Cheap Trick in Hollywood CA - February 2006 (incl Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp show)
I don't normally do international travel at short notice. I usually have flights booked weeks ahead, and hotel rooms and/or a rental car too. I like to have things planned and booked well in advance, so that I can then mostly forget about it and not have to worry about last minute rushing around. So this particular trip really broke my rules!
The Rock'n'Roll Fantasy Camp was taking place in Hollywood in mid February, and despite a few weeks ago receiving an invitation to a party for one of the attendees, I wasn't going to go to Los Angeles. I had some serious, career changing things going on at work due to a reorganisation in the IT Dept I work in, and so didn't think I could take the time out for this trip. However, the main purpose of the weekend (to celebrate a friends 50th birthday and support him when he played on stage in LA) preyed on my mind for some time. Eventually (and with things at work not looking great) on around the Monday or Tuesday (13th/14th) I made a snap decision to go to California after all. As you can guess, making arrangements was a bit of a frenzy, but it all came together, and I'm very glad they did as you'll discover later on.
Friday 17 Feb
February in England can be cold. Or wet. Or cold and wet. And it was both on Friday 17th Feb as I set out very early from home at the start of another long travel day. The plan was to fly from Manchester to Amsterdam, connect with KLM's direct flight to Los Angeles (LAX) which arrives there around 2pm, and have plenty of time to get to San Juan Capistrano. After deciding on this trip, I discovered by chance that David Lindley, well known guitar player and collaborator with the likes of Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Crosby Stills & Nash and many others, was playing a solo show at San Juan Cap this evening. I'd never seen him, so this looked like a real bonus. So you now know the plan but as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men
I left home at 4.40am, reached Manchester Airport OK and checked in fine. My flight to Amsterdam was at 8.15am, so a little later than the 6am flight I normally have to catch. I was in the Air France/KLM lounge when I heard that the plane coming in from Amsterdam was delayed, due to mechanical problems. Hmph, a great start. As time went on, I became more anxious, and eventually spoke to a KLM rep about other possibilities if I missed my connection. Not good news. It was a holiday weekend in the USA (next Monday being President's Day) so flights were booked pretty full. Air France had overbooked their LAX flight by about 40 people, so that wasn't an alternative, and I was advised to check on my arrival at Amsterdam. The KLM plane did get into Manchester late, and therefore the return back to Amsterdam was late too. We landed at Amsterdam's Schipol Airport at 11.22am local time, and as I got off the plane a few minutes later, I saw a KLM 747 taking off in a shower of spray on a nearby wet runway. Dead on time, my LAX connection was on its way <big sigh>.
Despite my frequent flier status with KLM, they really didn't give me any options or sympathy. With most morning flights to the USA now gone, they re-booked me on a Northwest flight to Memphis, then onwards to LAX. I'd get in around 9.30pm (over 7 hours later than I should have arrived) which meant I'd almost certainly miss David Lindley :-( Anyway, a little later I boarded the plane for Memphis, luckily having been able to get an aisle seat in a window/aisle pair of two near the front of the economy cabin. Despite my travel problems, KLM wouldn't let me use points to upgrade either, grrrr. But this wasn't bad, it was an Airbus 330 instead of the usual DC10 on this route, so was more comfortable and modern as well as having seatback video on demand. I was an early boarder so watched people board after me, and I saw some African-American guys putting up large bags into overhead bins nearby, with labels like "Gang 3" and "Gang 8" on. Then I overhead the passenger in front of me speak to one of these guys who was on the adjoining aisle seat of the middle row. The guy across the aisle answered "Yeah, we played in Budapest last night", prompting the guy in front of me to talk about a musical venue near his home somewhere in Florida. Then he asked "So what band are you guys in? Would I have heard of you?" "We're Kool and the Gang" the musician replied! OK, pretty cool (pardon the pun). Soon after, another guy sat next to me in the window seat and acknowledged the musician across the way so I figured this guy must also be one of the band or crew. I kept quiet until the plane was taxiing, when my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him if he was in the band or one of the crew, and he introduced himself as Skip Martin, lead singer and trumpet player! OK, so I'll admit up from that I'm not particularly a fan of Kool and the Gang, though I liked several of their singles and there's no doubting the upbeat party quality of hits like "Celebration". I ended up chatting with Skip for about 3 hours well he was by the window and a captive audience! <LOL> Poor guy! But seriously, he was very pleasant and seemed happy for me to ask him questions about a range of things. I had no idea Kool play as widely as they do, but they'd just played in India and Hungary, were on their way home to play a show in Dallas but were soon after going back out to play in Indonesia. They've also played across Africa and the Far East as well as Japan, Europe and North America. It was cool to hear about interesting places/shows that they've played e.g to 500,000 people in Nairobi, Kenya, and I jumped in on occasion with little stories about Cheap Trick shows. Skip even played me a few of his own tunes on his iPod, and told a wonderful story about when he first met one of his musical idols, Stevie Wonder. Skip was a very interesting guy to talk to, talented too (a Grammy winner), and this was certainly a travelling highlight for me. For anyone interested, Skip has a website at http://www.skipmartinmusic.com and the songs I heard from his jazz orientated "Miles High" CD as well as from his more contemporary "From The Heart" CD sounded great. He said he was considering writing a book about his music and travels, which would be a great read judging from the stories he told me during the flight. Got to love the amazing power of music and the talented people who can create it, whatever the genre.
OK, enough gushing from me about Skip Martin! But really, that was a very cool experience. Oh, and the Northwest cabin crew were terrific, and very friendly as befits a team based in Memphis. The on-demand video was terrific too, with a choice of maybe 60 movies in economy! I went with "Walk the Line" (interesting choice as you'll read later) plus an old favourite of mine "Monsters Inc".
After a 9½ hour flight, we landed in Memphis. Customs and Immigration were fine, and I was happy to have a confirmed seat on the LAX flight later, as I found out at the gate that the flight was overbooked and some people would probably be bumped. But luckily not me. The flight took another four hours, landing at LAX at 9.35pm. Upon calling the venue at San Juan Capistrano to find out what time David Lindley would be onstage, I heard he had just started his set. <sigh>. At this point my suitcase hadn't even made the baggage claim carousel yet, so I had to give up any faint hopes of making it in time to see Lindley :-( But at least my good West Coast friend Tricktoria from Northern California soon arrived. After my case finally appeared, we headed slowly away from LAX through crawling, holiday weekend traffic. Once on I-405 heading south things speeded up, and it was a relief to reach the hotel at Costa Mesa, booked because of the expectation of going to the Lindley show at nearby San Juan Capistrano. I was certainly ready for sleep.
Sat 18 Feb party
This was to be a fairly low key day until late afternoon. The morning was dry, mild but partly overcast, we skipped breakfast and stopped in Long Beach for an early lunch. Also made a short visit into the Aquarium of the Pacific there, which was impressive. We then drove on up to the Simi Valley north of Los Angeles and checked into the hotel, before driving the 5 miles back to Woodland Hills and the home of long time friends, Tony & Robyn. They were hosting the birthday party this evening for Kevin, and when we arrived at 5pm, the dining table was laden with fruit and finger food, and the musical instruments were set up! Kevin is known to many as "Bunezuela" and the house was decorated with large Bunezuela card masks, together with garlands of smaller masks! Even one or two childrens toys joined in the fun by wearing a Bun E masks so we had "Bun E the Pooh" and a small rocking horse called "Pon E Carlos"!
Various friends arrived from LA and beyond, many carrying their own musical instruments and the music soon started. Its always a privilege to see talented friends playing, and tonight I was lucky enough to see a Speck reunion, also Full Throttle and 4/5 of Petty Theft! The music ranged from Beatles, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty and of course plenty of Cheap Trick. Kevin and his wife Susan arrived early evening, coming straight from the RocknRoll Fantasy Camp, and it was cool to see Kevins guitar signed by various musicians. A fun evening and a good time was had by all!
Sun 19 Feb
A quiet day, Tricktoria and I had a late breakfast in Northridge with Tony, Robyn, Cheryl and Allie, and we were invited to join them visiting the Spectrum Shopping Village an hour or so away, south of Anaheim. Fun to wander around the shops in the sunshine, and we stopped off at Downtown Disney for dinner on our way back north. Tricktoria and I then drove to Burbank Airport to meet another CT friend, Laura from Colorado, then I got dropped off at my hotel for the night.
Mon 20 Feb RocknRoll Fantasy Camp public show
It was a sunny but cool morning, and Tricktoria arrived mid-morning to collect me at my hotel and we drove on up north. Went to Santa Monica and the Pier to have lunch, and later drove to north Hollywood to the House of Blues for around 5pm.
As usual we ate there, seeing many CT friends doing the same. We'd twigged a long time ago that if you eat in the HOB restaurant, you later get priority entry into the music venue for the evenings show. Anyway, nice to see more local friends, and after eating we headed outside around 6pm to get in line. Tonight was the culmination of the 5 day Rock'n'Roll Fantasy Camp, with the attendees playing on stage at the House of Blues in front of the public. There were lots of VIP's and guests and Fantasy Camp attendees to go in before us, but we finally made it into the rustic venue at 6.45pm and were luckily able to get front stage left (Rick's side) spots with a good view of the stage.
The "Battle of the Bands" started at 7.05pm with an introduction by Roger Daltrey, explaining about the Camp and about his Teenage Cancer charity to whom the proceeds from tonight's show were going. It was amazing to see Roger Daltrey so close up on stage, perhaps no more than a dozen feet away. The last (and only) time I'd seen him was around 6 years ago at a Who show at the Sheffield Arena in England. Roger was on stage at one end of the ice hockey venue, I was seated at the opposite wall Roger looked about an inch tall then! I had a much better view of him now, and he looked well and relaxed. Several times during the evening I briefly thought to myself "I can't believe I'm this close to Roger Daltrey, a rock legend!
Anyway, there was a long evening ahead. Because of the number of attendees to the Camp (around 120), we would be seeing 12 bands, who would each play two songs. Each band had been mentored by a well known musician, and many of the mentors/counsellors joined their band on stage.
(And apologies in advance if I spell any of the band or mentor names wrong!)
First up were "Feiger Optics" with Don Fieger of The Knack. Their two song set included "Summertime Blues" with Roger Daltrey coming on briefly to sing the first verse! Oh, I should mention that the stage was very crowded, having to accommodate around 10-12 musicians per band plus any guests. And whilst guitarists, saxophonists and the like brought on their own instruments, the larger kit such as drums and keyboards were static and every band used that same kit. That helped keep changeovers between bands fairly brief, usually not more than 5-8 minutes or so.
The second band were "Taste Great" with Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad. Their second song, "We're Not Gonna Take It" featured Daltrey singing on verse 1. By now we guessed that most bands were taking the opportunity of having The Who's legendary singer join them briefly!
Third up were "Kaizer Soze", after which were auctions for a signed guitar and signed drumsticks.
Fourth up were "Cheney's Got a Gun" (very topical, with the US Vice-President having recently accidentally shot a hunting partner), featuring Mark Slaughter of the band Slaughter. Their second song was "Surrender", and Rick and Robin from Cheap Trick joined them for the first verse!
Fifth on stage were "Heads We Lose" with Gary Byrd. They had an electric violin player who did a fantastic Baba O'Riley intro before the band went into a different song with Roger Daltrey on harmonica. Their second song was introduced as being "a Dylan song" Rick Nielsen walked on stage to add " Hymie Dylan!" Robin also came on and they all did a slightly slow "I Want You to Want Me". The CT band members stayed on just for the first verse, but cool to see Robin sing that first verse on bended knee to the attractive violin player!
Sixth on were "Five Days High" who played "Old Fashioned Rock and Roll", followed by "Squeezebox" on which Daltrey guested on verse 1. That was followed by another auction, with the auctioneer being joined by the young man who played Frederick, Frasier Crane's son on the well known series "Frasier". Though he, like other, later guests didn't actually get to say anything. Oh, and the artist known (or formerly known) as Prince was spotted up in the celebrity balcony watching the show.
Seventh up (you're still with me?) were "Kiss The Sky" whose second song included Daltrey helping out for the entirity of "I Can See For Miles".
The arrival on stage of band #8, "Sly and the Family Bone" brought cheers from many of the crowd, as it featured Bunezuela. The chant of "Kevin Kevin " went up, ala the Bun E chant! Many of this band had eclectic fashion sense, with the lead singer sporting a huge (and I mean HUGE!) fake afro wig and long fur coat! Kevin wore a Hendrix t-shirt, purple pimp hat and purple boa! They had a late 60's Fillmore intro, then they played one verse of a "Sly" song before their singer suddenly ran off. Daltrey came on from sidestage (obviously part of the act) and encouraged him back, saying that they could play what they liked they went into a storming "My Generation" followed by "Dance to the Music". Fun stuff, and Kevin looked to have had a great time.
Band nine were "The Oldest" and featured Neal Schon (Journey) on stage with them. After that, another auction for signed guitar, this time actor Joaquin Phoenix was the guest on stage. Very cool, and oddly enough I'd watched "Walk The Line" on my flight over remember? Definitely a striking looking guy.
Band ten (we're nearly there folks!) were "Vulcan Mind Grip" with Kip Winger. They performed "Live and Let Die" followed by "The Kids Are Alright" with Roger Daltrey.
Band eleven were "Eliah Dixon" and their two songs included "Substitute" with Daltrey. After them was another auction, this time with guest Mickey Dolenz.
The final band were "Leap of Faith" with Simon Kirke (Bad Company), and their second song was "Join Together" which featured Daltrey singing he first verse.
Phew! It had been a long haul but the Camp bands had all played, and the curtains closed whilst the stage was obviously cleared for something (I never foresaw that there would be more music duh!). There followed a somewhat shambolic and protracted awards ceremony during which every Camp attendee got presented with an award for taking part. The "ceremony" was marred by frequent microphone failures and dragged somewhat.
Unfortunately I'd given up my front stage spot during the ceremony, so was a little out of position as the curtains opened at 10.50pm to reveal the stage setup for Cheap Trick! But I got "second row" so it wasn't too bad. I later heard that CT were supposed to play a 30 minute set, but they had to cut down due to the overrunning "Battle of the Bands" and awards ceremony.
RN - black suit, black Uncle Dick t-shirt
The band started out with "Dream Police", and Tom was playing a new bass with a "Who" target on it. And then Robin walked off and Roger Daltrey walked on to take over vocal duties holy crap! The remainder of Cheap Trick played "Summertime Blues" with Daltrey singing, and I could see Robin standing backstage, watching with a huge smile on his face! Tom did the low voice parts during the song, fitting in well with Daltrey. At the end Robin came back on, smiling and applauding Daltrey, and did a "we are not worthy" bow to Roger, with Tom and Rick joining in! That was really cool to see!
Cheap Trick left the stage though Daltrey stayed on, and stools were brought on for him to perform acoustic with a few other musicians.
Roger Daltrey, Neal Schon (Journey), Jack Blades (Nightranger) and Gary Burr
Good Looking Boy
The first song was introduced as being "a Townshend song", and the song included "a bit of Elvis" - a line of "I Can't Help Falling in Love With you". The medley of Johnny Cash songs was very cool, but the topper was an amazing acoustic "Who Are You". That was awesome, and I should have said much earlier that Roger Daltrey both looked great and sounded great too.
The curtains closed for another break, and many of our friends left, but Tricktoria, Laura and I stayed on, and were glad that we did. As I mentioned earlier, each of the Camp bands/groups had been assigned a musician to be their mentor or counsellor. As well as those named above, others included people like Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead), Mickey Thomas (Starship), Bruce Kulick (Kiss) and Kelly Keager (Nightranger). And now, these musicians had the chance to let their hair down with the "Counsellors All Star Band", which changed a little from song to song.
Alright Now (Simon Kirke vocal)
This was really cool too, not knowing what we'd hear next. "Alright Now" was great, though "My Sharona" was a real treat! And that was followed by Spencer Davis singing the classic "Gimme Some Loving" which was very cool. A song or so after that we were all flagging and it was after midnight so Tricktoria, Laura and myself left. They kindly dropped me off at my hotel, and before falling asleep I briefly reflected on what an amazing night's show it had been! Then zzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!
Tues 21 Feb - CT at House of Blues, Hollywood
It was another fine, sunny (though not overly warm) morning, and Tricktoria and Laura collected me from my hotel late morning. We spent a little time at Hollywood's Beverley Center and drove around a little, before we got to the House of Blues at 4.20pm. It was not a moment too soon, as inside I saw both Bun E and Tom already making some noise and Rick arrived soon after (though no Robin). Soundcheck proper started at 4.30pm with the 3 band members first playing a 5 minute instrumental (which sounded like a Cream or Yardbirds tune) before playing The Who's "Substitute" with Rick on vocals, pretty cool to hear!
Doors opened at 8pm I believe the show was a sellout. Opening tonight were a local band called "Lexington Queen" featuring Daxx Nielsen on drums. They were young, loud and rocking. They played from 9.05pm-9.40pm and at one point I spotted proud Dad Rick Nielsen watching from the shadows up in the balcony.
Cheap Trick came on at 10.17pm to the usual Dave Rule introduction "Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls will you please welcome the best f***in' band this town has ever seen CHEEEAAAPPP TRIIIIIICCCKKK!!"
RN - black suit, black Uncle Dick 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, 70s Song, Surrender // (encore) Dream Police, California Man, Goodnight Now
After "Big Eyes" Rick thanked the crowd six times, then commented that "We're thrilled that the Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp is over but we did come in third so we're not too pissed are we guys?" Then "We are the one, the only, accept no substitutes, Cheap Trick". At the end of "Southern Girls", Rick passed his guitar to Danny Saint who happened to be right at front. Rick then thanked Lexington Queen, " a fine band, also a bar in Tokyo!" He also said there were special people in the balcony, and wished actress Jeri Ryan a happy birthday " 23 this year!" He then introduced the next song as "being inspired by Cheap Trick 4 Great Guys, 3 Great Chords this song being E minor, C and A" and they went into "Best Friend". Sorry, I say this in every review, but this rocked, going on for about 7 minutes. Some 20 seconds from the end Rick threw his guitar onto his steps and clapped to the end of the song. No idea if that was a guitar problem or just theatrics? Whatever, this song is a beast, and has definitely evolved over the past couple of years into the centrepiece of the show in my humble opinion anyway.
Robin did a count in German into "I Want You to Want Me". Afterwards Rick said "And if you were here yesterday, here is the man who sang the low parts on "Summertime Blues" with Roger Daltrey - Tom "Boris the Spider" Petersson!" Tom proceeded to play the Aufie bass intro, leading into "I Know What I Want". After that, Rick said that Cheap Trick had been coming to LA/Hollywood since they first played at the Starwood and he was happy to see the same people in the crowd as then! He then pointed out a John Bianelli (sp?) from the Aerosmith camp, jokingly adding "Why are they asking us to tour with them again? Did Thin Lizzy quit? Lenny Kravitz?". He then introduced Robin, who replied "Thank you Rick, that was very kind of you".
At the end of "Lot to Lose" Robin was lightly strumming or tuning his guitar, causing Rick to sing "I'm so glad, I'm so glad". Robin stopped but Rick said "Play it Robin, I know it". Well, I'm afraid I didn't know it, but it wasn't "Just Got Back"!
After "The Flame" Rick said "All good things must come to an end " which briefly prompted some reaction from the crowd! "I'm not talking about us" he explained " the TV show we've been on for 8 years. But Thank God for re-runs, hopefully it'll be on longer than "I Love Lucy"! Cheap Trick doing that 70's Song" and that's what they went into.
At the end of "Surrender" Rick passed the 5 neck to Danny Saint, and then did 3-4 push-ups before leaving the stage. After a minute or two he did a slow walk back on stage and asked "Does that mean you want to hear some more?" That was met with a big "YES!" from the crowd. "Good" he responded, "We've saved our best till last not really!" During the guitar intro to "California Man" Robin sat in Rick's steps, and "Goodnight Now" saw two endings.
The show ended at 11.30pm, and after the usual milling around chatting to people, we got ushered out of the venue. Outside we saw a long, long line of people queuing to get their cars back from valet parking. So Tricktoria and I decided to get a drink and we fought the strong, cold wind up the hill to Sunset Blvd and walked to a nearby fast food pizza place. At 12.20pm we walked back to still find a load of people waiting then found out that they were all waiting for their cars that were valet parked off site. As Tricktoria's car was in the venue parking lot, it was quickly brought to us and we got away and onto the quiet Hollywood streets. Nice to get to into bed around 1am.
Weds 22 Feb Travelling home
I was awake very early, and got up at 5.30am to shower. Unfortunately my flight out of LAX was at 8.30am so it was a really short spell of sleep. Tricktoria kindly got me to LAX and I was quickly checked in, through security and straight onto my plane. The flight to Minneapolis/St Paul was a little over 3 hours, and I had about an hour to kill before boarding the plane for the overnight flight to Amsterdam. This was an older DC10, cramped and with a full complement of passengers. Anyway, being in an exit row I had legroom, and I guess I lightly dozed for 5 hours before breakfast and landing back in Europe. Killed two hours in a Lounge at Schipol before boarding my plane for Manchester. North England proved to be overcast, misty and cold, and it was a "pleasure" as always to drive straight into work from the airport!
As always, thanks are in order. As ever, huge THANKS to Tricktoria for her kindness and driving. Many thanks also to Robyn & Tony for hosting a wonderful party, and for their generosity as ever! And it was a real pleasure to see Carla, the band and crew, and to see many friends over the few days!
Kim Gisborne (Leeds, England) - belatedly completed on 26 Mar 2006
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