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After a long, three week trek around Europe, Cheap Trick were in London to end this somewhat troubled overseas jaunt and looking to end on a high. Until tonight the band had been as part of a touring Festival bill with Deep Purple and Status Quo, but four of the Festivals ended up being cancelled and so only seven were played. However, those took the band across the continent, starting in Germany and going on to Switzerland, Slovenia, Belgium, Holland, Italy and Spain. Thankfully tonight Cheap Trick were ending the trip by headlining their own show, and their fans travelled from far and wide (as usual) to give them a warm welcome at the Empire theatre in Shepherds Bush, West London.

As is often found, a small number of fans were in line from around 3pm on a warm afternoon. The Empire sat at one end of Shepherds Bush Green, and was a former BBC theatre at which chat shows and sitcoms had been recorded in years past. However, the seats on the main floor had been removed, and it was now an intimate rock venue at which bands such as The Who have played.

Cheap Trick arrived around 4.10 pm to soundcheck, though Bun had been there quite a while earlier and used some of the time to get warmed-up. When all the band members were on stage, soundcheck started around 4.30 pm with a rousing, electric version of "Oh Caroline". This was followed by quite a surprise, "Woke Up With a Monster". That was followed up by "Shelter", and then the melody (with no vocal) of The Flame".

Robin and Bun left the theatre to return to the hotel, but Rick delighted the large number of fans in line at around 5.30 pm by coming out to sign autographs and be photographed. Whilst doing so, he asked people what songs they'd like to hear tonight and jotted down the titles on a sheet of paper. After working his way through the crowd around the stage door, Rick ventured to the front of the theatre to delight those people who had no idea he was going walkabout!

A little later, after having pulled out some of the fan suggestions, Rick was called onto the stage for a photo shoot with "Guitarist" magazine for a spread which will probably be in the issue due in UK shops in mid August. Of course the venue was currently empty since doors hadn't yet opened. The stage was a good size, and the main floor was probably a little bigger than that in the House of Blues venues, but not much. To either side of the floor were bars, and to the rear were steps to another bar area. Above the main floor were 3 balconies, the main one being the largest, and the two above being fairly small. All had very ornate white and gold frontages, and it was a nice, intimate venue for the show.

{Late addition to the page at 24 Aug: Here are 3 pictures... the first is my picture of the outside of the venue.  The second and third are of a wonderful t-shirt I saw one of the Japanese fans wearing (a lady by the name of Chiyo) and the shirt was amazing. It took 3 months to hand-embroider front and back, and every album title is sewn on in swirl! Fantastic, and Chiyo kindly sent me photo's of the shirt (via Sayuri) and has allowed me to share them. Domo arigato Chiyo-san  :-)

London04A.jpg (75515 bytes)        Chiyo1.jpg (103203 bytes)       Chiyo2.jpg (105063 bytes)

Doors opened around 7pm, and by the time the opening band took to the stage, there was a very healthy crowd in the house. The top two balconies weren't used, but the crowd on the main floor level was sizeable and the main balcony was mostly full too. McQueen, a 4 piece female rock band came on at 8pm and played a 30 minute set and were politely received. The stage was then quickly cleared and set up for Cheap Trick, who took to the stage at 9.03pm to a huge roar from the excited crowd!

RN – Blue "Muse" t-shirt, black jacket, black trousers

RZ – White shirt with pinstripes, black trousers, brown striped jacket, black hat

TP – Black suit, fuschia pink shirt

BC – Black t-shirt, black jeans

On Top of the World, ELO Kiddies, I Can’t Take It, Taxman Mr Thief, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, Woke Up With A Monster, Tonight Its You, Fan Club, California Man, The Flame, 70’s Song, Surrender // Scent Of A Woman, Dream Police, Auf Weidersehen

As always, Bun E was first on stage as the drone played through the speakers, and he bowed as he came on, just before getting behind his drumkit and starting the show. The setlist showed "Just Got Back" as the opening number, though the opening intro quickly evolved into the bars to "On Top of the World". The crowd was certainly enthusiastic and the venue was very warm indeed, but the atmosphere was full of energy. "ELO Kiddies" was a nice second song, after which Rick reminded the crowd that "We are the original, accept no substitutes, Cheap Trick"! After "I Can't Take It" Rick said that this was "the last night of 5 months in a row" and that CD's (of "Music For Hangovers") were on sale tonight for 5. "Even if you don't want to listen to it, they make great coasters" he suggested! "Taxman Mr Thief" was nice to hear and it's certainly one of my favourites. Rick mentioned that the song was "inspired by England" and that he'd been "audited every year since 77!"

Bun and Tom were introduced before "Best Friend", which featured some manic guitar playing by Rick and awesome vocals by Robin. This seems a good point to mention that the band certainly seemed in fine form for this show, with Bun and Tom both solid in providing the beat and bass, Rick was full of energy and Robin was literally singing his lungs out. I wasn't in the best spot to judge the sound, but I later heard some people say that the bass was extremely loud and they couldn't hear Robin enough. However, in small venues like this I guess it depends where you stand.

After the usual, enthusiastically received "I Want You to Want Me", Rick proceeded to get into a bit of an introduction loop with Robin, starting off with his "Ladies and Gentlemen, Robin Zander!" to which Robin replied "Rick Nielsen", leading Rick to reply "Robin Zander!" before facing the crowd and ending with "You!" Rick then pointed out various fans in the audience, from Australia, Japan, Wales, France (poor Julien got a round of boo's from some of the English in the crowd, prompting Rick to spring to his defense and say that "Cheap Trick fans can come from any place they want to!") He then went on to point out more fans from Germany, Rockford and England, and also greeted Ginger from the Wildhearts, who was up in the balcony. I'm aware of other fans from Chicago, San Francisco, Sweden and Scotland, as well from all over Britain. And when that was all done, the band went into a tremendous version of "Woke Up With a Monster", followed by "Tonight Its You". That was followed by another cool surprise, "Fan Club" which I think has been played only once before in Britain (at the first night of the album shows in London in 2001).

Rick stood in the spotlight and played a long intro before the band launched into the next song, "California Man", which had been another crowd request from earlier on. However, we unfortunately saw the ugly side of concert-going, with some jerk throwing a glass of beer at Rick during the song. Showing amazing patience and professionalism, Rick and the band never actually stopped the song but held a chord whilst Rick stood at front stage and pointed out the idiot in the crowd so that security could throw him out. The band then finished the song before a short break whilst the centre of the stage was mopped up. From where I had been standing I'd thought it was water that had been thrown on Rick. But armed with towels and on my knees on the stage along with Colin (Robin and Tom's tech) mopping up, I quickly found out it was beer. Rick came back on to state that the place was full of great people and one jerk and then to announce that he'd earlier had lunch with Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden, "…and he didn't worship the devil once!" He then played a line or two of "It All Comes Back to You" before mentioning the band had just played in various European countries.

The set continued with "The Flame" and "70's Song" before launching into the traditional set closer "Surrender". That saw one of the funniest moments I've seen in a long time. As usual Rick tossed the album flat high into the air above the crowd… but like a boomerang it turned 180 degrees high up near the ceiling and flew straight down and hit Rick in the chest! For a moment both he and the crowd looked stunned before he laughed, picked up the flat and tossed it out again!

The encore saw "Scent of a Woman", followed by Dream Police". As usual, Rick threw out handfuls of picks, and these included many of the new colours of pick - red, green, black, purple, dark blue etc, as well as a few of the white pearlised picks with a letter on them   (the set spells "C h e a p T r i c k"). The show closed with a rousing "Auf Wiedersehen", and the band were given a tremendous ovation at the end of the show (at 10.26 pm).

All that was left was to say goodbye to many friends as the venue staff ushered us all out. As usual, many fans waited around the stage door hoping to meet the band and were rewarded about 30 minutes after the show ended as the band members left the venue.

As always it was a pleasure to meet so many friends from all over, there are too many of you to name individually! And thanks as ever to Cheap Trick, Carla and the crew.

Kim Gisborne, Leeds England – 27 July 2004

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