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The summer evenings are starting to draw in, but the Cheap Trick tour just keeps on going! This short run of shows was starting off in Lincoln, Nebraska on 2nd Sept, across to Du Quoin in the deep south of Illinois, then up to Wisconsin's "Beertown" and finally up to Harris in western Michigan. For me, it was a quick return to the Midwest, after the memorable weekend 3 weeks earlier which saw the wonderful Chicago Navy Pier show and the interesting dirt track at Oshkosh, Wisconsin! Again this was to be a short Thursday to Sunday trip, so only catching the Du Quoin and Milwaukee shows.

Thursday 2 Sept

A horribly early start because of my early flight from Manchester. Instead of a direct flight to Chicago, my best deal this time was with the German flag carrier Lufthansa through Frankfurt. The flight was scheduled to depart at 6.40am, which meant I needed to check in by 5.15am, which meant I had to drive and leave home before 4am so I needed to be awake by 3am… OUCH! A busy few days at work meant I was packing and sorting last-minute things out later on the Weds evening than I'd hoped, and it took a while to get to sleep as well. So, I was awake after less than 4 hours sleep, but luckily the roads were dead quiet this early in the morning.

My flight to Frankfurt was unremarkable though I'd been made to check in my small bag/case which I'd hoped to take as carry-on L My scheduled connection time at Frankfurt was very tight, only 40 minutes, so it was a relief that my inbound plane landed a few minutes early. That extra time was indeed valuable as I chased down the long "A" terminal… only to hit long queues at the extra security point for the US bound flights. It took 25 minutes to finally get through, and my Chicago flight had mostly boarded by the time I reached my gate. Well, I had a couple of standby-upgrade vouchers from the Star Alliance of airlines, though the small print made me think it unlikely I'd ever be able to use them before they expired - they were basically valid only if a full fare was paid. As I always hunt around for the cheapest flights to save my credit card debt, this isn't me! Anyway, at the gate I pulled out the voucher and asked the agent if I could use it. With no argument the agent smiled as he took my voucher and assigned me to one of only two remaining Business Class seats! Luckily Lufthansa have both a 1st Class section as well as a larger than usual Business Class section on their 747's, which helped me get the upgrade.

Anyway, the flight was long but pretty comfortable. I watched "The Day After Tomorrow" and "Shrek 2" whilst eating and drinking anything the cabin staff brought along! The only thing I didn't get was sleep. And I had a busy weekend ahead… oh well.

With typical German efficiency the flight landed at warm Chicago one minute ahead of schedule. As we taxiied to Terminal 5 I saw a Scandanavian plane which had arrived just before us, plus the daily KLM flight from Amsterdam landing just after we did. So, the Immigration Hall would soon get very crowded. Once off the plane I raced towards the hall, passing slower walkers as I went. With ever tighter immigration checks I knew how long getting into the USA could be, 3 weeks ago it took me an hour to get through immigration here. This time it was only 15 minutes, though by the time I got through I could see the line of "visitors" snaking back on itself 8-9 times. But the God of Irony had the last laugh today, as I was one of the first from my flight to the baggage claim island… but my small case was nearly the last to come off the plane. Very frustrating!

With Patricia working, I caught a CTA train to downtown to kill some time, good value at under $2. It was over 80 degrees, hot and sunny as I walked around in the Loop area south of the river. I was pleased that I'd brought a new, small wheeled bag/case that I could pull rather than my usual carry bag. I didn't find the couple of music shops I'd hoped to, but I did wander around the architecturally unusual Millennium Park. I later took a train from Union Station to the north Chicago 'burbs, and got off amongst a crowd to hear a surprised shout of "Kim Gisborne!" Tina, a CT friend, was standing there waiting for a train home after work! Talk about a small world! We chatted for 5 minutes before her train arrived, by which time I think I’d encouraged her to go to the Milwaukee show on Sunday. Pat arrived at 5.25pm and we had a quiet evening since we had an early start ahead.

Friday 3 Sept – Cheap Trick at Du Quoin IL

The alarm went off way too early at 4.55am! We were out before 6.30am and headed south past Joliet in the hazy early morning sun. We avoided the early morning rush hour traffic and had a comfortable five hour drive to St Louis. As we got towards Bloomington and beyond we passed increasing numbers of cornfields, many turning burnt brown in the strong sunshine. We reached St Louis at 11.30am and this was purely a short sightseeing visit since Du Quoin wasn’t too far away. I’d only once driven through St Louis but not stopped, so I was keen to take this opportunity to see a little of downtown. We crossed the Mississippi and then up the wide Market Street to historic Union Station. It was fun to have lunch at the Hard Rock Café there (no CT items though), and then wander around. It was once the largest and busiest railway terminal in the US, though now is filled with small, speciality shops and bars. Market Street was pleasant, a wide European type boulevard with green parks and interesting fountains along one side. We then drove back towards the river to be able to park and walk around the base of the huge Gateway Arch. The thing is enormous and impressive, though we didn’t go up to the viewing gallery.

We bid farewell to St Louis at 2.45pm and set off back into Illinois for the 70-odd mile drive to Du Quoin. About 15 miles from the fairgrounds the sky was heavy and grey and we drove through a couple of very heavy rain showers. That had me worrying about the evening’s show, but thankfully we drove back into dry and bright conditions and the weather at Du Quoin was fine.

The fairgrounds were large and permanent, and I gather the Illinois State Fair used to be held here until it moved to Springfield. We took a slow (and short) tractor ride from the parking field to the entrance, and then took a walk around. As well as the usual fair stalls, this event boasted a number of political tents, and also the "exotic petting zoo" featuring species probably not native to Illinois such as zebra’s and emu’s. We then passed a small enclosure offering camel and elephant rides, also cages with a kangaroo, lion cub and several tigers. So this was not your run-of-the-mill Country Fair! No Sirree! After taking a look at the Quarter Horse show also taking place, we headed to the grandstand to find IDK Jon setting up the merchandise table in the lobby. After greetings, I went and took a quick look at the venue for Cheap Trick’s show. The setting was a large, wide stage in front of the race track Grandstand. And both the stage area and Grandstand had a permanent roof so any adverse weather shouldn’t affect things too much. Unlike at the racetrack at Oshkosh, this stage was set up right up close to the Grandstand, so it was almost like a theatre setting. Back at the merchandise table we met Mr Buckwheat, a fan from Kentucky that we'd met in Chicago 3 weeks ago, nice to get to chat with him again!

By the time Cheap Trick took to the stage at 7.50pm, there was a healthy crowd in the large Grandstand (Whilst entrance to the fair was free, fans had to buy reserved seating tickets for the show).

RN – Black suit, black "Creem" magazine t-shirt

RZ – Black pinstripe suit, white shirt, dark tie, black hat

TP – Black pants, fuschia pink shirt

BC – Black t-shirt, black jeans

Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, My Obsession, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, She’s Tight, Tonight Its You, Voices, Never Had a Lot to Lose, The Flame, 70’s Song, Surrender // Scent Of A Woman, Dream Police, Goodnight Now

After "Big Eyes" Rick played a bar of something but then remarked playfully "I forgot the rest!" He then went into reminding the crowd that "We are the one and only Cheap Trick, and we're in the great state we're all from - Illinois!" Then the usual Joe Dirt intro to "If You Want My Love" which got a laugh (the intro, not the song). After that song, Rick pulled up a young woman onto the stage, wearing a tight fitting pink CT shirt. She was very excited and Rick told her to "quit bouncing and just stand there!" - I assume he meant she was bouncing on her feet? Anyway, Robin and Tom came up close behind the woman whilst Rick was talking to her. After "My Obsession" Rick asked if there were any musicians in the crowd, which prompted a number of arms to go up. He then jokingly commented "I can tell you're true musicians - it's Friday night and you're not working!" By this time it was dark and lots of large bugs could be seen flying around under the bright stage lights, a few perilously close to Robin whilst he was singing. "I Want You to Want Me" was the usual crowd pleaser, after which Rick remarked of the warm, humid evening "As Charles Manson said - Is it hot in here or is it me?" He then noted that "The next song features…" and he held up Uncle Dick. After "Never Had a Lot to Lose" Rick noted someone on a cellphone down at the front so he took (or was given) the phone and started talking to the woman on the other end. He tried to get her to yell at the crowd via the stage microphone, but with no luck. Before handing back the phone he told the woman on the line "I bet you yell at him all the time!" After "Surrender", Rick gave his 5-neck guitar to someone at the front of the crowd (I believe I heard afterwards it was a policewoman). From my seat in the 11th row all I saw was Rick handing his guitar to somebody and then needing to be hauled back on stage by his tech. During "Scent of a Woman" somebody down front gave Robin a checkerboard silk scarf which he wore during the song before throwing it back to that fan.

The show ended at 9.05pm and there was a good post-show rush to buy t-shirts etc. In fact, the rush was so good we ran out of several items. Patricia and I later left the Fair and drove some 45 minutes to our motel at Mt Vernon. Due to the Fair we'd been unable to book anything closer, though being on I-57 this gave us a bit of a head start for the next days long drive.

Saturday 4 Sept – Cheap Trick in Milwaukee

It was another hot and sunny morning as we left Mt Vernon a little before 10am to head a long way north. Once again, we drove past field after field after field of corn… you get the picture, huh? Though the further north we got, the more green the stalks were - down near Mt Vernon most were pretty burnt brown. Anyway, following some good road advice from someone who'd know far better than I, we decided not to drive up to Chicago and along busy 94 to Milwaukee, but rather we headed to the centre of Illinois and north through Bloomington-Normal and Rockford before heading across to Milwaukee from glorious Beloit, Wisconsin! We made good time and parked close to the Summerfest grounds on the Milwaukee lakefront about 20 minutes before gates opened at 4pm. We found several friends in line already - Dawn, Tammy and Deanna, who were starting their own road trip today as they'd later head north for the Harris, Michigan show the following day.

Once we got let in we had to find where Cheap Trick would be playing. The Summerfest site is large and permanent, with several stages and several buildings and stalls that could be used by food and other vendors whenever an event was held here. We found the good sized stage towards the south end of the grounds, and the hardcore fans (we weren't the only ones!) got their prime spots for the show. The seating was unreserved, and consisted of rows of hard metal benches. I wish I'd known that in advance, since we had several hours to kill here! The stage was a medium sized one in a permanent concrete building, and the elevated I-724 highway was only a hundred yards or so behind.

Literally as soon as we got there, the opening band started the first of two sets. KB and Step 9 included a guitarist/singer who is also in local band "Bad Boy" which features early CT vocalist Xeno.

The next act came on at 6.30pm, a local singer/songwriter named Pat McCurdy. The crowd by now included quite a lot of his college-aged fans, though Pat was somewhat older than them. We soon found out why he has such a cult following, he was wonderfully entertaining! His set comprised of some self-penned songs with darkly humourous twists, and his show was very strongly based on audience participation! From singing little "lap song" snippets to the McCurdy "virgins" in the crowd to an Irish themed singalong, to an 80's medley (that us "oldies" all sang along with) to country versions of well known rock classics (and for us Trick fans he did a countrified verse of "I Want You to Want Me"!) to an ending of what is obviously his trademark song, "Sex and Beer". I can still almost remember how to do the dance to that! He played the crowd wonderfully, ably assisted by his sound engineer who cued actual song snippets on the PA with impeccable timing, and there were very few people not smiling and singing at the end. And after all, whether comedy or music, you can't ask for anything more than feeling totally entertained and happy at the end of the set! So whilst not a typical Cheap Trick opening act, Pat McCurdy was by far one of the best I've seen. He mostly seems to play only Wisconsin, but if you ever find yourself in the Dairy State, try to check him out. Highly recommended.

I wish I could say the same for our third opening act (huh? I thought there were only two), Suffrajet from New York City. A young 4 piece rock band with a female Phil Lynott lookalike singer, they didn't really win over the crowd and their guitarist had technical problems too. Their first visit to Milwaukee wasn't memorable I'm afraid for either them or the crowd.

Before CT came on it was good to spot a number of other friends in the crowd though I couldn't get out to speak to some of them. But always good to see Ron, also Cheri and Brian, and later old friend Mary and also Tina (from the railway station on Friday) who did decide to make the show! There were other familiar faces too, good to see you all!

The evening was still warm and dry (and surprisingly no hint of chill in the air considering we were right by Lake Michigan), and at 9.45pm we were treated to an impressive 12 minute fireworks display over the Lake before Cheap Trick took to the stage at 10.01pm.

RN – Black suit, black "Mysterious Rick" t-shirt

RZ – Black pinstripe suit w/ leather lapels, white shirt, dark tie, black hat

TP – Long black jacket, black pants, white/blue striped shirt

BC – Black t-shirt, black jeans

On Top of the World, ELO Kiddies, I Can’t Take It, Taxman Mr Thief, High Roller, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, Day Tripper, Fan Club, California Man, The Flame, 70’s Song, Surrender // Dream Police, Auf Weidersehen

Before the show one of the crew had given me a thumbs up and mouthed "Great setlist", and we quickly realised that it was the wonderful London/Chicago setlist… but with a couple of further nice changes. Into the set came "High Roller" and "Day Tripper", neither heard for quite a while!

After "I Can't Take It" Rick said that the band had been in Milwaukee two times in three months "so we hope you don't mind us playing a completely different set". The last time they'd been here was in late June at the regular "Summerfest", whereas this return was for the new "Summerfest Encore". After "High Roller" Rick mentioned a local CT cover band called "Heaven Tonight"… which was a little ironic as some of Chicago's "Dream Police" cover band were in the front few rows too! In fact the two bands were sitting not too far away from each other… but I didn't see any fighting break out! During "Best Friend" the whole band (Cheap Trick, not Heaven Tonight or Dream Police!) were really rocking out, including Robin on guitar. He certainly screams his lungs out during the song, but I've not seen him so animated whilst playing guitar during this. Seems like the whole band enjoy letting go to the frenzy of this song, the big instrumental ending lasting 3 minutes or more. After "I Want You to Want Me" Rick announced that Alice Coopers bass player was sidestage and that CT would be playing in New York with Alice later in the month. "Day Tripper" was blistering, a wonderful version and again the whole band could be seen to be smiling and really into this one! The crowd liked it too!

After "Day Tripper" Rick announced that "Last night we played in Illinois..." the crowd booed loudly... "the day before we were in Nebraska"... light booing - the Wisconsin crowd hate Illinois far more!... "and tomorrow night we're in Michigan" … more light booing. "It's like a football tour…" Rick continued, "Wisconsin would kick all their asses I believe!" Good ol' Rick, he has a knack of winning over any crowd with the right words!

After "Fan Club" Rick played a brief guitar solo which segued into the famous intro to "California Man", and the "70's Song" saw the cry "Alright Milwaukee Wisconsin" at the end. When Rick and Robin came back onstage for the encore they did a brief comedic "high fives" sort of routine, which made them both smile. I think the whole band seemed to enjoy this show (which ended at 11.20pm). It had been a great set and a fired up crowd, and the band members really seemed to be having fun. They certainly played that way.

We spent a little time chatting with friends after the show before driving back to Chicago at midnight. I-94 certainly wasn't crowded at this time of night!

Sunday 5 Sept

Cheap Trick went to Harris MI, I went home.

Another warm and sunny day, I was back at Chicago's O'Hare Airport around 2pm to check in for my journey home. Despite the long line of people checking in (suggesting a busy flight) I thought I'd try to use my last standby-upgrade coupon… and it worked! Heads-up to Lufthansa, danke! So again I had a more comfortable overnight flight back to Frankfurt though I didn't see the latest "Harry Potter" movie on video which was advertised. However, I did surprisingly get about 3 hours of so-so sleep which is more than I usually get. Got to Frankfurt at around 6.30am on Monday morning with nearly 4 hours to kill, so I managed to find a comfortable seat in one of the lounges and got another couple of hours sleep. I must have been more tired than I'd thought. Flew back to Manchester late morning (where it was surprisingly sunny), got my car and drove to the office to do nearly 3 hours work before going home to unpack and crash. And so ended another busy but memorable weekend!


As always, thanks are due. First and foremost, thanks to Patricia for her company and for driving so much in the space of two days! Thanks to the many friends I met at the shows, always good to see you! And last but not least, thanks to Cheap Trick, Carla and crew, and to the guy who gave us excellent road advice for getting to Milwaukee and missing Chicago traffic!

Kim Gisborne - Leeds, England - 10 Sept 2004


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