A month after the shows in Australia, I travelled for my final Cheap Trick show of the year. This one was in Chicagoland, the last of three nights in the Midwest before the band travelled to Los Angeles for three nights there. I’ll spare you the usual, boring travel details as you’ve read about my flying to Chicago many times over! On Thursday December 11th I flew from Manchester to Amsterdam to Chicago (and back the same way on December 14th).
Boy was it cold when I reached Chicago O’Hare on the early evening of my birthday, the temperature then and throughout the weekend was below freezing, brrrrrr! Cheap Trick were playing in Dubuque IA that evening but I couldn’t have made it there for that show, which had been announced after I’d booked my non-changeable flights. Anyway, the band were playing at Elgin on the following evening, Dec 12th . This show had been advertised for about 3 months, and for a long time looked to be the bands only show between Australia and Christmas.
Friday December 12th – Cheap Trick at Elgin, IL
On showday, I had some early CT “fun” around noon, as tickets for the 3 nights in Milwaukee in mid-January went on sale at that time. I had a frenzied 20 minutes, getting so-so tickets for each night, but at least I managed to get tickets.
We drove up I-90 to Elgin later in the afternoon, hitting the heavy rush hour traffic heading for the north west suburbs. It was bitterly cold and grey, a typically Midwest winters day. Brrrrr! The Hemmens Theatre is a self contained building on the edge of the downtown of Elgin, by the river. Parked outside the venue was a CT custom themed truck (the “Dream Police Tactical Vehicle”), promoting the computer game “Rockband 2”. However, it was far too cold to spend any time standing around and admiring it so I didn’t even get any photo’s (but there are some at – www.realwheels.com). Outside the theatre we ran into several friends, and we soon went to try to find something to eat at a nearby microbrewery/pub. It was all something of a rush with our discovering there was no opening act and that Cheap Trick would be on at 8pm! Some of our group barely had time to eat before we had to get back.
At 7.45pm the lobby of the venue was crowded, and the inside of the theatre was nice. It was predominantly cream coloured, with a gently sloped main floor and around 20-25 rows of theatre seating, also a shallow balcony to the rear with no more than 10 rows of seating. The capacity was around a thousand, and I believe it was a sell out. The stage was a nice size, with a checkerboard backdrop, and interesting to see that Bun E had a blue Ludwig kit which I hadn’t seen before.
The lights went down at 8pm, and we heard the recording of Dave Rule’s “clean” introduction – “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, please welcome to the stage, the best band THIS town’s ever seen… CHEEEAAAP TRIIIICK!”
Black suit, white shirt, CT bowtie
Hello There, Big Eyes fakeout intro to… 70’s Song, RN guitar solo intro to… California Man, High Roller, He’s a Whore, If You Want My Love, Clock Strikes Ten, Best Friend, I Want You To Want Me, TP “Midnight Lamp” bass solo into to… I Know What I Want, Voices, Downed, The Flame, Surrender, Goodnight Now // Dream Police, Auf Wiedersehen
The band came out to an enthusiastic welcome, which seemed to set the tone for the evening. Those on the main floor stood from the start, and the band were very animated and clearly having fun on stage.
No major surprises in the setlist, with “Hello There” starting things off, then the “Big Eyes” fakeout intro which turned into the “70’s Song”. Interesting to see a swirly projection on the rear backdrop during this, and nice to get that song out of the way early. Then came Rick’s brief guitar solo, leading into “California Man”. Robin came back onstage for this minus the leather cap and with his hair free.
After “California Man”, Rick made some comments about being in Elgin, and mentioned the Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich who was currently in the news over trying to sell President-Elect Obama’s now vacant US Senate seat. Rick then continued “A couple of weeks ago Bun E and I were on Rockline, and we had a request…” Bun interrupted, saying “It’s not it!” Rick responded immediately, “Shoot! Never mind!” The band went into a very nice “High Roller”, before going into the song Rick had been talking about as a request, “He’s a Whore”. Robin took off his leather jacket between “Roller” and “Whore”.
Rick then asked the crowd if they’d seen “…the car out front”, referring to the CT logo’d vehicle. “It was done by Real Wheels, those guys are geeked out!” That expression got a little reaction from the crowd, so Rick asked “Didn’t you read the transcript? “Geeked Out’s not bad!” During Rick’s banter, Robin was lightly playing the melody to “Ghost Town”, which I haven’t heard in quite a while. “We’re not doing that!” Rick commented. He then asked the crowd “Does everybody feel like singing tonight? Tom, do you feel like singing?” The band went into “If You Want My Love”, with more swirly patterns projected onto the backdrop and a few swaying arms in the crowd. That was followed up by an energetic “Clock Strikes Ten”.
“How about that Mr Bun E Carlos on drums?” asked Rick afterwards. “A living legend” he added. He then had the lights up and pointed out a few people, delighting the crowd when promising that one person would be buying everyone cocktails after the show. Funny how crowds love hearing they might get a free drink, though luckily no one takes it seriously! Rick then announced that the next song featured three chords – E minor, C and A, which was of course the cue for “Best Friend”. That was amazing, possibly the best version I’ve seen them play. It was very intense, with each band member really in the zone, and I think the song lasted a little longer than usual.
Next up was the traditional crowd pleaser, “I Want You to Want Me”, for which Tom shed his waistcoat. Afterwards, Rick noted “Boy, it’s hot here in Elgin. On Monday and Tuesday we’ll be in LA, Wednesday in Anaheim… I wonder if it’s as hot there? N O”. Spotting a group on the main floor he continued “We have some friends from American Airlines here, including the President of the Mile High Club!” He added with a leer “And if anyone knows me, I’m Executive Platinum!” He went on “We have some of Tom Petersson’s fan club at the side of the stage, and some out front. I went to school with this guy, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr Tom Petersson!” Tom played a short solo of Jimi’s “Burning the Midnight Lamp” before leading the band into a spirited “I Know What I Want”. At the end, Rick gave his guitar to a kid in the front row, getting something in return I think that he wrapped over his cap briefly like a bandana! His tech then got booed by the crowd for retrieving the guitar. Meanwhile, Robin was again gently strumming a little bit of “Ghost Town” until Rick introduced him and the band went into “Voices”.
Rick played his yellow, square “Rockford” guitar for a terrific version of “Downed”. Afterwards, Robin gently played a little of “It All Comes Back To You” whilst a young, 3-4 year old boy came on from side stage. The child was wearing a small CT logo shirt and cap, and was carrying a small guitar with flames on it, and this was, I believe, Rick’s grandson. Bun E started a beat, and the young boy played along, watching and mimicking Rick! He had all the moves and confidence, I guess musical talent just runs in the family! It was really cute, though cuter still when Rick tried to usher the boy off stage and he wouldn’t budge! He jokingly tried scaring him off, nothing doing! He told him to “Get outta here!” but that didn’t work either. Eventually Tom was able to gently usher the boy offstage whilst Rick remarked to the crowd “Do you see the family resemblance? That’s true entertainment… Thanks Bun E for bringing my great, great, great, great grandchild on! And someone else who’s great, Mr Robin Zander!”
Robin sang “The Flame” as strongly as ever, with Rick playing his Sgt Pepper guitar. And more swirly projections onto the stage backdrop.
For “Surrender” Rick played the checkerboard/picks Explorer, and it was all going so well until the “prop malfunction”. Rick attempted to get the album flat up into the balcony, but he released it a moment too soon and it flew out with some force into the crowd near the front. It caught a female fan on the forehead, though happily no major damage was done. Rick looked apologetic and made apologetic gestures to the person, and threw out another, pickless flat soon after. Afterwards, Robin said “Thank you thank you thank you very much, we’re called Cheap Trick, goodnight everybody”. But as is now becoming the norm, they went right into “Goodnight Now” (with Rick playing the checkerboard 5-neck and the song having 3 endings) before leaving the stage. Whilst the lights were down and the crowd were calling for more, more swirlys on the stage backdrop.
Rick came back on to ask “Does that mean you want to hear some more? Are you SURE you want to hear some more?”- getting big cheers from the crowd to both questions. He then wished the crowd “Happy Christmas, Kwaanza, Hannukah, New Year and all that stuff” before the band launched into “Dream Police”. Robin had his leather cap back on for the encore songs. The set closed with “Auf Wiedersehen”, with Rick playing Uncle Dick.
The show ended at 9.18pm, and a fine one it had been. The band had been tight, yet clearly enjoying themselves, and that had been helped by the appreciative and enthusiastic crowd. Whilst it was freezing outside, Cheap Trick had certainly warmed up the thousand or so souls inside the Hemmens Theatre.
My evening closed with a small, belated birthday get-together in the hotel room with a few CT friends. It was nice to have time to relax and socialise, something I often miss due to helping with merchandise, and which had been difficult earlier because of the rush due to early show start time.
As ever, thank you to Cheap Trick and Carla, and always good to see the crew guys too. Thank you to Patricia for organising the small birthday party and for her hospitality, and as ever, thanks to the many familiar faces I saw at the show. Whilst there wasn’t much time to chat, it was a pleasure to see you all :-)
Kim Gisborne – Leeds, England - 31 Dec 2008
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