CHEAP TRICK ON TOUR WITH ALICE COOPER - COLORADO & NEW MEXICO, SEP 2005
Though slowing down at times for recording or well earned breaks, Cheap Trick's 30+ year touring odyssey continues relentlessly, this time with a month long run of Stateside shows with Alice Cooper from 20 August to 16 September. Because of work commitments, my opportunity to choose which shows to get to was extremely limited, but luckily I was able to fit in a weeks vacation to cover 4 of the joint shows, in Colorado and New Mexico. It had been 5 years since I'd last been to this area, so I was looking forward to returning and seeing a bit more. And believe it or not, I'd never seen Alice Cooper live, so this was to be an extra treat! The trip was to start off comfortably with two shows within easy travelling distance of Denver, followed by three off days. However, the last 3 days were going to be tough, with a lot of road miles to cover and tight timescales. It turned out to be a memorable trip, with four interesting shows, thunderstorms, mountains and a lot of asphalt. Anyway, let's start at the beginning, as always, early in the morning in sleepy Leeds, England
Sat 3 Sep - The journey out
well, I say sleepy because most normal people were still in bed at 5am when I got up! An overcast morning, I was out of my house at 6.30am, caught an early bus into Leeds city centre and onto a familiar train to Manchester Airport. Checking-in was fairly quick, but like at American airports, getting through the security/x-ray check took a while. Anyway, I eventually got to spend a little time in the Air France lounge before boarding my full Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta. Luckily I wasn't too bothered in the movies, as the video projector in the main cabin wasn't working I mostly sat and read a book. It was a long, tedious flight, and as usual I didn't get more than 20 minutes "sleep". But sometime during the 8¾ flight I got to thinking that this is what the band (and crew) have to endure for much of their working lives. The hassle of airports and security lines, sitting on planes (or tour buses) for hours on end, killing time and trying to keep occupied, night after night in anonymous hotel rooms Gosh, I'm increasingly finding travel a chore (though admittedly my flights are mostly long transatlantics), so I've no idea how the band members and their supporting cast manage to deal with this type of stuff, day after day after day.
Anyway, suffice to say I finally reached Atlanta, did the usual rush through to the Immigration hall and was once again admitted into the United States. I then had to hurry to get to the gate and get my connecting flight to Denver, but I made it and settled down on the warm aircraft (it was 90 degrees outside). Luckily this flight was only about a third full so I had some space to myself to stretch out. The flight from Atlanta to Denver took nearly 3 hours, but it was still just light in Colorado after 7pm as we approached. One strong memory from my last arrival here was of landing, looking out and just seeing miles of yellow grassland. Well this time I had a window seat and we made a circle around Denver Airport before coming in to land. This allowed me a fantastic view of the airport from above, and it is indeed situated in the middle of nowhere, with miles of empty brown land in every direction.
The plane landed as dusk set in, and happily I soon found that my suitcase had made it onto the same plane as me! Soon after, my regular West Coast travelling partner Victoria arrived! She'd had a long, two day drive from northern California, and I was again extremely grateful that she'd offered to share her road trip with me, though this time in a white rental car rather than her larger (but more gas consuming) Trickmobile! Certainly a sensible move, since we had a lot of mountain driving ahead, not to mention the increased price of gas due to the recent effects of Hurricane Katrina. We drove into Denver, our base for the next couple of nights, and cool to see from the highway that both Coors Field (Colorado Rockies baseball) and Ivesco Field (Denver Broncos football) brightly lit up in the night sky. It was a relief to reach our city centre hotel, park, check in and get our bags into the room. Before the trip I'd read conflicting visitor comments about the Adams Mark Hotel, but apart from its slightly confusing split site layout, I thought it fine. We had about the biggest hotel room I've ever stayed in!
Despite the usual long travel day, I wasn't quite ready for bed, so we wandered down the nearby 16th Street (outdoor) Mall and had a late meal in the impressive Hard Rock Café. This was one of the larger and nicer HRC's I've been in, though sadly no Cheap Trick items are to be found on display. But very friendly staff, particularly Anglophile Karyn in the merchandise shop! It was midnight by the time I got to bed, and by then I'd had a 26 hour day, so I was certainly ready for some sleep!
Sun 4 Sep - Cheap Trick at Loveland, Colorado
A gorgeous sunny morning in Denver, and after a filling breakfast buffet in the hotel (including a chef who made your omelette in front of you) we took a walk outside and through the "Taste of Colorado" festival being held in the nearby Civic Center Park in front of the State Capitol. This was very much the usual collection of shopping and food stalls that can be found at every large American Fair or Festival, all designed to entice you to part with your money! We did the full circle around the park, passing the stage where Foghat would be playing a free show that evening. Interestingly, Cheap Trick had played at this event 3-4 years ago.
Local CT friend Laura met us around lunchtime and briefly took us to look at the elegant Brown Palace Hotel with its cast iron atrium and stained glass roof. We then negotiated downtown Denver's one way system and eventually got onto I-25 for the 75 minute drive north to Loveland. The Harley Davidson dealership on the opposite side of the highway to the venue was very busy with bikers shopping and meeting up, and the parking lot of the Budweiser Arena was packed with bikes of every description, as well as various stalls. The long, Labor Day weekend event was titled "Thunder in the Rockies" and at times things were indeed loud - in the late afternoon with the sound of motorbikes revving up, and later on inside, with the sound of music! Whilst waiting to go in we met Denver based fan, Stacey.
The Budweiser Arena was an ice hockey arena, though not a huge one so it wasn't totally impersonal. The air conditioning inside was a pleasure after the 80+ degree heat outside. The large main floor had rows of seating, and all around were 20 rows of banked arena seating, with private boxes above that. The venue was a good 3/4 full by the time Cheap Trick took the stage at 7.30pm, and it was nice to hear Dave Ruhl's voice again introducing CT to the stage (Dave had been Rick's tech up to a couple of years ago, and was back temporarily for these shows though teching for Robin and Tom). "Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls Welcome to the stage the best f*cking band this town has ever seen CHEEEEEEEAP TRIIIIIIICK!!"
RN - Black suit, black "Bun E for President 2004"
Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Southern Girls, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, I Know What I want, Voices, Never Had a Lot to Lose, The Flame, 70's Song, Surrender // Dream Police, California Man, Goodnight Now
Victoria had been lucky enough to have got front row seats from Trick International's pre-sale, so we were right in front of Rick with a fantastic view of the stage. For Cheap Trick's opener, the multi logo was projected onto the stage backdrop, and for "Big Eyes" that changed to rotating black and white checkerboard.
After "Big Eyes" Rick announced "Just in case you're not sure we are in Colorado, and we are the one, the only, accept no substitutes Cheap Trick" which brought a cheer from the crowd. After "Southern Girls" Rick noted that the crowd was "a noisy bunch tonight I like that!" He also spotted someone on Tom's side about 10 rows back holding up a Fuse LP cover. He remarked that it was so old that "Thomas Edison played on that". I think Tom recognised the person as Megan. Rick also spotted Stacey from Denver's sign that this was her 123rd show, and then mentioned that the new CD should be out next year. He then introduced the next song as having 3 chords, E minor, C and A "so play along". The band then went into "Best Friend", as usual with its long, intense and frenzied second half. Wonderful stuff, and Rick broke a string towards the end, I'm not surprised.
"I Want You to Want Me" was the usual crowd pleaser, and the checkerboard design was back on the backdrop. After that, Rick chatted with the crowd "Did I mention that we're called Cheap Trick?" He added that he'd wandered around outside today, "Great looking bikes, also great looking women I have a Harley but I don't have a woman. But I do have a sidecar!" He went on "Actually, I have a Harley on order I've been waiting since the "In Color" album, when I got screwed!" He finished up by noting that "Alice is here, and is backstage doing something weird I wish we had a camera so you could see or maybe you shouldn't!" He then introduced Tom who sang "I Know What I Want".
After that song, he acknowledged "Harley riding Tom Petersson right there", before introducing "That living legend on the drums, Mr Bun E Carlos". Victoria and I tried to get the "Bun E" chant going, but no one joined in! Rick also introduced Robin, and also spotted AC/DC singer Brian Johnson's wife in the front row. Although enthusiastic, this was one of those shows where the crowd just didn't know the "cool voices, warm voices" part during "Voices", so Rick had zero success getting anything more than some ragged cheering when he tried to get some singing from the crowd! Rick was slightly late back on stage at the start of "Lot to Lose", and mouthed "I f*cked up!" At the end of the song he passed his guitar to a fan in the front, to the mild concern of his tech Jim. He then asked the crowd "Is this Loveland or Fort Collins? I'm confused. No, wait a minute its Budweiser, Colorado!" in recognition of the venue. Thinking about it, that was a little odd since we were surely in Coors country? Anyway, Rick pointed out a child in the front row, as well as saying hello to a man sidestage "who'd just got back from Iraq yesterday", which brought a warm response from the crowd.
That "70's Song" saw the multi logo and a swirling colour psychedelic background on the backdrop. The band had played a nice, energetic show, and it was no surprise that Rick twice got a big response to his encore question "Does that mean you want to hear some more?" During "Dream Police" Rick almost kicked his mic stand over, though it came to rest leaning against his steps. Towards the end he lay sideways on his steps to sing into it, and messed with one of the techs who ran on late song to try to right it. "California Man" saw the checkerboard pattern on the backdrop, and the band finished their well received set at 8.41pm.
Well, we'd got a good performance from the band, with another 90 minutes to come from Alice Cooper. Cheap Tricks kit and backline was quickly removed and the stage set up for Alice, with the drumkit on a raised rear stage level. There was also an intriguing empty coffin standing up in front of the raised level on what would be Tom's side of the stage, and at the back of Rick's side could be seen an angel of death high up on something. Hmmm, interesting stuff. I am ashamed to admit that I've never seen Alice before, though I've liked most of his singles. I know he puts on a very theatrical, so-called "shock rock" show, and I'd heard enough from the early shows on this tour to look forward very much to what I was about to see.
Warning: For any fans due to see Alice's show later in the year in the UK or elsewhere, you might wish to skip the next few paragraphs as they'll be a spoiler for you!
The lights went down at 9.15pm, and some taped organ intro music from "Phantom of the Opera" was played, pierced by a loud woman's scream. And then the lights went up, and Alice's young looking but very competent band started up, with Alice soon appearing from a cloud of dry ice beside the drumkit. I didn't take notes like I do during Cheap Trick's set, so I can't/won't go into as much detail as I would for CT. But for Alice afficienados, his set list was as follows:
Phantom of the Opera (intro tape), Department of Youth
(part), No More Mr Nice Guy, Dirty Diamonds, Billion Dollar Babies, Be My Lover, Lost in
America, I Never Cry, Woman of Mass Distraction, Eighteen, Between High School and Old
School, Sunset Babies, Is It My Body, Go to Hell, Black Widow Jam (incl drum solo), Gimme,
Feed My Frankenstein, Welcome To My Nightmare, (Taped intro), "The Piece"
(included The Awakening, Steven, Only Women Bleed, Steven, Ballad of Dwight Fry, Killer),
I Love The dead (band vocal only), Schools Out // Poison, Wish I Were Born in Beverley
Hills, Under My Wheels
From the start it was clear that Alice's set was music theatre. Just like Rick and to a lesser extent Robin, Alice had his stage moves and expressions to match a lyric. He also made a point of whipping up the crowd by occasionally throwing things into the crowd - his black cane (during, I think "No More Mr Nice Guy"), strings of silver beads during "Dirty Diamonds", green AC banknotes off his sabre during "Billion Dollar Babies" and another cane during "Schools Out". The show was very impressive (at least in my opinion, though perhaps I'm easily amused ) and Alice was literally moving all the time. His daughter came on stage 3-4 times during different songs to help act out a particular song, and for one ("Welcome to My Nightmare"), Alice had his large albino python on his shoulders. I really dislike snakes, but I will admit that this was a beautiful reptile, obviously used to being part of a loud show, and Alice handled it expertly whilst singing. The centrepiece of the show was preceded by a 4-5 minute drum solo by ex-KISS drummer Eric Singer. Alice and the band returned, and played a number of songs that loosely told a story of insanity and murder, culminating in two night creatures coming on and seizing Alice, and laying him in the guillotine where he was to pay for his crimes (the guillotine having been wheeled on, and it was that which featured the angel of death high atop). The audience was whipped up by Alice's daughter, the night creatures and his band, and I have to say I was a little surprised to see a few young children at this and subsequent shows witnessing this mock beheading. Or maybe I'm just an old fart. Anyway, Alice duly had his head "removed" and his daughter (in character) paraded it on stage before putting it into the coffin, atop a number of other body parts that Alice had earlier assembled there. Soon after the music stopped, bright lights highlighted the coffin which was cloaked in dry ice and Alice strode out (complete with head!) wearing a blood stained white suit to the familiar opening chords of "Schools Out" for the set closer. The encore included "Poison" and "Under My Wheels", and then it was over.
Phew! Talk about a performance of music theatre! I really enjoyed Alice's set, and we'd really had our money's worth in getting to see a full set of tight musicianship from Cheap Trick plus the theatre of Alice Cooper. Over past years I've enjoyed seeing Cheap Trick with a number of other bands, but this truly was a terrific double bill. I've later read some people saying that Alice left them cold and they'd left a show early, and everyone's opinion is valid. Speaking for myself, this was a great joint show.
The show ended at 10.45pm and as ever it took awhile to get out of the parking lot. We followed somewhat suspect direction signs back to the Interstate, but we eventually got on and headed south back to Denver. One show down and three more to look forward to!
Mon 5 Sep - Cheap Trick at Pueblo, Colorado
Like last night I had another somewhat broken night of sleep, waking up for awhile around 4am. Hmmm, maybe its the altitude? Anyway, another bright and sunny day, and we were soon heading south down to Colorado Springs. Once there, we went and drove around the bizarre yet striking "Garden of the Gods", featuring fantastic red slabs of sandstone standing high and dwarfing vehicles and people. And this too was in the shadow of nearby Pikes Peak, which had inspired the writer of "America the Beautiful". We later checked into our hotel and headed on south in the hot afternoon sun to Pueblo. It was an odd place, downtown (well, what we passed by on the northern side) was empty and somewhat shabby, and the State Fairgrounds were a further 4-5 miles away. We managed to pay and park near a Gate and went in to find that the venue for the show was right on the other side of the Fairgrounds. <sigh>. The place was packed, and was typical of any large American fair.
A long line was already in place at the entrance to the rodeo arena, and in the hot late-afternoon sun, they were getting agitated as the minutes ticked by the 6pm entrance time. Finally at 6.15pm people were allowed in. In total contrast to last nights indoor arena, this was outside, with a large stage set up on one side of the rodeo arena and facing the grandstand on the opposite side. Many people opted to take their seats in the shade of the grandstand, though a lot walked or ran onto the dusty rodeo ring and stood in front of the stage. I should mention that the stage was pretty high, at least a dozen feet off the ground, so the crowd barrier to the front was quite a way from stage front otherwise those at the front just wouldn't be able to see anything! As it was it was still a neck-craner. There was also a big screen off to Tom's side of the stage. By the time Victoria and I got in, the front was pretty packed, but we managed to get a spot way off beyond Rick's side. We were on the barrier, so had a clear but somewhat restricted view, and I wouldn't see Bun and would barely see Tom. Waiting for the show was hot business, and not helped by the numerous flies buzzing around the rodeo ring and nearby livestock pens.
We had 3 relaxed security guards near us as they waited to take their positions when the show began, and there was a funny moment about 15 minutes before Cheap Trick came on. We could clearly hear one of the guards walkie-talkie's, and his colleague at the entrance gate buzzed through to share a piece of news with his colleagues - "I just stopped a guy coming in he had a 15 foot snake that he wants to give to Alice Cooper"! Absolutely true! I felt like leaning over to tell the guard that Alice has already got one
Cheap Trick came on at 7pm with the stage still bathed in early evening sunshine. There was by now a sizeable crowd in the rodeo ring in front of the stage, as well as a lot of people in the 1500-200 seat grandstand opposite.
RN - Black suit, black Piece t-shirt
Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Southern Girls, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, I Know What I Want, Voices, Never Had a Lot to Lose, The Flame, 70's Song, Surrender // Dream Police, California Man, Goodnight Now
I felt a few rain drops during "Big Eyes", but luckily they were isolated and it remained dry for the evening. I already mentioned the large pit in front of the stage, manned by about half a dozen security guards. Well, Rick was having to work to flick picks into the crowd, and the guards were frequently called by fans at the front to find (as night was falling) a pick that had fallen into the dirt of the pit. God help them when Rick throws out handfuls of picks during "Dream Police"!
Rick gave his usual spiel after "Big Eyes" reminding the crowd that they were watching Cheap Trick, and he got a big cheer when he added that it was a pleasure to be in Pueblo! He introduced the next song "If You Want My Love" by stating that he'd watched this great movie 300 times "well, I watched the ending 300 times!" There was another cheer as he mentioned this song was featured in "Joe Dirt".
After "Southern Girls" Rick had changed guitar to the v-neck he'd acquired in Reno last month, but told the crowd "Last time I was in Pueblo I bought this guitar!" They cheered, he added "I'm kidding". He then pointed out that Robin was playing a 63 Gibson Firebird (Robin held it up) and that Tom was playing a TP model Waterstone bass. He then did the usual "3 chord" introduction for "Best Friend", noting that there are lots of musicians in the crowd so play along. He also added to a well endowed lady near me (wearing a low cut top) that "I'd like to play your bongo's". Funny, I didn't see her carrying any musical instruments From our resticted viewing position, I could see that Robin was very animated during this song (the big screen helped too), and the song rocked hard as usual. At the end Rick held up 3 fingers to signify the 3 chords.
"I Want You to Want Me" was the big crowd pleaser as usual, the crowd went nuts. Afterwards Rick noted the "fine looking crowd here tonight". He acknowledged the people in the grandstand opposite, it took about 12 seconds for their cheer to be heard in return. He announced that members of Rob Zombie were here tonight, Tommy (drummer Tommy Clufetos). He also added that Eric Singer was sidestage, and he's got all of KISS with him but you can't tell who they are without make-up! That brought a big cheer, and I actually heard someone close by say to his friend "Cool, I hope they all come out"! He introduced one or two others before introducing Tom for "I Know What I Want".
At the start of the guitar solo during "Voices", Rick almost tripped over something at stage front centre, and later in the show he made special efforts to avoid those cables or whatever it was. Cool to see Eric Singer and other members of Alice's band sidestage watching during "Lot to Lose", after which Rick pointed out a disconnected wire at the front for a tech to fix. It may have been what he almost tripped over. Whilst that was being done, Rick announced that "I almost fell into the pit, which is not part of our show though it might be kinda cool!" He then pointed out tech Dave Ruhl who was doing the repair, noting that he was fresh off the Phil Collins tour and also the Rolling Stones tour (and Dave has indeed worked with those artists). Rick finished off by saying "I saw Alice earlier stange things are going on backstage!"
"The Flame" saw many lighters held aloft in the crowd, and indeed the whole set was well received by the enthusiastic crowd. Lots of people were obviously there mainly to see Alice - the black eye make-up was a bit of a give away - but even they were enjoying Cheap Trick's show. "Dream Police" was indeed the busy time for the pit security guys that I'd predicted! They spent the whole song and beyond trying to find picks in the dirt to give to the numerous hands from the crowd. "Goodnight Now" saw 3 endings, and the show ended at 8.10pm.
By now it had cooled a bit, though it was still warm. However, it had been a bit hard standing in the dust looking up and sideways onto the stage, and we decided to relinquish our positions and go sit in the grandstand for Alice. We had a fine view of the stage, though it was a long way away! We'd certainly been spoiled by being front row last night, and much as I enjoyed Alice's show tonight, I couldn't help feeling disassociated from it because of the distance. Ah well, there's still two more shows to go. Alice's show was the same as last night, and it finished at 10.15pm. Again there was no joint encore with Cheap Trick (none of the shows I went to featured the joint encore) though as we left the rodeo arena we were surprised to see a firework display take place for 2-3 minutes over the arena. I felt for the animals in pens nearby, enduring the loud bangs and so on. Anyway, we got to the car, took awhile to get out, turn around back the way we came and we managed to find our way back to the Interstate and head north to Colorado Springs. Another late night to bed.
Tues 6 - Thurs 8 Sep - Non-show days
The band were heading out to play another date with Alice over in Topeka, Kansas on Wednesday night. But that's a long, long drive, and we'd decided in advance to skip it and instead do some sightseeing. After all, we'd be doing enough driving in the last couple of days of the trip.
On the Tuesday morning we went to Manitou Springs, had a BBQ in a great place (Charlies BBQ Pit in case anyone visits there) and experienced a thunderstorm and 30 minute torrential downpour. We headed back up Denver way in the afternoon, but couldn't visit Red Rocks as John Cougar Mellencamp was playing that night. We headed on up to Boulder where we'd decided to stay for 1-2 nights, Victoria getting a good deal on Priceline! On our way we passed by the town of Golden, home of the giant Coors Brewery. The approach to Boulder was spectacular, as it is flanked on one side by the Flatiron Mountains. We later met up with Trick-friend Laura and ate in a nice Asian restaurant near Pearl Street. From our time in Boulder and the limited amount we saw there, I liked it a lot. It has a very relaxed feel, yet it was lively and cosmopolitan as befits a University town. It had a feel a little like Madison, Wisconsin (which is another of the well known, liberal University cities) though Boulder felt even more comfortable. Its a kooky place too, "25 square miles surrounded by reality" they say. But I liked it, it felt like a cool place to spend time.
Wednesday was another beautiful day, which saw us drive east through winding, mountainous roads, and ending up in the bizarre little town of Nederland. I had no idea that this was the home of the weird "Frozen Dead Guy Days" Festival, and where an old, frozen dead guy is indeed in cold storage having been cryogenically frozen! Look it up on the internet, it's true!
We continued driving on through climbing roads surrounded by miles of sweeping forest, then turning a corner and getting a view of mountain peaks in the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove through some spectacular mountain scenery, and I was glad that this trip (unlike my last time in Colorado) had allowed some time to actually see some of the Rocky Mountains area. We didn't have time to drive into the National Park, but late afternoon saw us head back towards Boulder. Early evening saw us back up at the outdoor "Pearl Street Mall", which is several pedestrianised blocks containing trees and metal sculptures and unusual children's play areas. It was really nicely done. We had another pleasant meal with Laura before heading back to the hotel to pack for tomorrows journey west.
Thursday saw us up and out by 10am, and it was another warm day though with some high cloud. We headed back towards Denver, but went straight to Red Rocks. This time we could go in, and it's free! The approach is cool, giants slabs of red sandstone which you drive through, onwards and upwards towards the amphitheatre and visitors centre. Once there, the actual amphitheatre is an amazing sight. It slopes downwards to the stage, flanked by two enormous slabs of the same red sandstone, and there's another behind the stage. Loading in and out for concerts must be logistically interesting, and we'd actually seen a loading bay about a mile away near the Park shop. And standing to the rear of the amphitheatre, you can see the skyscrapers of downtown Denver far off in the distance behind the stage. We were thinking how cool it would have been if the Cheap Trick/Alice Cooper show could have come here, and speculating whether Cheap Trick had ever been here. Well, that question was answered down in the small Visitors Centre, as there is a walk-through "Wall of Fame" which lists every show held at Red Rocks going back to the 1920's or 30's. And there it was, Cheap Trick had played here on August 15th, 1979!
We left Red Rocks over lunchtime and headed west on I-70, into the Rockies. The scenery became more spectacular with each passing mile, as we passed through valleys surrounded by high mountains covered with spruce and Ponderosa pines. We hit some rain squalls but there was no snow around. I can only guess how breathtaking it must be to drive in this area in the winter, with the mountain peaks and hillsides covered in snow. And at one point the road reached 12,000 ft above sea level. We had a short 15 mile side trip to the ski resort of Breckenridge where we stopped for late lunch, and it had some pretty, brightly coloured buildings along the main street. Oh, and at the exit off the Interstate for Breckenridge (as well as at a handful of other places in Colorado) we actually came across a small roundabout in the road, which is very un-American (at least in my experience!) I've only seen two or three others in my travels across America. Anyway, we were soon back on I-70, continuing to drive past rolling mountains as well as jagged peaks, and we also passed the famous ski resort of Vail which surprised me by being right by the Interstate rather than in some valley miles away. We left behind the most impressive mountain scenery soon after Vail, though as we were approaching Glenwood Springs we started going downhill and we went through about a dozen miles of the most spectacular rocky canyon (Glenwood Canyon) you could imagine. It just kept going on and on, ever downwards with steep rocky walls on either side. We dropped around 6,000 feet in those 12 or so miles. For those British readers who may be familiar with Cheddar Gorge near my West Country birthplace, then imagine that magnified by, oh, a thousand times! We eventually reached the small spa town of Glenwood Springs and reached our hotel just before another heavy thunderstorm hit.
Fri 9 Sep - Cheap Trick at Grand Junction, Colorado
Back onto the concert trail, though Glenwood Springs was only about 100 miles from the venue for tonight's show, so we had time for a little more sightseeing before we needed to get there. The morning was partially cloudy and there were thunderstorms threatened for later in the day. Hmmm. Anyway, we headed south east for a short visit to the famous resort of Aspen. We eventually found the John Denver Sanctuary/memorial in one of the parks, though right as we got there it started raining. The thunderstorm was in full force as we had a short drive around the downtown, and every store looked expensive! No chance of walking around at all as the heavens had opened and the rain was nearly torrential. We headed back up to I-70 and west towards Grand Junction, leaving the rain behind for awhile. The scenery was a little more sedate, with the mountains behind us we were now getting into colourful mesa country, though some of these were just as impressive as the earlier granite mountains. However, as we approached Grand Junction and beyond, the sky was somewhat ominous, with heavy, dark skies somewhere ahead plus another wave of dark cloud coming in from behind us.
The venue for tonight's show was actually about 20 miles beyond the city of Grand Junction, not far from the Utah state line. It was right by the junction for some place called Mack, and we could see the venue clearly as we exited. The event was "Rock Jam", a weekend outdoor Festival where most people were encouraged to bring camping gear to stay for the duration. The ticket prices were high, with those paying $275 for a full weekend VIP pass getting the prime front stage seats. For those like us who only wanted to see one evening's entertainment, our $50 one-night GA ticket allowed us no closer than maybe 100 yards from the stage at best. By the time we'd parked in a nearby grassy field and walked in, the GA area was already full of people in lawn chairs or on blankets.
The venue was basically a very huge ranch field, with lots of stalls and food/drink places around the sides (and several beer tents in the middle too). In front of the stage was a large seated area which was fenced off to prevent unauthorised entry, and this area was reserved for the $275 VIP and $115 two-day ticket holders. And back beyond the reserved seating was the field, which was the GA area. Helpfully, some way off to the left of the stage (Rick's side) was a big screen, which was necessary for the GA folks to see what was happening on stage.
We got there a little before 5.30pm, and expected to hear Loverboy already playing, but a sign on the big screen announced a rain delay, but that each of the three bands (Loverboy, Cheap Trick and Alice Cooper) would still play their full sets. Well, it wasn't raining at that time but with dark, heavy clouds moving in, there were obviously strong concerns. And sure enough, around 6.30pm the heavens opened and the venue was deluged with heavy rain as lightning flashed nearby. Luckily Victoria and I managed to get into a nearby tent, rather than have to go all the way back to the car for shelter. It probably rained hard for 20 minutes or so, and by now I couldn't see every band doing a full set, no way. And amazingly, there were people who'd stayed sat out in the thunderstorm rather than risk losing their GA spots.
Just before 7pm we ventured back out into the long, squelching grass, and the place was becoming muddier by the minute with the huge crowd. We managed to get a spot with a reasonable eyeline to the stage, though we were probably 130 yards from the stage. Thank heavens for the big screen! Loverboy eventually took to the stage at 7.20pm as the sun was setting in the now clearing sky, and they played only 45 minutes. Well, to be honest that was about 42 minutes too long for me, I just didn't enjoy them. I'd last seen them open for CT about 10 years ago, and I didn't much like them then as I recall. Oh well. After Loverboy, some local radio people came onto the stage and auctioned off various items whilst the crews were frantically trying to set up the stage around them. Meet'n'greets with Loverboy and Alice Cooper were sold off (Alice's went for over $500 as I recall), and a Cheap Trick signed guitar went for $1100! Proceeds went to charity so kudos to the buyers.
Cheap Trick took to the stage at 8.30pm to the Dave Ruhl intro.
RN - Black suit, black t-shirt
Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, I Want You to Want Me, Never Had a Lot to Lose, The Flame, 70's Song, Surrender // Dream Police, California Man, Goodnight Now
The band were warmly welcomed to the stage by a large and enthusiastic crowd of several thousand. As usual, after "Big Eyes" Rick reminded the crowd that they watching "the one, the only, accept no substitutes Cheap Trick". After "I Want You to Want Me" Rick briefly played the crowd, getting them to cheer louder then quieter, before announcing that "it's our pleasure to be here today". He than asked for some audience participation during "Never Had a Lot to Lose", saying "you've got to go O - O". There was a slight inkling of what was to come, as I heard some crackling through the giant speakers at the start of "The Flame". About halfway the song through I noticed somebody in a white shirt just behind Robin, who then went back off sidestage, but I was much to far away to see who it was. But moments later there was a loud and nasty crackle from the speakers, Robin visibly flinched clutching his in-ear monitor, and the band stopped dead. Robin looked sidestage, and whilst the tech's there tried to work out what had happened, Rick strode up to the mic to state wryly that "this was the first time something has gone wrong during a Cheap Trick show". He added that "We played Indy last night, and I think some of our equipment must still be over Ohio". Well, obviously some water had leaked into the wiring somewhere, but the band soon proceeded to pick up the song from halfway during verse 2. From knowing the setlist at earlier shows, it was obvious that several songs had been cut in order to get the nights schedule back on track, and CT's main set finished at 9.06pm. They were quickly back on for the encore, but another technical gremlin made the sound cut out during Robin's opening line of "Dream Police". This was definitely not a good night, and though the sky was clear above us, there were lightning flashes in the distance throughout CT's set. The band restarted "Dream Police" from the top, and made it through without any further technical hitches. It felt like the encore songs were played slightly fast too, in order to get the set closed for the stage changeover. "Goodnight Now" saw just the one extra ending, and the 47 minute set was over at 9.17pm.
Well, we stayed on to see some of Alice's set, which started five minutes early at 9.55pm. Interesting to see drummer Eric Singer was replaced by a very flamboyant, bearded and bare chested drummer who I later heard was Tommy Clufetos from Rob Zombie's band (and who also drummed on Alice's "Dirty Diamonds" CD). I also later heard that Singer was away doing a KISS show. Anyway, we stayed for about 25 minutes before squelching back to the car through wet grass and patches of wet, slippery mud. Lovely. Whilst walking and then slowly driving out back to the highway, we heard another 3-4 of Alice's set, which seemed to be going fine. I heard next day that there had later been some technical disruption for half a song, again due to water getting where it shouldn't.
We managed to get served in a MacDonalds on the edge of Grand Junction, and we were lucky to be just about the last customers before they closed. It was another hour before we reached our hotel in Montrose, some 50 miles south of Grand Junction, and it was good to quickly get to bed around 12.45am.
Sat 10 Sep - Cheap Trick in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Well, it was the last full day of the trip, and unbelievable to think that I'd been here a week already. The morning was sunny and we left Montrose around 9.40am and headed south on 550. The landscape, which I hadn't seen on our late night drive down here, was sweeping with a few mesa's in the distance, but we started seeing distant mountains long before we reached Ouray and the San Juan National Park. Ouray was a pretty town with a very wide main boulevard flanked by Victorian buildings, and surrounded on all sides by high mountain walls. It was certainly an impressive sight, but it was as you left town heading south that the fun starts. The road started to climb steeply, with hard switchbacks giving spectacular views of the valley and town below. A sign proclaimed Ouray to be "The Switzerland of America" and they weren't kidding. The sheer mountainsides and valleys were breathtaking, though very hard on the driver. This 30 mile stretch of climbing, ever-winding two-lane road was something of a nightmare to negotiate, particularly with sheer walls of granite on one side and sheer drops on the other and there were no safety barriers. I didn't realise that we were driving on the "Million Dollar Highway" which is reputedly one of the most spectacular drives in north America. At the highest point we reached 11,000 feet before zig-zagging down into a deep, lush alpine valley between the mountains, and to the small town of Silverton. But the respite was short lived, as 550 continued south and rose back up into the mountains again, twisting hard and turning upon itself as we climbed back up the few thousand feet we'd just lost, the road again reaching almost 11,000 at its highest level. However, after about another 20 miles the road difficulty eased and we were soon able to breath again (well, as best we could in the high altitude) and we could let the white knuckles ease back to pink. Bravo to Victoria for her driving on that scary 50 miles. But it had still been a visually spectacular ride nonetheless.
We soon passed through Durango, and then continued on south into New Mexico and through flat plains of scrub, punctuated by the occasional, brightly layered mesa in the distance. It was a marked contrast to the mountains we'd just left behind. At some point we crossed the Continental Divide, and I knew when we were approaching Albuquerque from quite a long way away, as I recognised the huge Sandia Peak which stands to the east of that city.
We reached the busy New Mexico State Fairgrounds at around 7pm, parked up and went in to find the venue. Luckily it was on the side of the Fairgrounds that we had parked. It was very warm and sultry outside, but happily the show was being held in the indoor Tingley Coliseum another rodeo ring. Like at Loveland, this was nicely sized and not too big. The stage was set up at one end, with 33 rows of floor seating (covering had been put down on the rodeo ring dirt), and about 20 rows of banked seating to the sides and rear. Before the show it was nice to run into a few friends, Rob Martinez, Jen (Beatpoet), AllIWannaDo (Lisa), Lily from Phoenix and locally based Samantha.
Cheap Trick took to the stage at 8pm, again introduced by Dave Ruhl.
RN - Black suit, black "Jenny Candas" t-shirt
Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Southern Girls, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, I Know What I Want, Voices, Never Had a Lot to Lose, The Flame, 70's Song, Surrender // Dream Police, California Man, Goodnight Now
For the final show of the trip we were back closer to the stage again, 5th row and fairly central. As at Loveland during the first show, the backdrop was used during the first two songs to project the multi-logo and then checkerboard onto. And early on during Trick's set I recall thinking how good the sound was, at least where I was stood. Though after the show, one or two others seated elsewhere disagreed with me.
"If You Want My Love" was introduced as being "on a bunch of CD's, as well as featuring in one of the finest movies of the last 25 years, Joe Dirt"! After "Southern Girls" Rick noted a couple of people in the crowd, including a famous chef who'd cooked for two Presidents, adding "too bad he couldn't make the current one sick!" I've no idea who the chef was, though I suspect he wasn't from Carolina and wearing chef pants! Rick then mentioned next years planned release of the new CD, adding "we decided to hold off so that Sting gets some sales this Christmas!" They then launched into "Best Friend", and I'll stop going on about how much the band let themselves go during it. However, Rick's new V-neck again got some hard use during it!
After "I Want You to Want Me" had got the crowd jumping and clapping, Rick stated "Yes folks, we are Cheap Trick, and we're proud, honoured and happy to be on the road with Alice Cooper he's backstage now, doing weird things!" Tom was then introduced as being a former resident of New Mexico before starting up "I Know What I Want". After the song, Rick used his well known skills of getting the crowd on his side by announcing "We were in Colorado yesterday, talk about a place that has a lot to be desired". Well, last night's rain affected event at Grand Junction was certainly no picnic. But he continued "Everybody in Colorado wishes they were in New Mexico" and that of course was greeted warmly by the large crowd! There was a big crowd reaction too at the first bars of "The Flame", and many lighters were held aloft. Nice blue and purple backlighting on Robin at the start of that.
There were huge cheers when Rick came on for the encore and asked "Does that mean you want to hear some more?" "Goodnight Now" saw one extra ending and the set ended at 9.10pm. It had certainly been nice that, despite the "opening slot" (and the rain affected show at Grand Junction aside), the band had performed nice, energetic full sets at each of the shows I'd been to, and had been well received throughout. They'd all played well and seemed to have enjoyed themselves.
Alice came on at 9.45pm and played the same theatrical 90 minute set, and again Tommy Clufetos was drumming. Nice to end this week long road trip with a pretty good and close view of the stage for this.
Afterwards, getting out of the parking lot was a long, slow job, and reminded me of Ridgefield WA in April 2004 when it took the best part of 2 hours I think to get out. Well, this wasn't quite as long, but it was not only concert goers leaving but also people who'd been enjoying the evening at the State Fair. We eventually got out of the Fairgrounds after an hour, got back to I-25 and headed north towards the historic city of Santa Fe. Not that we'd see anything of it, as we'd both arrive there and leave in the dark. But we had a long drive back up to Denver in the morning, so decided we'd get an hour under our belts tonight while we still had the concert "high". Well, I hadn't planned on using up that hour sitting in the Fairground parking lot <sigh>. We eventually reached our hotel in Santa Fe at 1.20am. and I got to bed maybe half an hour later.
Sun 11- Mon 12 Sep - The journey home
It didn't seem long between my head hitting the pillow and my waking up to get up. Actually, it wasn't long about 3 hours to be exact. I was awake at 5am and desperately needed the shower to wake up. We left Santa Fe at 6.45am, as the sun was threatening to rise above the mountains ahead of us. We had a long drive ahead, with 400 miles to cover to Denver Airport for about 1pm. Like much of the rest of the State, the north eastern corner of New Mexico was pretty flat and mostly featureless, but getting into southern Colorado we started seeing a few tall mountains in the distance for variety. We passed half a dozen buffalo in a field by the highway, and discovered that there was a lot more of Pueblo south of where we'd entered the city a few days ago. And whilst passing Pueblo (on our left), we had one of those mile long American trains going slowly north on our right. But instead of coal or closed carriages, this was carrying a long line of sand coloured tanks and military trucks, no doubt destined for somewhere like Iraq or Afghanistan.
We did reach Denver Airport just after 1pm, and I was able to quickly get checked in before joining the usual zig-zag lines of people waiting to be security checked. My full Delta flight took off into the afternoon sunshine at 2.20pm, and got me to Atlanta a little under 3 hours later. Then onto the busy overnight flight back to Manchester, England. As usual I didn't manage to doze much on the plane, and after such a long day, I didn't need the 30 minute delay whilst we circled Manchester next morning. Nor did I need the 30 minute delay on the tarmac waiting for our arrival gate to be cleared <sigh> So I was tired and it was later than planned by the time I got myself to the airport railway station, and I decided to call the office and report that I wouldn't be in today.
And so ended a long and fun trip, where I'd experienced some great shows, had some fun times, and had seen some wonderful scenery, ranging from high mountains to flat, featureless desert. As always, a lot of good memories to be taken from this trip.
No trip is ever complete without people to thank. First and foremost I must thank Victoria for all the driving she did, and for having made so many of the arrangements too. It was another fun trip, thank you! Thanks also to the various friends I met at the shows, I'm sure I've forgotten to mention somebody (so apologies if I have), but it's always nice to see familiar faces. And last but by no means least, thanks to Carla, the band and crew. In particular it was nice to see Dave Ruhl back for a short time, and sad to see Rick's tech Jim be heading back to Joe Perry shortly as Aerosmith gear up to tour again.
Kim Gisborne, Leeds, England - 19 September 2005
This Site and all material held within it are Copyright by Kim Gisborne