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Europe – March 2003

In what seems to becoming an annual visit, the band had a short, six date tour arranged for Europe, culminating in a show at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall. Unfortunately just six days before the first show in Copenhagen, the tour was cancelled/postponed with the exception of the London date. The reason seems to have been problems with the promoter of the European shows, and as a result, those (in Copenhagen, Hamburg, Berlin, Amsterdam and Cologne) were cancelled.

I already had flights/hotels booked and paid for in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, so decided to still visit those places rather than waste the money.

6-7 March - Copenhagen

An overnight drive down to London’s Stansted Airport in order to catch a very early morning budget flight to Copenhagen. The airport at Copenhagen was very clean and Scandanavian in design with lots of chrome, glass and wood flooring, very impressive. The train into the city’s central station was cheap and took just 15 minutes. It was a dry but very cold two days due to a chilly wind, but that didn’t detract too much from a small and pleasant city. We walked a couple of miles from the centre to the Amager Bio venue, a blue/grey coloured building set off of the main Amager Brogade street. The venue was closed early in the afternoon with no sign of life, and no indication that Cheap Trick were ever going to play there let alone were cancelled. I did wonder if anyone turned up later, not having heard that the show was off?

I travelled from London with French fan Nathalie, and we did a lot of walking to see the sights in this very clean capital. Sadly the famous Tivoli Gardens were closed for the winter, but the Town Hall square was impressive, including a large statue of Hans Christian Andersen. Of particular note was that this was a city for cyclists, with dedicated bike lanes, even turning lanes and small traffic lights! And lots of people cycled, which isn’t something you’ll find in many major cities. We didn’t get to the Carlsberg Brewery, though did see the Little Mermaid, some of the wonderful spires and architecture, the main shopping area (Stroget) and the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace (bizzarely, the military band played a medley of Beatles tunes throughout!). Copenhagen wasn’t a bad place to spend a couple of days, though I think it would be nicer in summer than in March!

The Hard Rock Café by the Tivoli Gardens featured an interesting promo photo of the band from the late 80’s I guess which I’d never seen before, also an unsigned black Hamer guitar… the plaque declaring it as having belonged to "Rick NELSON, Cheap Trick". Ooops, that darned mis-spelling again! Bought a "HRC Copenhagen" pint glass, hoped to add an Amsterdam one to it in a couple of days…

Friday night saw Nathalie and I fly back to Stansted, and drive round the M25 to her sister Helene’s flat at Windsor. Nice to get to catch up with Helene (though it was well after midnight), and I was up and out early next morning to meet CT fan Patricia, arriving at London Heathrow from Chicago.

9-11 March – Amsterdam

Sunday morning saw myself and Patricia fly from my local Leeds-Bradford Airport to Amsterdam. As in Copenhagen, it was easy to get into Amsterdam centre from the airport, and we soon found ourselves at the Centraal Station. After finding our hotel on the Damrak, we walked off the beaten track down to the Leidseplein, by haphazardly following a number of canals. Right by the American Hotel (and almost opposite the Melkweg, where Cheap Trick played in 98), we ran into Ron from Milwaukee. He showed us the nearby Paradiso venue (an old, converted Gothic church), where CT were to have played the following night. It was closed, and the only indication that CT were supposed to be playing was that they were listed in small print on a couple of posters giving listings for the month. And there was no indication that CT was cancelled.

During our couple of days in Amsterdam, we ran into other American fans – Brian, Doug and Kurt from Chicago and Lisa from Providence RI. Unfortunately we didn’t get to catch up with Lisa, Elsa and Sayuri from San Francisco, and I later found out at the London show that a number of British based fans had also made the trip over here since they'd had flights and hotels booked before the show cancellations.

Amsterdam is a fun city to visit, larger than Copenhagen, very liberal, relaxed and cosmopolitan, and like in Copenhagen cycling is very popular. We were lucky to have dry (though cool) weather during our trip, which made walking around easier. We got to visit the wonderful Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House and did a canal ride along the leafy canals and gabled houses, and no trip to Amsterdam is complete without a trip to the Red Light District! An amazing, and slightly scary area, with drugs being openly offered and pimps hanging around some of the red lit glass doors behind which each of which sat prostitutes for sale. There were also numerous bars and sex shops, and the area seemed crowded, whatever time of day (or night) you go. An amazing and somewhat surreal experience. I was last there when I was 15, but not much seemed to have changed!

The Hard Rock Café near the Leidseplein (and almost next to the Paradiso) was beside one of the canals, and fun to eat at though this one had no CT items on the walls. And strangely, it had no "HRC Amsterdam" pint glasses to buy. They had been sent boxes of "HRC Nottingham" (England) ones…

11-12 March - Leeds

We flew back to Leeds/Bradford on Tuesday afternoon, and had a relaxing day and a half before the trip down to London for Thursday nights show. On Wednesday we had lunch with one of my work colleagues at the newly opened Hard Rock Café in Leeds (no CT memorabilia there either… yet!) – nice lunch, though they had no "HRC Leeds" pint glasses for sale – they had been sent "HRC Birmingham" ones from Head Office instead. Hmmm, seems like the Hard Rock in Europe are somewhat messed up with their deliveries of glasses…

13-16 March - London

At last, Cheap Trick show day! We left Leeds on the 10.05am train, getting into Kings Cross at 12.35pm and we were checked into our hotel near Kensington High Street (and under a mile from the Royal Albert Hall) by 1.15pm. It was a sunny (though cool) day, and the sunshine added a good feel to the day as we walked along the south side of Hyde Park to the circular RAH. There was just one poster for tonight's CT show… unfortunately it was on a small run of billboards facing the venue and not the pavement and road and anyone passing by.

This was my first visit to the RAH, though I’d seen it on TV so had an idea what to expect. But I wasn’t fully prepared for the magnificence of the auditorium inside, the predominent colours were deep red and gold. The stage was at one end of the oval, large, with huge orchestral organ pipes behind, some of which almost reached the roof. There was a large floor area with red seats being put out in rows. There was then an oval of plush red seats (perhaps 20 rows) banking up to the first of 3 levels of private boxes. Above the boxes was a final level of banked seating ("the Gods"), though they gave a magnificent view of the stage. There was wonderful ornate gold livery on the front of the boxes and on the walls. And finally, high above the main floor were large white circular "mushrooms" suspended from the domed roof, which act as dampers to aid the acoustics in what must be a difficult place to manage the sound.

The band arrived around 3pm, having done some press and radio both earlier in the day and on the previous day too. Soundcheck started around 3.20pm, with Rick playing a few short riffs (such as "Lot to Lose" before the band played the mid section of "Scent of a Woman" twice. Interesting to note that the mid section (… "Here she comes now") has changed a little since I last heard the song. They then played all of "Pop Drone" (the mid-song instrumental part to this has changed a little too). A few more short riffs from Rick of things like "Highway to Hell" and "Downed" before a full version of "Too Much". Nice to see that the band would have a good sized stage to work with, and Rick's tech's desk near sidestage had a "Rick" mask on display, ala the well known cardboard "Bun E" mask of the late 70's (and which can also be seen during "Who d'King" on the silver video and DVD).

After seeing some of the merchandise brought over for sale (including new Europe-tour t-shirt, new CT77 t-shirts, metal Dream Police shield badges, and a set of small album cover badges), I left and headed back to Kensington High Street to briefly meet with some of the fans who were meeting (and eating) at Sticky Fingers (the Rolling Stones bar/restaurant that used to be owned by Bill Wyman). I only had time for a quick drink before heading back to the RAH to meet Rick the Swede to give him the tickets I'd got for him. Along the way I ran into Lars the Swede, and outside the venue I met a number of other friends too!

Doors opened at 6.45pm, and the opening band came on around 7.45pm. A late addition to the bill, I understand that the Salford Jets had just reformed (their "heyday" was the late 70's), but I was busy so didn't get to see or hear any of their set. I gather I didn't really miss anything.

The lights went down at 9pm, and Cheap Trick took to the stage…

RN – CT77 t-shirt, black shiny velvet suit

RZ – White shirt, black tie, brown striped suit

TP – Black jeans, long cream jacket, black shirt with target on chest

BC – Black jeans, plain black t-shirt

Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Never Had A Lot To Lose, Downed, I Want You To Want Me, Too Much, She’s Tight, Wrong All Along, Pop Drone, My Obsession, Voices, Tonight It’s You, Ballad of TV Violence, Surrender // (encore) The Flame, Dream Police, Scent Of A Woman, Gonna Raise Hell

A terrific 90 minute show, and I was lucky to be able to watch from sidestage on Rick's side, so it was good to be able to watch the crowd during the show. Good to see (from my limited vantage) that the main floor was full, the oval bank of seating was about 2/3 full, plus a few of the boxes had people in too. I'd estimate the crowd was between 2,000-2,500.

From the start, a fan near the front kept shouting for "Surrender" and "Dream Police"… seemingly not realising that those songs are normally late in the set. He kept shouting out those titles between songs, which got a bit wearing after a while! Rick introduced "If You want My Love" by noting that it was featured in one of the finest movies ever released, "Joe Dirt". I think he was being slightly sarcastic! Great to see all of the crowd join in with the clapping towards the end of "I Want You To Want Me". After that song Rick announced that the RAH may be a legend, but that "Bun E Carlos is a LIVING legend!", and started up the "Bun E chant". He also mentioned that the new CD is hoped to be out next month. Before "Wrong All Along" Rick said that they were a little band from Rockford, who'd started out at The Garage and "look where we are now!". And the contrast between the small, cramped north London club where they'd played the album shows in 2001 and this magnificent venue was huge indeed. Tom intro'd "Pop Drone" by playing the classic rhythm from the Beatles "Within You Without You", which sounded wonderful played on deep, resonating bass. However, he seemed to mis-start the next song "My Obsession", and stopped the intro, so they had to restart that song. An interesting moment at the start of "Tonight Its You" as a fan came to front stage and handed Rick back one of his own guitar picks! That doesn't happen very often! The "Bun E chant" started again when the band came on for the encore.

All in all a show pretty much befitting the venue, with a longer set, four new songs and ending with a rousing "Gonna Raise Hell". Each band member performed well and seemed to revel in playing at a legendary venue where some of their own musical idols (such as Hendrix, Cream and The Who) had played.

The after show in the Artists Bar backstage was crowded, which included a few fans who got to meet Rick and Robin (who both circulated widely). I was told that Ginger from the Wildhearts was there, and I and another fan thought we spotted the bass player from The Bangles too.

Back at the hotel late, it was disconcerting to use the key card to get into a room and set off a screeching alarm for a few seconds. Not fun at 2am! And then get two unrequested alarm calls in the early hours. Ouch, it had been a long and busy enough day without that!

Sunny Friday saw us meet up with a number of fans at the Hard Rock Café for lunch, to celebrate the birthdays of two of them (happy belated birthdays to Elliot and Peter!). Good to meet some new people, including Julian from France, and also Andrew and wife (Ghostown) from Dublin. And the London restaurant only had pint glasses marked for the "HRC Birmingham"… D'oh! The rest of that day and much of the next was spent walking around, and Patricia and I returned to the HRC on the Saturday afternoon to see the "Hard Rock Vault" underneath the gift store. It had some cool guitars and other memorabilia, though having visited the huge Vault in Orlando in early Jan, the one small room in London was a little "disappointing". But the Guide was cool enough to put CT's Greatest Hits on the CD player whilst he gave us the "tour", and I left a Rick pick near the guitars on the left side of the room. I wonder if its still there??

Sunday morning saw Patricia get a shuttle bus to Heathrow for her flight home, and I got a tube to Kings Cross and a train back to Leeds.

And so ended Europe, though hopefully the band may get to return later in the year after the new CD is out, and perhaps play some of those places that they'd had to cancel this time around. But at least we got the "showcase" show at the Royal Albert Hall, it was so cool to see the band perform to such an enthusiastic crowd in such a wonderful venue! And I got to visit Copenhagen for the first time, and revisit Amsterdam after 27 years.

Thanks :-)

As always, there are people to thank! Nathalie for being a great travelling companion in Copenhagen, and Helene for letting me stay on that Friday night when we got back late from Denmark! Patricia for being a great travelling companion in Amsterdam, Leeds and London, and for putting up with me! Thanks to everyone I met during the week and a bit, particularly in Amsterdam and in London. There are too many of you to name, and I must apologise that my time with so many of you was brief, RAH show day was extremely busy! But it was great to see you all, however briefly! And finally, but not least, thanks to Carla, Cheap Trick and the crew. Great show, its always a pleasure!

Kim Gisborne Leeds, England - 18 March 2003


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