a few years, and it (and Tom) sounded terrific. At the end of that Rick and Tom messed around with a handshake, and Rick commented "If I weren't in the band I'd be a fan of the band… but since I'm in, it's good too!" As Robin got ready for the next song, he did a little solo with a line from "Always on my Mind", before going into a nice version of "Ghost Town". The album flat made it up into the balcony during "Surrender".

Rick came on for the encore, and as usual asked the crowd "Does that mean you want to hear some more?" However, he was pretty croaky, and added "I sound like David Lee Roth on a good night!" The encore saw "Dream Police" followed by "Clock Strikes Ten", and "Goodnight Now" with two endings. The show ended at 9.21pm. The band had performed a wonderful set, and were rightly given a big ovation by the capacity crowd. Robin was the last band member to leave the stage. Overall it had been a nice 3 night run, with great performances and some interesting changes to the setlists each night.

Merchandise was packed away and on the truck by 10.30pm, and so there was time to socialise in the crowded bar with the other fans. We eventually left soon after midnight, braving the bitter cold to reach Patricia's car in the parking garage, and we were back in north Chicago by 1.30am.

Sunday 4 Mar – Travelling home, pt 2

Time to go through all the hassle of 21st century flying, though leaving the international terminal at Chicago is far easier (and quicker) than leaving the international terminal at Los Angeles.

Anyway, I was awake fairly late after such a late night. The morning was quiet and leisurely, and outside the sun was shining even though it was bitterly cold again. After a bit of a local driving tour, Patricia kindly got Elliot and myself to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport by 2.15pm, and it didn’t take long to check-in and get through security, probably no more than 15 minutes. I was able to take Elliot into the Air France lounge as my guest, and we had a couple of beers whilst watching pallets of cargo being loaded onto our KLM plane right outside the large picture windows.

Upon boarding the plane we headed separate ways, as we didn’t have seats together. Soon after I got to my pre-booked seat, an airline (though not KLM) employee came along with a boarding pass for my seat. I hoped this would mean an upgrade for me… but my hopes were soon dashed when I got given a boarding pass further back in the economy cabin. However, it was an aisle seat with legroom so I couldn’t complain too much, it could have been worse. I ended up just 3 rows in front of Elliot! The meal service was pretty slow, my pasta was barely heated through, my small carton of orange juice was frozen solid and the stewardess attending our part of the cabin somewhat forgetful. The movie was Ben Stiller in "Night at the Museum", and happily I wasn’t watching it as such as part of the way through the video stopped, and was started again a few minutes later but from the very beginning. Service-wise this really wasn’t one of KLM’s better flights. I tried to sleep, but didn’t feel like I even dozed though this is normal for me and flying.

Monday 5 Mar

We landed at Amsterdam just before 7am local time, though it was still only midnight back in Chicago. Elliot and I killed some time in the KLM lounge, drinking proper coffee to help stay awake. I caught up with the weekend football results in a British newspaper, and happily I discovered that my team had won on Saturday! We said our goodbyes after an hour or so, as Elliot’s flight to Aberdeen was about an hour earlier than mine to Manchester. My flight was uneventful and landed at partly sunny Manchester at 10.30am. I got my luggage, got my car and was back in Leeds around 12.30pm, and so ended a 12 day marathon. It had been tiring, and the intestinal bug I caught in California was no fun at all, but I'd seen some nice shows and seen many friends.

As ever, Thanks!

Thanks are always due after every trip, or in this case, two trips. Many thanks to Victoria for everything in California once again. And thanks to Patricia for her hospitality in Chicago. Thanks also to the many friends I met during both trips, and as ever, particular thanks to the band, Carla, Jon, Colin and the crew.

Kim Gisborne, Leeds, England.

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