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Another short weekend trip and another couple of shows. After a week of heavy rain at home in England (typical British summer!), it was nice to look forward to a few days in the Midwest where, in mid-August it’s usually hot and sunny. I say "usually" because Chicagoland had been having rain and cool temperatures too, and it was dull, damp and cool when I flew into Chicago O’Hare on the afternoon of Thursday 12th August from Manchester. Nothing very exciting about my journey, other than having left home at 6.15am to start my trip, so I’ll spare you the boring details! Oh, and apart from the fact that I saw "Shrek 2" on the little seatback screen in front of me, definitely worth watching and my favourite Eddie Murphy movie! (Yes, I enjoyed it even more than Daddy Daycare!) :-) The first of the two weekend shows was the following day (Friday), but this time I chose to travel a day early so that it wasn’t a rush from the airport straight to the show and I didn’t risk falling asleep before Cheap Trick took to the stage!

Friday 13 August - Chicago

Hmmm… Friday 13th? Well, the weather started warm and bright so hopefully there would be nothing unlucky about the day! Patricia, Stacey (one of Pat’s work colleagues) and I left the north Chicago ‘burbs around 12.30pm to drive downtown. We hit heavy traffic en route but eventually made it to Navy Pier where we finally found a parking spot after going round and up and round and up and round and up in the garage! We took a free trolley bus back to downtown to have lunch at the Hard Rock Café and do a little shopping before having to walk back to Navy Pier.

After dropping off shopping at the car, it was now 4.15pm and so we headed to the Skyline Stage, close to the ferris wheel on the pier. As we approached the outdoor theatre, I could hear music… live music… and finally realised it was Rick singing/playing the MC5 song "Rambling Rose"! We ran into some friends who said that they’d just heard the band soundcheck with "Oh Caroline" and then Rick doing some of "Rambling Rose". Soon after soundcheck ended, Rick received a new guitar… another Hamer 5 neck but with a light oak-type wood body. I believe this was stood to the side of the stage for the show later (and the following night in Oshkosh) but not played as it needed tuning.

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The next couple of hours or so were spent hanging around on the crowded pier, meeting friends as they arrived and wandering to find ice cream! Despite being on the lake, it was hot and sunny and the few threatening dark clouds that appeared mid-afternoon had disappeared. It was good (as always) to meet many friends, including all of the usual Chicagoland faces plus others from Japan, Texas, California, New York, Carolina, Colorado and Kentucky.

The venue was really nice and it was my first time attending a show here (though I’d seen Cheap Trick headline the New Years Eve show at the ballroom at the end of the pier in 2001). The Skyline Stage was outdoors though the stage and seating were covered by a white roof. The banked seating was all red and the large stage was flanked with deep red curtains.

At 7.30pm The Damnwells came on to play a short but nice 25 minute set. I’d seen them open for Cheap Trick in Texas last November and I’d liked them then. At one point the singer jokingly announced "Hey everybody… we’re Cheap Trick!" to the sadly small number of people who’d chosen to sit early. Quite a lot of people milled around outside of the seating area until close to Cheap Trick time.

Second on the bill was Jesse Malin, and he and his band sounded good and went down well. They came on at 8.15pm, overran their 30 minute slot by 3 minutes, and their set included covers of Neil Young’s "Helpless" and Elvis Costello’s "Olivers Army". A fun sounding set.

The crowd now swarmed in and the sell out crowd were pretty much all in their seats by the time Cheap Trick came on at 9.17pm. The evening was still warm and dry, and there wasn't the expected cool breeze off the Lake… in other words, a perfect evening for an outdoor concert!

RN – Black "Piece" t-shirt, black jacket, black trousers

RZ – White suit, white shirt, black tie, black hat

TP – Black suit, green shirt

BC – Black t-shirt, black jeans

On Top of the World, ELO Kiddies, I Can’t Take It, Taxman Mr Thief, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, Woke Up With A Monster, Tonight Its You, Fan Club, California Man, The Flame, 70’s Song, Surrender  // Scent Of A Woman, Dream Police, Auf Weidersehen

After the first few songs it became apparent that the band were playing the wonderful London setlist from a few weeks ago!

Robin got off to a bad start, finding his mic wasn’t working for the first couple of lines of "On Top of the World" which caused him to look quizzically at Rick, but then sound was restored and he continued flawlessly. After "ELO Kiddies" Rick wished a happy birthday to one of his friends in the crowd… and then wished a happy birthday to anyone else with a birthday in the next year! "Taxman" was introduced as "this next song has been haunting us for many, many years", and as usual, "Best Friend" saw the whole band in top gear with manic guitar from Rick, manic drumming from Bun, screaming vocals from Robin and thumping bass by Tom. Boy, Robin’s larynx must hurt after that one! "I Want You to Want Me" saw Rick have to do a quick guitar change during the intro as his guitar sounded out of tune, ouch. After that song, Rick pointed out fans from many places, including two guys called Jeff "who are both dating the Governor of New Jersey!" (reference to said Governor having just publicly admitted to a gay affair). Rick was certainly in the mood to point out people as he then spotted regular Trick photographers Mike Graham and Paul Natkin, and then went on to introduce the band. The next song was given a long introduction as "People have asked why we don’t play anything from the Woke Up With a Monster Album… its because no one heard the Woke Up With a Monster album! But we’re going to play something from "Woke Up With a Monster"… which turned out to be the title track, "Woke Up…", yeah, you can guess the rest! "Rick wound that song up by stating "So now you’ve all heard a song from Woke Up With a Monster, sort of a Chicago ballad!" Hmm, I thought that label went to "The Ballad of TV Violence"?

After a short band meet-up by one of Tom’s Vox amps, the band resumed with "Tonight Its You", during which Rick threw out a handful of picks from a small dish on his steps. I later heard that these were yet another new design, white pearlised and with the logo of Chicago’s "Piece" restaurant (in which Rick has an interest) on the reverse. After the song Rick pointed out yet more people, including a big roadie sidestage who’d worked with the band in their early days and since. "He was our bodyguard… but he killed too many of our fans!"

After "California Man", Tom threw a big bass note before Rick continued with his topical humour, this time with a "Knock Knock"… "Who’s there?"… "Little Boy Blue… Michael Jackson"! Ouch! He then introduced the next song by saying "Thanks for making this #1… even if you weren’t born yet!" And during "The Flame" Rick strummed his guitar with a piece of card-backed sheet music that a fan handed up to him, using it like a giant pick.

The well received show ended at 10.47pm and we’d seen a great performance. As ever, many fans stayed inside the venue catching up with others or hunting for elusive guitar picks until security cleared the place. We walked out onto the pier, somewhat less crowded now, but certainly a spectacular sight with the ferris wheel brightly lit up against the wonderful night-time backdrop of the illuminated downtown skyline. A few of us decided to have a quick drink/snack before leaving so we went into a nearby bar for an hour. We left the Pier around midnight, most people driving home or to nearby hotels to grab a few hours of sleep before the long drive up into Wisconsin. However, Jimmy from Carolina, who seems to require no sleep (!) was threatening to drive straight up to Oshkosh as he was awake and didn’t have the burden of a booked hotel room. Pat, Stacey and I drove to north Chicago and it was nice to fall asleep a little before 1am.

Saturday 14 August – Oshkosh (B'gosh!), Wisconsin

The day dawned hot and sunny, and we left the north Chicago suburbs at 9.40am for the 160 mile drive up to Oshkosh in Wisconsin. We reached the Winnebago County Fair on the north side of town around 12.30pm. Typical Americana, it was a small local fair, with the $9 entrance covering unlimited rides on the somewhat modest midway as well as admission to see Cheap Trick later. It certainly wasn't crowded as we walked through the agricultural exhibits, rides, stalls and food outlets to find the venue for the evening's show.

The venue certainly highlighted the radically different places that a working band like Cheap Trick play. Whereas yesterday was a smart and classy city venue, today's was a small stage on a sun baked red-dirt racetrack in front of a modest grandstand. And there was a high wire fence between the grandstand and track, with the stage another 20 yards away on the inside of the track.

A few fans were already seated at a picnic table when we arrived, and we sat and chatted (and some went off to ride the midway) before being ushered out to get in line at the main grandstand entrance at 3.30pm. It was certainly very hot and sunny, and cold drinks were definitely the order of the day. Oh, and being Wisconsin, no County Fair visit was complete without a tray of deep fried cheese curds! Yum! Though I somehow missed out on an artery busting funnel cake… hmmmm. Next time.

For the next couple of hours the fans in line were "entertained" by live music from the nearby beer tent, which also boasted a karaoke stage! Gosh, did we hear some odd versions of well known songs! Thankfully I forget what songs we heard massacred… the brain does try to bury shocking memories so they say.

The gates were opened late in the afternoon, which was the cue for a race of Olympic proportions. Fans ran in, but because of the high fence that ran in front of the length of the grandstand, they had to run right (or left) for about 70 yards to the end of the fence and then double back on the hard dirt racetrack towards the front of the stage. Bizarrely, two lines of yellow tape had been taped from the front stage barrier back to the fencing. One was to stage right, the other to stage left, and they seemed to cordon off the front stage area altogether. I had seen earlier that the tape was above power cables running to the stage area, so presumably were to warn of those? Whatever, the first few fans leapt over the tape to claim their prime front stage spots, and when one man stumbled into the tape on Tom's side and brought it down… well… that was the end of any doubts about whether to cross the line!

It was still very hot and the sun was still fairly high in a cloudless, deep blue sky. The drinks stalls some 20 yards to either side of the stage did good business I think. The backstage area was protected only by the extra-wide, front line of the stage barrier, and it was somewhat bizarre to see this stage, crowd and a few trucks literally in the middle of a huge, empty dirt oval! One of my odder CT show experiences I think. The crowd was embarrassingly sparse at 6.30pm, but an hour later the grandstand was 3/4 full and the area in front of the stage had people right back to the fence to give a respectable crowd.

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Anyway, Cheap Trick arrived half an hour before the show and took to the stage at 7.30pm. The sun was still shining off to Rick's right as Bun E sat down and played his usual few warm up beats…

RN – Red "Music Midtown Atlanta" t-shirt, black jacket, black trousers

RZ – Brown suit, white shirt, dark brown tie, black hat

TP – Black suit with ¾ length jacket, fuschia pink shirt, shades

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 Its You, Never Had a Lot to Lose, The Flame, 70’s Song, Surrender // Scent Of A Woman, Dream Police, Goodnight Now

After "Big Eyes" Rick announced that "We are not the Tractor Pull, we are Cheap Trick… although the Tractor Pull is pretty damn good!" He then did the usual introduction about that fine movie "Joe Dirt" before starting up "If You Want My Love". At the end of that song, Rick showed his new Les Paul, stating that it was new yesterday and that "after the show I'll smash it and everyone will get a piece of it!" (I did hear that it’s a "one of a kind" guitar, though I'm afraid I don't know exactly what is unique about it.) He then pointed out a sign in the crowd which proclaimed "You're My Obsession" which conveniently allowed Rick to intro the next song… "My Obsession". He actually broke a string at the start of the song and had to revert back to the Les Paul for the rest of the song.

After that song Rick pointed out a couple of guys off to the side who ran places in Green Bay where Cheap Trick had played in their early days. He then introduced the band, particularly pointing out that Robin had been born in Wisconsin… the place where you fart in the bath… Beloit! <spoken with a bubble sound… try it!>. Does Rick ever run out of witty lines? Actually, he was particularly chatty during tonights show, even more so than usual which is saying something!

By the time "I Want You to Want Me" ended, the sun had set and the air was getting chilly with a light breeze. We were actually just a mile or two away from Lake Winnebago, so maybe that's where the breeze came from. Anyway, the band got a great ovation after the song, prompting Rick to jokingly say that he wished the crowd were critics for the New York Times! "Actually, they like us" he corrected. He then pointed out fans from various places, including Reiko from Osaka, Japan. That started him into telling a story about Aerosmith's Steven Tyler falling off the stage once at a show in Osaka. "Were you there?" he asked Reiko… "I'll give you $10 if you pushed him" he joked! He wound up the joke by saying he'd heard it happened during "Walk This Way", and then he started the riff from that song! Bun joined in too, and Rick even screeched the first line… well, a first line of his own making, off the cuff! Definitely a fun moment! "We taught that to them" he then announced… "Aerosmith don't have to worry about a replacement for Steven…" he said as he preened… "I'm sexy and I've not been in sex rehab! I'm available to anyone… including the Governor of New Jersey!"

Back to the music and the band started up "She's Tight" followed by "Tonight Its You". The latter was very enthusiastically received which surprised me, I guess "Standing on the Edge" must have been a big album in Wisconsin! After "Lot to Lose" Rick announced that before the show they'd met the Fair Queen, the runner up and the Fairest of the Fair. During "The Flame" there were quite a few lighters held up in the crowd, and "That 70's Song" was rightfully introduced as having been "written about the great State of Wisconsin".

The show ended at 8.48pm, with the majority of the crowd streaming away to enjoy the bright lights of the fair and cheese curds, whilst the die-hard fans mingled at front stage and took group photographs. Despite some fans needing to drive back to Chicago that night, we agreed to get a quick, late evening meal before going our separate ways. One driver (who shall remain nameless… OK Cheryl?!) gave us clear and firm directions about how to reach the Perkins we'd agreed on… so we drove over the bridge over the interstate, took a left onto the frontage road… only to find it reach a dark dead end a mile away and within a few yards of the next junction! So, Pat and I ended up being the last to get to the restaurant, but we had a nice hour with seven CT friends before we all said our goodbyes. Pat and I drove north to our hotel in Appleton, before driving back to Chicago on a sunny Sunday morning. I had time to pack before I headed to Chicago O'Hare Airport and my overnight (and sleepless) flight to Manchester (and straight to the office, as usual!). Oh, and when my suitcase came onto the carousel at Manchester, I found that its handle was totally broken... that made it fun to get to the train, to work and then home on the bus. Thanks to BMI or the baggage handlers at O'Hare for that little end-of-trip bonus.


Many thanks as ever to Patricia for her warm hospitality and for driving all the way up to Wisconsin and back! And as always it was a real pleasure to meet so many friends from all over at the shows, there are too many of you to name individually but you know who you were! The fun of going to shows is as much in meeting friends as it is in enjoying the music! And last but definitely not least, thanks as ever to Cheap Trick, Carla and the crew. You rock!

Kim Gisborne, Leeds England – 19 August 2004


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