Two nights in England June shows 2006
Had it really been two years since Cheap Trick had last played in the UK? Indeed, it had been 23 months since the band had played one show at the Shepherds Bush Empire. This time around fans would get two opportunities to see them, though both were opening slots for Def Leppard. The shows would be in Def Leppards home town of Sheffield, followed by the famous Hammersmith Apollo (Hammersmith Odeon as was) in London. The invitation from Def Leppard seemed to have followed a handful of successful shows last October/November in the US where CT supported the British band.
Ill spare you the normal travel details as I didnt have to fly or travel too far from home!
Saturday 17 June Hallam FM Arena, Sheffield
The day was warm and bright, and Patricia from Chicago, Elliott from Scotland and I drove down from Leeds and got to the Hallam Arena around 3.30pm. A few Def Leppard fans were waiting by doors to either side, but generally it was all pretty quiet. There were also a couple of Cheap Trick fans already in line, the much travelled Junko and Hiromi from Japan! Wandering outside the venue soon after arriving, I heard a little of CTs soundcheck, Rick singing "Ramblin Rose". As time went on it was nice to spot the rare CT shirt as people arrived, but the overwhelming fashion was of course Def Leppard t-shirts in honour of the headliners.
There was some confusion about where the line would be for those of us with main floor tickets, but security eventually herded us to a spot at the bottom of a long flight of outdoor steps. It was something of a mad rush when the guard let us get going at 6.30pm. We had to run up this 10 yard flight of steps to the main arena level, then another 25 yards to the two narrow doors they had open where you actually got your tickets checked. Once inside, we found ourselves at the seating level and had to run down another long flight of stairs (in poor light) to the main floor. People were being let in to both sides, but the front stage area was very wide and we managed to secure front spots on Ricks side.
As the name suggests, tonights venue was an arena, home to Sheffields ice hockey team. Whilst not as large as NHL arenas in the USA, it was still pretty large with a capacity of around 12,000 (it looked mostly full by the time Def Leppard came on, with only a few empty seats to the rear wall). As well as the main floor (GA standing), there were 2 banked layers of seating, topped with executive boxes at the highest level.
The show (as in London) had three bands on the bill, with the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, a long time favourite of members of both Def Leppard and Cheap Trick opening. After much fiddling around on stage by their techs, they came on a 7.15pm to play a 5 song set including "Framed", "Faith Healer", "Next" and "Vambo". From where we stood at stage front left, it was very loud, with a thumping bass speaker right in front of us. Whilst having a few fans in the crowd, SAHB didnt seem to go over very well in this large venue, and Im afraid their performance didnt do much for me. To be fair they had barely any stage to work with, plus Chris Glen, their bass player had some problems at the start, and I suspect the large, impersonal venue really wasnt condusive to their style. Their highlight for me was watching the sinisterly made-up and manic guitarist Zal Cleminson perform. I saw some similarities (and not only in looks) to goatee-era Rick Nielsen, and indeed Rick was spotted off to the side watching much of SAHBs set. SAHB finished at 7.47pm and the crews did a very fast turnover, with Cheap Trick taking to the stage at 8.04pm. Oh, I forgot to say that to the rear of the stage was a video screen, and when CT came on, a red CT logo on a green swirl background was projected, which stayed on for the whole set.
RN fine check patterned jacket, black pants,
Hello There, Big Eyes, Dream Police, Welcome to the World, If You Want My Love, Perfect Stranger, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, I Know What I Want, Voices, RN guitar solo to California Man, 70s Song, Surrender
The band were fairly well received by the large crowd. I thought CT did a nice performance, using the large stage well, and with the sound not as deafening as SAHBs.
It was a big surprise to hear the opening bars of "Dream Police" so early in the set (song 3), and then a nice surprise to hear "Welcome to the World", the first of two songs in the set from the new "Rockford" CD. "Welcome " sounded very energetic and fresh, at least in my opinion. After that song, Rick informed the crowd that "Just in case youre not sure, we are the one, the only, accept no substitutes, Cheap Trick". He added that the band were honoured to be in Sheffield and thanked Def Leppard for inviting them. He then announced the last song as being from the new CD which "comes out on June 26th, so good timing for us to be here 9 days before".
After the next song ("If You Want My Love") Rick returned to the topic of the new CD, by reiterating that "Rockford" releases in Europe in 9 days time, and that "with every 100th copy you get a free guitar!". He then brought out his new, square "Rockford" cover artwork guitar, and stated that Joe Elliott is the only person in England to have so far heard the new CD and that "he wants all his friends to buy a copy that's you!" The band then went into "Perfect Stranger", which was nice to hear live for the first time and sounded good. At the end of the song, Rick gave his guitar to a bemused security guard at stage front centre! Rick then won over some new friends by mentioning SAHB as being "a band weve loved for many years", then mentioning "the guys who asked us to come over we toured with them last year in the States, and Def Leppard were some of the nicest people weve ever played with". As you can guess, that was warmly greeted by DLs hometown crowd. The band then went into the usual, intense "Best Friend", and it looked like Robin hurt a finger late on whilst rocking away.
"I Want You To Want Me" was the usual crowd pleaser, probably being the CT song that most of the crowd recognised. The band looked to be having fun, particularly Robin who was smiling a lot throughout and during the song placed the pick "tear" on his cheek. A lot of the crowd joined in with the clapping towards the end of the song. Afterwards, a fan with a CT bandana some way back on the main floor held it up, prompting Rick to point out "there's our fan club!" That prompted another CT bandana held up elsewhere in the crowd ("Theres another !"), then a few more! Nice to see fans representing!
Tom was introduced as being both "the inventor of the 12 string bass" and "a former resident of the great country of England" before he started up a minute long bass solo which then went into the intro to "I Know What I Want".
After "California Man", there was a short band meeting in the dark by the drums, resulting in Rick returning to the mic to announce "Weve just found out that we dont have much time, so is it OK if we play just a couple more?" The crowd responded warmly and the band played "That 70s Song" and climaxed their set with "Surrender". The set ended at 9pm, having almost been the scheduled hour.
By now things were getting hot and crowded on the main floor in front of the stage, as the crowd eagerly awaited their hometown heroes. Def Leppard took to the stage at 9.35pm to a huge welcome, and showed why they are one of the masters of arena rock. They used the large stage well, used bright lights and the video screen, and of course there was lots of in-between-song announcements about being back home in Sheffield. I wont review their show as such, as Im not really a DL fan. But it was cool to look back and watch the crowd reactions, and of course Leppard have loads of songs with anthemic choruses for the crowd to sing along with, most of which seem to contain the word "Rock"! They played 90-100 minutes, I didnt time it precisely, but they left the stage to rapturous applause and cheering, having delivered exactly what the home crowded wanted.
After saying goodbye to a few CT friends outside, we drove back up to Leeds to grab a few hours sleep before an early start down to London tomorrow! Oh, and I should have mentioned earlier that whilst I was here in Sheffield tonight, another event was taking place 30 miles away in Leeds where I live The Who had, with only a few days notice, decided to recreate their famous "Live at Leeds" show from over 35 years ago, and were playing at the same Leeds University venue tonight. If CT hadnt been here in Sheffield, Id definitely have been there to see Roger and Pete!
Sunday 18 June Hammersmith Apollo, London
The afternoon in London was warm and pleasant, and we arrived at the Hammersmith Apollo mid afternoon to find a line of 40-50 people already! Again most were Def Leppard fans, though Junko and Hiromi were there with CT shirts on, and we saw a SAHB shirt already there too! Ive no idea what time Cheap Trick soundchecked or what they played, but outside it was nice to see a few old and new CT friends, and cool in particular to see a number of people wearing the black "Rockford" logo t-shirt that could be bought online from CT.com with the CD pre-order. Good to see many friends from London and other parts of England, as well as from Wales, Ireland and Scotland, also France, Germany, Japan and the USA.
We got let in at 6.40pm, and again it was a rush to get down front, though some of those ahead of us opted to stand further back on the sloped main floor and lean on the crush barriers. We of course headed to the stage, ending up one or two people behind some Def Leppard fans.
The venue was a large theatre, with a wide stage and a GA standing main floor which sloped up to the rear. Last time Id been here to see CT in July 1988 (the week they were #1 in the USA singles chart with "The Flame") the main floor was fully seated, but in the intervening years the seats had been removed and it was standing downstairs. Upstairs was a large balcony with rows of seats. There were ornate chandeliers to the sides, with the walls decorated in shades of brown, and in general the décor had a bit of an art deco feel.
It got pretty crowded fairly quickly, and also got very hot and humid, phew! Thanks to front stage security who soon gave out some plastic cups of water to the front rows.
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band came on again at 7.15pm, this time playing to 7.52pm, and went down far better than at Sheffield. I enjoyed them far more too tonight, I think their performance was more "on", they had a much better reaction from the crowd, and the mixed seating/standing capacity of 4,000 was far more intimate than the cavernous arena at Sheffield. Plus the crowd were much closer to the stage! Their set was similar to that at Sheffield though one song was different. They looked to enjoy this performance more than last nights, and again much of my attention was fixed on the talented yet sinister guitarist Zal Cleminson. After their set tonight I was more motivated to hunt out their brand new, live CD.
After a very fast stage change, the lights went down at 8.05pm, tech Dave Rule gave the obligatory announcement from sidestage, "Ladies and Gentlemen Boys and Girls Welcome to the stage the best f*cking band THIS towns ever seen CHEEEAAAPP TRIIIICK!!"
RN black suit, black t-shirt
Hello There, Big Eyes, Dream Police, Welcome to the World, If You Want My Love, Perfect Stranger, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, I Know What I Want, The Flame, RN guitar solo to California Man, 70s Song, Surrender
The band came on to a very enthusiastic welcome, and like with SAHB before them, the intimacy of the venue together with the more intense and concentrated enthusiasm of the crowd seemed to take CTs performance up a notch.
After "Big Eyes" Rick gave the "Just in case youre not sure " line, and after "Dream Police" (and with people still hunting amongst feet for picks!), Rick announced "Ladies and Gentlemen of London, nothing is above or below us! In 8 days time the new Cheap Trick CD comes out. We wanted to call it "London" but that name had gone, so we called it "Rockford"! Joe Elliot has heard it and given two thumbs up I dont know where those thumbs go though !" He thanked Def Leppard, and also mentioned Cheap Trick being fans of SAHB. The band then went into "Welcome to the World".
After "If You Want My Love" Rick brought on his new, square Rockford guitar, asking "Did I mention the new CD out in 8 days?" He added "Speaking of 7,000 miles from London, I can see the pilots from American Airlines wholl be taking us home and theyre giving you all free flights too!" Typical Rick, being generous on stage on behalf of others!
After "Perfect Stranger" cool to see Rick lean over and pass his yellow guitar to Junko at front centre, and the chorus of boos was surprising when his tech quickly ran on to retrieve the guitar moments later! Rick noted those and turned in his techs direction and said "Youre fired!" He than made a heartfelt comment about being American, but how England and its music made CT decide to become a band, adding that "your music was wonderful then and still is today". That went over pretty well with the crowd.
"Best Friend" rocked as always, with Robin being particularly intense with the opening lines. "I Want You to Want Me" went down a storm too, with Robin doing that pick teardrop thing, and one cool moment was seeing Rick up on his steps playing and Tom at floor level beside the steps, looking up with a mildly quizzical look on his face! Looking behind me it was cool to see almost all the crowd joining in with the clapping towards the end of the song.
After "I Want You to Want Me" Rick noted the name change of the venue, and thanked Def Leppard again for "having us on tour" adding " of course, they could have had us on a few more shows!" He then introduced Tom, "...inventor of the 12 string bass, and former resident of Hyde Park in the summer months when he didnt need much shelter!" As last night, Tom played a short solo before intro-ing "I Know What I Want".
After that, Rick introduced Robin as "his favourite lead singer in the whole, wide world", and they went into "The Flame" instead of "Voices" which theyd played last night. As Ive mentioned earlier, it was *really* hot and humid in the venue, and early on in this song Rick tipped iced water on the back of his neck. And during the song I noticed quite a few arms swaying in the crowd, together with a few lighters held up.
After "California Man" Rick said "Thank you very much, that was written by Mr Roy Wood, and interpreted by Cheap Trick Four great guys, three great chords!" They then went into "That 70s Song" and ended again with a rousing "Surrender", with the set finishing at 9.05pm. The band left to a really strong reaction from what was largely a Def Leppard crowd.
The show had been a fine one, with two new songs as well as fine, solid performances by the less visible Bun and Tom, as well from the as the more visible Rick and Robin. I guess my only slight disappointment was that there was no CT/Def Leppard encore, for example for "Surrender" I do recall reading that at their last, joint US show last autumn, 2-3 members of DL had joined CT to play "Surrender" and Id hoped to see that here. Oh well, no biggie, and it didnt detract from a great and well received show.
We decided to get some fresh air and cool down, giving up our close stage spots to Def Leppard fans. I saw only a little of DLs set tonight, but I could hear the crowd reaction and they were as overwhelmingly received here in London as they had been last night in Sheffield. Outside, a few French CT fans waited near the road hoping to get autographs as the band left, and did get lucky.
And so that was it for the two night run. Some of the band stayed on in London a little longer to do various UK/European press and media, whilst the rest and the crew flew home next day. Cheap Trick had played two fine shows and hopefully made some new fans along the way. With the German SPV label releasing the "Rockford" CD in Europe and with the success of these two shows, British and European fans can only hope that circumstances will bring the band back over the Pond again soon.
Thanks as always to Cheap Trick, Carla, Colin and the crew; to Patricia and Elliot for being fun travelling companions, and thanks to the old and new CT friends I met at the shows!
Kim Gisborne Leeds, England 28 June 2006
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