THE END OF THE YEAR ROAD TRIP - DEC 2004
At the end of a long and busy year, Cheap Trick were seeing out 2004 in Florida (for the third straight year), and I hoped for a New Years Eve without torrential rain! My last NYE trip had been at the end of 2002, but the big night in Orlando was washed out by a tropical storm. I'd had to be at work over the New Years period in 2003 and so hadn't been over at the NYE show (again in Orlando) which went ahead in good weather and included a memorable rendition of "Highway to Hell" with AC DC's Brian Johnson. But I booked time off for the end of 2004 and made plans for what I knew in advance would be a busy, tiring but fun six day (and four show) trip!
Sun 26 Dec 2004 - Travelling out
In the introduction above I made a big deal of the weather, particularly the washout of NYE 2002. Whilst the Florida weather this time was forecast to be good, it was the late December weather here in England that had me worried. A cold snap hit shortly before Christmas and many areas saw snowflakes on Christmas Day (which doesn't happen often). My travel plans to get to Florida were certainly more complicated than I'd have liked, and the only flight package I could afford was actually departing from London Gatwick, some 240 miles from my home in Leeds. So, in the days leading up to Christmas, with snow and ice forecast, I was literally praying that I'd be able to safely get down to Gatwick to fly out. And a fact that might make some American readers laugh (and some British readers nod in agreement), it only takes an inch of snow in Britain to paralyse the roads! Hence my concerns!
I had to be up and awake early really early. Like 2am early. I spent Christmas Day with family, so didn't get home and to bed until 10pm. I'd hoped for 4 hours sleep, but didn't drop off until midnight and eventually only got two hours before my alarm rudely woke me up. Ouch! I left home just after 3am on the 26th (to give myself plenty of time for the drive south, just in case) and it was dark and freezing cold out, but thankfully no sign of any snow. The roads were quiet and so it was an easy drive. Normally, sleeping-hours radio is pretty bland, but all the way down I was listening to coverage of an earthquake or tsunami that had occurred somewhere near South East Asia only a few hours earlier. It was clearly a disaster, but having only just happened, the scale of the devastation was barely apparent by the time I reached Gatwick at nearly 8am. At that time there were officially less than a hundred deaths confirmed how different to the tragic situation when I arrived back 7 days later.
Anyway, I got my car parked, got to the Terminal and checked in, and killed time in the Lounge (which was thankfully much quieter than the busy and crowded main passenger areas). My flight to Minneapolis took off a bit late, and it was long (8½ hours) and boring. The highlight was getting to see "Shark Tale" which was entertaining. Minneapolis-St Paul was bright but freezing when we landed, and I was quickly through Immigration only to have to wait an age for my small case to roll out onto the conveyor.
My next flight a couple of hours later was to Memphis, and by the time we took off I'd been awake 21 hours and my eyes were tired and grainy. I drank coffee to stay awake, and the hop to Memphis was under two hours.
At Memphis I literally went from one plane to another in order to catch my final flight, down to Jacksonville in Florida (so no time to get any BBQ food near my departing Gate :-( When booking my flights I'd actually tried to fly into Orlando or even Miami but those round trip flights were silly money. Hence travelling from London into Jacksonville (with stops) was the only affordable routing I could get. I got to JAX at 10.10pm local time (3.10am to my body!), but it took nearly 40 minutes for any luggage to start arriving at baggage claim. Talk about slow. The first of my travel companions, good friend Dawn from Chicago was due to land just after 10.30pm, but her flight was 45 minutes late and again we had quite a wait for her luggage. We then got our rental car and a little before midnight set out to find our Econolodge a few miles south of downtown Jacksonville (and thanks to Dawn for driving!) As we looped past the city centre, we had a pretty view of the downtown skyline and bridge lit up with blue lights, very nice. We got to the hotel at 12.30am, booked in, and I was glad to sink into bed soon after! I'd had a long 27 hour day after only two hours sleep the night before, so I was ready for shut-eye! I needed to be fresh for our first show day
Mon 27 Dec Cheap Trick in Hollywood FL
I didn't get too much sleep but got about enough. I was awake at 6.15am, showered and had breakfast in the hotel lobby. In the 28 hours since I'd dropped my car at London Gatwick, the death toll in the Asian tsunami had climbed to a shocking 21,000 :-(
I soon saw Dawn, and also Jimmy (the Carolina Man) who came to get breakfast. Jimmy had driven down from South Carolina and arrived at the hotel an hour or so after Dawn and I. But Dawn had booked two rooms so they kindly let me sleep on and Jimmy shared Dawns room after he arrived.
We left the hotel at 9am in my rental car, leaving Jimmy's in the parking lot to collect when we came back up through Jacksonville the next day. It was a chilly morning, we had to scrape a thin layer of ice off the car windows, brrrr! As we drove south on I-95 below Daytona Beach we saw some lingering signs of the past summers hurricanes - damaged trees, road signs and advertising hoardings. Tops of many trees had literally been snapped off like they were just matchsticks.
Early afternoon saw us pulling into the Days Inn on Broward Ave in Fort Lauderdale, and we had to take care not to hit one of the ducks in the parking lot! After getting out of the car we had to watch where we walked too! That was bizarre but kind of cool too! After dropping our bags into our one booked room, we set off the 7-8 miles to find the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino complex at Hollywood, where tonight's show was taking place. The Hotel and Casino was huge, and it was a nice surprise to see a big picture of Rick and Robin (mid-late 90's) near the large gift store as we walked in. We also found the Hard Rock Café nearby (within the hotel) and that had several Cheap Trick items on display on the left hand wall by the entrance! A real find! Pictures can be seen on the "Hard Rock Café" page on my website hardrock.htm). The Hotel/Casino was certainly larger than the one in Las Vegas, and it was funny to see that it even had leopard print rugs in the mens restrooms!
After greeting CT friends Allie and Lynn, Adam and I helped set up merchandise within the room that was the venue for tonight's show. "The Club" was a mustard coloured square room, with 8 rows of flat, main floor seating and 12 banked rows of banked seats, and my guess was that the venue would hold 800-900. Above the rear entrance were 7 guitars displayed on stands, and on the side walls were a few giant pictures of stars such as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Elton John. The stage was a good size with a black curtain backdrop with (unusually) no identification that this was a Hard Rock.
The band didn't soundcheck as three of the band members were arriving at various times late in the afternoon. Doors opened at 7pm and though the show was due to start at 8pm, the band didn't take to the stage until 8.15pm. Shortly before taking to the stage, Rick walked out to the side of the room (on "his" side) to greet Magic Christian, who'd played keyboards with CT some years ago, and also (and mostly unnoticed) went and briefly talked to some fans on the end of the front row.
RN Black suit, blue t-shirt
RZ Black pinstripe suit, black shirt
TP Black suit with long jacket, black shirt
BC Black t-shirt, black jeans
Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, My Obsession, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, Shes Tight, Tonight Its You, Voices, Never Had a Lot to Lose, The Flame, 70s Song, Surrender // Dream Police, Goodnight Now
The sound for this show was excellent, and one of the first things I noticed on stage was that Tom was playing what looked to be a new black bass. I also saw that Bun was playing an orange swirl patterned Ludwig drumset. After "Big Eyes" Rick announced that they were "the warm up band for Cheap Trick - they'll be out shortly!" After "If You Want My Love" he went on to note that this was a "temporary room and that the Hard Rock are building a Cheap Trick Theatre!" (KG note: well, they are certainly building a new venue!) He also announced that the band would be going into the studio after New Years Eve to record some new material. For this short run of shows, Rick had a new tech (Jim - who'd previously worked with Joe Perry of Aerosmith), and Jim certainly had a tough time on this first evening with some of Rick's frequent guitar changes etc. I'm sure it didn't help that they hadn't had a soundcheck together before this show.
Something distracted Robin during "My Obsession" and he lost a line - Rick helped him out and got him back on track! After that song Rick mentioned that Tom was playing a new TP signature model of bass guitar. He remarked on the guitars thick neck, and Tom replied that only "real men" can play it! Carrying on his occasional "tradition", Rick handed his guitar to a fan in the front row at the end of "Best Friend", which caught tech Jim a little by surprise. After "Tonight Its You" Rick had the house lights up and mentioned people from places like Illinois and Canada. He also pointed out Dick Kulpa (Editor of Cracked magazine), commenting "It's an under 70's show so you'll have to leave!" Rick also spotted the guitars at the rear of the room, said he'd donated them and that "you can have those!". That must have worried security as they guitars were almost reachable from the back row! Rick also announced a couple of birthdays and spotted a couple of children in the crowd. He enquired of their ages (9 and 8) and said "it's like a feeding crowd for Michael Jackson!" He finished up his spiel by mentioning that he'd been in Puerto Rico this afternoon where the Hard Rock Café had burnt down.
After "Lot to Lose" Rick pointed out Magic Christian off to the side of the main floor, commenting on his proximity to a large picture of Stevie Ray Vaughan. He then went on to mention the crew and the fact that he had a new substitute tech, Jim. "Joe's quit playing no, he's up to his elbows in hot sauce!" (Joe Perry has just launched a range of sauces in the States). And after mentioning Jim's name, Rick added "See, Joe Perry didn't even know your name, I do!" At that, Jim had to walk on with a replacement guitar for Rick, which prompted a slow drum beat from Bun E! Boy, was Jim having a tough baptism! Rick then announced "This is a song that went to number one but I always thought it sounded like number two!" Of course that introduced "The Flame", not one of Ricks favourite CT songs so it seems. Tom was now playing a new, red 12 string bass, and it was symptomatic of the somewhat lukewarm crowd that they didn't applaud Robins big note towards the end of "The Flame". "Surrender" saw Rick having guitar volume problems at the start of the song, and then perplexed late on not to have a flat to throw out into the crowd. Ouch! Poor Jim wouldn't have known about doing that, though I believe he got plenty of reminders over the next 24 hours. "Goodnight Now" finished with 3 endings, and the show ended at 9.30pm.
Merchandise was slow after the show, and I think that was just in keeping with the evening. The crowd had been somewhat lukewarm, and I think the band were a little stage rusty after being off the road for a few weeks. It certainly wasn't as tight a show as they are capable of, and the lack of a soundcheck didn't help. But the band did enough to satisfy the crowd, and as mentioned before I thought the sound was excellent.
A few of us fans (Allie, Lynn, Adam, Jimmy, Dawn and I) had a late supper in the Hard Rock Café (the first of several late meals this week!) before we said our goodbye's at 12.30am. Adam came back to Ft Lauderdale with Dawn, Jimmy and I, and we were luckily able to get a room for Jimmy and Adam at our hotel, so no-one ended up having to sleep on a floor.
Tues 28 Dec Cheap Trick in Jacksonville FL
Despite another late night, my body clock again woke me up at 6am and it took a while to doze off again until 7.30am. We left the hotel a bit later and took Adam back to the Hard Rock Hotel, as he'd be sharing the long drive up to Jacksonville with Lynn and Allie. Adam looked a little rough, as he'd nursed a bad toothache all night so got little or no sleep.
Dawn, Jimmy and I set off from Hollywood just after 10am on a mild, grey but breezy morning. As well as seeing the trademark abandoned cars along the side of I-95, we later saw a burned out truck cab on the other side of the road which caused a 5+ mile tailback heading south. We were pleased that that hadn't happened 24 hours earlier as we'd have been caught up in it as we hurried down to the first show.
We arrived in Jacksonville at 3.45pm and managed to park near the Florida Theatre downtown. I went inside, to find a very attractive and ornate venue for tonight's show. The main lobby was beautifully decorated like a north African courtyard, complete with balconies and wrought iron railings, whilst the theatre itself saw the stage framed by wonderful golden decoration. The stage was a good size, and there was a large area of banked seating to the main floor as well as a large balcony above.
Rick, Tom and Bun arrived for soundcheck around 4pm, a few minutes later playing a version of "70's Song" with Rick on vocals.
After soundcheck I helped set up the merchandise stand in the lobby, before leaving at 5.20pm to drive north to JAX airport to meet Rieko and Junko, both arriving from Japan. Rieko's flight arrived first (though late) and as I found a couple of nights ago, it took an age for baggage to appear on the conveyor. Forty five minutes. Junko's flight was also late, but thankfully her baggage arrived quicker (maybe its just the Northwest baggage people at JAX who are slow?), and we headed back downtown, parking near the theatre at 7.50pm. Luckily the band weren't due on stage until 9pm tonight. I went in to help with t-shirts, so didn't see the opening act.
Cheap Trick came on at 9pm to a good sized crowd and a warm reception.
RN Black suit, black t-shirt
RZ Black pinstripe suit, black shirt. Shades, ponytail
TP Long cream leather jacket, black shirt, black pants
BC Black t-shirt, black jeans
Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, My Obsession, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, Shes Tight, Tonight Its You, Voices, Never Had a Lot to Lose, The Flame, 70s Song, Surrender // Dream Police, Scent of a Woman, Goodnight Now
The setlist was the same as last nights, except for the inclusion of "Scent of a Woman" into the encore. The band were certainly tighter tonight, and as well (or as a result), the crowd were also more lively than last nights.
After "Big Eyes", Rick announced that Tom had two new bass guitars (red, black), both were new TP signature guitars made by Waterstone. That confirmed my suspicion last night that Tom had a couple of new basses. After "If You want My Love" Rick announced they'd be recording new material in Florida from 2nd January. After "My Obsession! Rick noted the crowd were rowdy "you must be the Bun E Fan Club!" which prompted a fast drum beat from Bun and Rick joined in with the opening bars of "He's a Whore"! He then started to introduce the next song but was interrupted by a shout from the crowd of "3 chords!" He noted that "the Mayor of Jacksonville" was in the crowd and held the mic down to a front row fan to announce "3 chords, Best Friend" - way to go Dawn! You've read it from me before, but this song is a monster, and really seems to be the one where the band can let themselves go, particularly in the climactic latter stages. Wonderful stuff. During the song a woman apparently came down the aisle, threw her purple bra on stage and flashed Rick - sadly I couldn't see this from my vantage point! Towards the end of the song Rick picked up the bra and put it on the end of his guitar. After the song he announced "that song had 3 chords E minor, A and (bra cup) C"!
The crowd were certainly lively during the perennial crowd favourite "I Want You to Want Me", after which Rick announced they'd be back in Jacksonville next month to play at the Superbowl festivities. He then mentioned fans, including from Japan ("Junko had been a Budokan"), New York, and (to a big cheer) Florida!
At the end of "Tonight Its You" Rick gave his guitar to a fan at the front, and new tech Jim retrieved it to a small chorus of boo's! Rick in particular was having fun during "Lot to Lose" and afterwards was pointing out various imaginary celebrities in the audience. With a few more seconds to kill, he turned to Bun and asked if he knew anything, bringing the priceless deadpan reply "I don't know shit, Rick". That started up the Bun E chant which brought a response of the "ELO Kiddies" beat from Bun.
Tonight Robin deservedly got the cheer after the big note towards the end of "The Flame", and he sang the last verse of "Surrender" sitting on Tom's stage monitor. There was a big crowd reaction to the end of that, and to Rick's question on his return to the stage of "Do you want to hear some more?"
During the encore it was nice to see Rick put his arm around Robin shortly before doing his spoken part in the middle; nicer still to see Robin sing the line "see what a woman can do" straight at Allie at the end of a traumatic medical year for her, and there was a tremendous 4 endings to "Goodnight Now". The show ended at 10.17pm.
It had certainly been a great, tight performance. Rick was his usual clowning self, and things with his temporary tech worked more smoothly tonight (including having the flat ready for "Surrender"!) Robin sang his heart out as usual, Tom sounded great on his new basses and as ever I thoroughly enjoyed watching the economy and precision of Bun's drumming.
After finishing up with merchandise, the six of us (Dawn, Junko, Rieko, Jimmy, Adam and I) left Jacksonville and stopped for a late supper at a Waffle House a few miles north of downtown. That was a weird experience, with the ongoing bickering between the sassy manager/serving lady and her disgruntled short order chef. He kept threatening to walk out and she actually did go outside to cool off at least once, otherwise I think they'd have come to blows! We headed on up for about another 30 minutes until we reached Kingsland, just across the state line in Georgia, where we were booked into another Econolodge. Once again, bed was very welcome at 1am.
Weds 29 Dec Cheap Trick in Myrtle Beach SC
Once again my body clock woke me early, and I took advantage by getting a bite of breakfast and filling the car with gas whilst Dawn was getting ready. Today was to be a long driving day all the way up Georgia and to the northernmost tip of South Carolina, hence our choosing to get a hotel in Georgia last night - giving us a bit of a head start today. Our two carloads left Kingsland at 8am on a bright, crisp morning, and in the bottom part of Georgia we drove on I-95 through swampland and large areas of water shrouded in morning mist. Very pretty. We stopped for breakfast at a Crackerbarrel, and I could have happily stayed longer by the large fireplace in the dining area. We continued up I-95 for several more hours, our two cars having fun as we passed each other a few times. Rieko and Junko were asleep in the rear of mine and Dawn's car so missed a couple of instances of mooning and chest flashing as the cars passed each other. I can't reveal from which car the flashing occurred, but it was probably a good thing that the South Carolina Highway Patrol weren't anywhere nearby! And it was during this long stretch of drive that Dawn's phrase of "All I hear is blah blah blah" came into its own - I'm not sure if she meant she couldn't hear my talking due to the road noise or if my conversation was just so profoundly boring! You be the jury!
We reached the House of Blues at Myrtle Beach at 2.30pm on a mild and sunny afternoon. Good to see several friends there, including long time friend Randy (with whom I shared a room during some of the Chicago Metro shows in 98), and Charlene and Erica from Atlanta. I went inside, and the band soundchecked at 4.30pm, playing "Anytime" and "Oh Caroline". Robin stayed on stage to do some of "Ghost Town" and playing guitar himself for that, though Rick also stayed to help with backing vocals.
Merchandise got set up in the entrance hall, and with the doors open (at 7pm or so) it was pretty chilly. The temperature had dropped with the setting sun, and there was a bit of a chilly breeze that blew in. I was glad I'd put on a long sleeved t-shirt. The opening act were Five Eight from Athens, Georgia, and I was able to watch them on a TV monitor on the wall in the lobby. They sounded OK.
As described back in April, the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach was typical of the HOB chain of venues, with lots of wood and a real rustic feel. There was a dancefloor, flanked by raised levels of flooring, with bars to the rear and Tom's side. And there was a balcony area to three sides too. There was a good crowd in, but it was not as crowded as back in April. This was probably due to it being a Wednesday night just after Christmas, as well as because the band had been here a few month previous. However, the crowd was enthusiastic and ready by the time the band took to the stage at 8.45pm.
RN Black suit, black "Uncle Dick's T's" t-shirt
RZ Black pinstripe suit, black shirt, shades, ponytail
TP Black suit, white shirt
BC Black t-shirt, black jeans
Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, My Obsession, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, Shes Tight, Tonight Its You, Voices, Never Had a Lot to Lose, The Flame, 70s Song, Surrender // Dream Police, Scent of a Woman, Goodnight Now
The band seemed to be getting tighter and better with each passing show, and tonight they looked and sounded sharp. Again the enthusiastic crowd contributed to the energy of the performance, and this was a really nice show to be at.
During "If You Want My Love" Rick strummed his guitar with a card sign someone in the crowd had passed up to the stage. After this song he introduced the next song ("My Obsession") stating he'd be playing a Gibson Les Paul with only one pick up. After a fine performance of the song, Rick handed his guitar to Jimmy in the front of the crowd, who seconds later passed it back to Rick's tech who'd come to retrieve it. "I was going to let you keep that guitar" he said jokingly to Jimmy after watching the transaction "but since you gave it back !" Rick then introduced Bun, then Tom and his new signature bass which prompted Tom to play solo for about a minute.
Playfully, Robin only whispered his intro to "I Want You to Want Me"! At the end of that, someone at stage front passed up a copy of the 1979 Rolling Stone picturing Cheap Trick on its cover. Rick held it up and announced "This used to be us when Rolling Stone had taste" to a big crowd cheer. He then made a public request for the House of Blues to make a colour copy of the cover for everyone in the crowd before the end of the show, and passed the magazine to his tech sidestage. The band then played "She's Tight" and "Tonight Its You", and whilst Rick was talking to the crowd, the original Rolling Stone magazine had returned to sidestage and Tom walked to each band member and got it signed. Rick ended up his spiel by mentioning a woman wearing a "I love Uncle Dick" t-shirt, then provocatively asked if anyone was here from North Carolina to a big chorus of boo's!
After "Lot to Lose" Rick had spotted the pile of 30 black and white photocopies of the Rolling Stone cover waiting for him sidestage (it was obviously impossible to have gotten several hundred printed up during the show). He brought them out to a cheer (and I think even he was surprised that any copies had been done!) and gave them to the owner of the RS to hand out to the crowd.
During the "70's Song" it was funny to see both Tom and Rick make "guitar God" poses in the direction of Jim sidestage, I'm not sure what prompted that. The show ended as usual with "Goodnight Now" though with just a single ending, and the band left the stage at 10.02pm.
After the usual packing away of merchandise, our hardy road tripping sextet (that's 6 people, right?) plus Charlene and Erica went to find somewhere open to eat for another late supper, and we eventually found the Plantation Pancake House about three miles north of the HOB. We had a really fun supper with some hilarious conversation, and it was certainly a nice way to end up that part of this marathon road trip. Outside we said our goodbyes. Charlene and Erica would be heading back to Atlanta in the morning, whilst Jimmy and Adam were setting off now for Columbia SC where Adam would catch a 4am Greyhound bus back home to Tampa, something like a 14 hour trip. Ouch! Meanwhile, Dawn, Junko, Rieko and myself set out north to find our Comfort Inn at North Myrtle Beach. Again it was good to fall into bed well after midnight!
Thurs 30 Dec - The road trip that never ends
A "rest day" of sorts, in as much as we had no show to get to for this evening. I actually slept until nearly 8am, and a little later the girls all joined me for breakfast. As a side note for anyone going to Myrtle Beach, this budget hotel is great! Clean, comfortable, reasonably priced and with a good breakfast, I'd certainly look to book here again next time. It gets my thumbs up as a recommended hotel!
It was a beautiful warm and sunny morning as we left the hotel, stopped at the Harley Davidson store to shop (for small items, not for a Fat Boy or anything like that!) and we reached the unusual pyramid that is Myrtle Beach's Hard Rock Café around 11.30am. We met Charlene and Erica there, as they'd decided to delay their drive home to briefly meet up. We had a group shopping session there before saying our goodbyes! We'd also had a brief look around inside this Egyptian themed restaurant, and found a Cheap Trick bow tie in a small cabinet of promotional items of various bands.
The four of us left Myrtle Beach at 12.40pm, on what we anticipated to be a 7 hour drive back south to Orlando/Kissimmee. Little did we know what was in store for us on the journey. (Journey? It felt more like a saga! Much like this long review!) We made good time heading inland to meet I-95, the main highway on that southern east coast, and once back on 95 we headed south only to run into heavy, slow traffic. We crawled along, expecting to eventually pass an accident or something we finally passed the body of something like a young deer off the side of the road and then the traffic speeded up! WTF? That was weird. But before long we slowed to a crawl again, stop-start for a couple of miles. This time it was a broken down truck by the side of the road. And then two more bottlenecks for broken down trucks, it was just crazy. We finally left South Carolina at 5.55pm, over 5 hours after leaving Myrtle Beach. The day was really dragging, and it was frustrating too, not only for us drivers in the front but also Rieko and Junko in the back. Nothing more boring than travelling in the back seat on a long, never-ending road journey!
We finally reached the Orlando/Kissimmee area around 10pm and we followed our internet directions to reach our hotel, only to be directed onto the myriad of roads around the various Disney sites in Kissimmee. At one point we saw a 2 mile tailback of traffic leaving one of the Magic Kingdoms, I'm glad we didn't get caught up in something like that as we'd been on the road long enough! We finally found our hotel at 11pm by which time my suspicions that I hated Disney and it surrounding area had solidified! Sheesh, its a jungle there, and confusing too! Anyway, we checked into our Econolodge, and Rieko, Junko and I headed out to a nearby Wendy's to get take out supper to bring back to the rooms. Another late night to bed, 1.40am!
Fri 31 Dec Cheap Trick in Orlando FL
Well, we didn't have far to go today so we didn't get up too early. I was up around 9am on a warm and sunny morning, though I was still aching from all that time in the car yesterday. Having heard on the past two years that Disney had apparently closed its gates early on NYE due to heavy crowds, we decided to get to Pleasure Island (at Downtown Disney) by 11am. We managed to park just fine, and in fairness we didn't need to be anything like that early. But Rieko and Junko were happy to pick up their tickets from Willcall, and I was happy there were still tickets on sale so I could buy one. I hadn't bought one before as I thought I might be helping out on merchandise on the day - but Disney sell bands merchandise at shows there. So we ate in Wolfgang Puck's Express and then settled by the entrance gates to Pleasure Island for the afternoon.
It was a warm and hazy day, the sun breaking through at 3.15pm. A few CT fans such as Lynn, Karen & Mark, Grace from Buffalo and a few others arrived a little later. The band (minus Robin) could be seen 50 yards away arriving for soundcheck at 4.35pm, and we heard them play the MC5's "Ramblin' Rose" with Rick on vocals. Cool stuff! As they were leaving the outdoor stage area, Rick spotted the few of us in line and came down to briefly say hello and shake hands. What a nice gesture!
We got let into Pleasure Island at 7.35pm, and raced across the bridge and up the stairs to the stage area to get good spots at stage front. Nice to see that I recognised most of those in the front row! Mind you, even with two gate entrances to Pleasure Island we needn't have hurried, as the front stage area just remained one-deep for ages. Cheap Trick wasn't the only show in town - Pleasure Island has a large number of clubs and bars as well as the open, outdoor stage area where CT would be performing. Therefore a lot of folks went to the clubs rather than the outdoor stage, with other artists such as Tone Loc and Kurtis Blow appearing indoors.
The outdoor stage area was a large "square" flanked by entrances to clubs and bars, though there were also some outdoor drinks vendors too. The NYE festivities on Pleasure Island were for 21 and over, so there was plenty of alcohol around for people to buy. The outdoor stage was a good size though it looked like the side stage areas were pretty restricted. To the rear of the stage was a giant video screen, so we were entertained by music video's during our continued long wait for Cheap Trick. The band were to play two sets, and took to the stage for the first set at 10.15pm, with the video screen showing the 2x CT logo on a checkerboard background as they came on, and then showing live feed being filmed at stage front. By now the outdoor square was full as many people came out to watch the band.
RN Black suit, black R-picks t-shirt
RZ Black pinstripe suit, brown shirt, black tie
TP Black suit, green shirt
BC Black t-shirt, black jeans
Drone intro to Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Hes a Whore, I Know What I Want, I Want You to Want Me, My Obsession, Voices, RN guitar solo into Scent of a Woman, Surrender
The previous three shows had seen the band warm up and be ready for the highlight show of this short run, New Years Eve, and they were certainly in good form as they started up tonight.
After "Big Eyes" Rick announced that "we are the original, accept no substitutes, Cheap Trick" and that they'd be playing two sets this evening, with only one or two songs played in both sets. After "He's a Whore" Rick introduced Bun, then "a special treat, the great vocals of the inventor of the 12 string bass " which led into a rare outing this year for "I Know What I Want". The "Tommy Girls" in the crowd were delighted by this one!
After "I Want You to Want Me" Rick announced that on yesterdays flight down from Myrtle Beach he'd sat next to a nice young man from Orlando, a marine who'd shortly be going to Iraq in a few days. The young African American came onto the stage to a big reception, and Rick told him to "be safe, listen to Cheap Trick and kick ass!". Rick then jokingly said "get down and give me 20" and the fit young man did just that! He did his push ups, even clapping in between some, and Bun was standing looking on and counting! The press-ups prompted some in the crowd to chant "USA! USA!" As the young man left the stage, Rick joked "I liked him a lot but wish he was a cute female!" After "My Obsession" Rick introduced Robin, then mentioned fans from Yokohama, Osaka, Detroit, Illinois, Green Bay, Cleveland, Canada, New York even some from Florida!" which brought a big cheer!
The set ended at 11pm and the crowd quickly thinned behind us. Right after the set ended, Rick came back onto the rear of the stage, with the young marine holding his 5 neck guitar, and very cool to see Rick take a couple of shots of the young man and guitar in front of the backline. We endured the wait until midnight, by which time the crowd had swelled again. Shortly before midnight two Disney comperes came on, all full of bluster and excitement (pass the sick bag!), and brought on a newly engaged couple who pressed the button which set off the spectacular 5 minute firework display that heralded in 2005! It was loud, it was bright, it was certainly a sight to behold, and it was interesting to see most of CT's crew (as well as local crew) standing on stage watching.
Cheap Trick returned to the stage at 12.07am to play their first set of the new year! And interesting to note a couple of wardrobe changes, most notably Robin, who was now all in white with a big white top hat!
RN Black suit, black t-shirt with small Beatles logo
RZ White suit with silver buttons, white striped shirt, no tie, white top had, shades
TP Black suit, white shirt
BC Black t-shirt, black jeans
Drone intro to Oh Claire, California Man, Southern Girls, Pop Drone, I Want You to Want Me, The Flame, Aint That a Shame, 70s Song, Dream Police, Goodnight Now
After "Southern Girls" Rick wished a Happy New Year to all "its 2005 and I feel better already!" He then repeated that they'd shortly be going into the studio to "make more noise". As in the first set, it was nice to get a few songs we hadn't heard in a while, such as "Oh Claire", "California Man", "Southern Girls" and "Pop Drone". During "Pop Drone" a small stuffed monkey toy was thrown on stage and Rick picked it up and put it on the head of his guitar. After "I Want You to Want Me" (the one repeated song of the night) someone threw another small, blue toy monkey on stage, this one with a long tail. "Awww he can play with my monkey" Rick remarked as he held it by its tail at his waist level! The show ended with "Goodnight Now" which was extended and had 4 endings! It felt like it would never end! Well, it did, at 12.50pm.
All in all it was a fine two sets and definitely the culmination of this short 5 day run of shows. Not only had these been the tightest performances, but the addition of a number of different songs across the two 45 minute sets was nice too. The band had looked happy and relaxed throughout both sets, and certainly looked to be having fun. A good way to see out the old year and welcome in the new.
We spent some time saying our goodbyes after the show and soon headed out to the congested parking lot, where it took us a while to edge out into the slow moving traffic and eventually get onto the main roads back towards the hotels. We reached our hotel around 2am, and Dawn, Rieko and Junko said their goodbyes to each other. I was glad to get to bed, whilst the Japanese ladies were probably up later, trying to fit their Disney shopping into already stuffed suitcases!
Sat 1 Jan/Sun 2 Jan 2005 - Travelling home
The day started early for me, and I slept restlessly knowing I had to be up early. I actually awoke at 5.55am, shortly before the alarm was due to go off. That was a good thing as it meant Dawn didn't get woken up. I quickly (and quietly) dressed and slipped out, and got a quick coffee from the hotel lobby to help wake me up. Rieko and Junko soon emerged from their room, probably having had less sleep than me, but having managed to pack. We left the hotel in the crisp, dark early morning, and I got them to Orlando Airport before 7am to check in for their respective 8am flights to more northerly cities, from which they'd get their flights back to Japan. We said our goodbyes outside the terminal, and I drove back to the hotel on quiet roads, and got back to bed around 7.30am as the sky was lightening.
I was vaguely awake around 9am, and Dawn and I eventually left the hotel at 10.30pm. We'd allowed 3½ hours or so to get up to Jacksonville Airport. Well, it had only taken 2½ hours or so to get here from Jacksonville but we'd totally underestimated New Years Day morning traffic. Getting onto Highway 4 north we soon hit heavy, and almost stationary traffic. Everyone was heading to the theme parks, or the College Bowl game, or to whatever else Orlando has to offer. We crawled for around 20 miles, but when we eventually got into flowing traffic we still felt we had enough time to get Dawn to JAX for her 3.05pm flight back to Chicago. I had much more time, my flight out wasn't until 5.30pm.
Unfortunately we then hit a 16 mile stretch of road construction at Daytona Beach, compounded by a fender bender within that stretch which totally held us up for ages. By now Dawn had realised that she'd miss her flight, and whilst I drove she was on the cellphone to United Airlines and her brother for alternatives. As this was almost the worst weekend of the year for domestic flying, United couldn't offer Dawn an alternative flight until Tuesday (and remember that today was Saturday). Her brother got several possible (and expensive) flight possibilities with other airlines for tomorrow, so we decided to then wait until reaching JAX. We got there at 3pm and returned the rental car (1913 miles in 6 days), and Dawn went to talk to the United agent whilst I checked onto my later Northwest flight to Detroit. Well, Dawn sadly had no luck and eventually decided to rent a car and drive home. She needed to be home for work on Monday morning, so driving the 1000+ miles back to Chicago was her only realistic choice. We said our goodbyes at the end of what had been, until these last few hours, a wonderful and fun road trip. Dawn set out on her drive home (she got back at 8.30pm the following night) and I went into the terminal to pass through the security check and go wait at the gate.
My 1¾ hour flight to Detroit was fine, and as I'd been upgraded I actually got a good meal! I ate with some trepidation, as I'd get another full meal in just 3 hours on my transatlantic! Still, this was almost the first proper meal I'd had in a week since we'd mostly lived our week on the road on a diet of fast food from Wendys and BK!
At Detroit I reached the Gate for my London flight just in time to hear my name called, and found I'd got a rare transatlantic upgrade from Northwest. That was certainly a bonus, and the flight was indeed almost full by the time we were ready to take off. Dinner was great, though I'd sadly had to be sparing about drinking alcohol as I'd have a long drive when I got back to England. The Business Class seat on the new Airbus was comfortable, though as usual I didn't sleep that much on the flight, getting maybe 3 hours of broken and light sleep. Oh well, any rest was welcome as I was extremely tired after the busy week.
London Gatwick was clear, sunny and cold when the plane landed at 9.35am, though with waiting for my case, plus waiting for the courtesy bus back to the parking lot, I didn't get to leave Gatwick in my car until around 11.30am. The 240 mile drive home was hard, and I had to stop halfway through in order to get fresh air, coffee and petrol (in that order!) That stop helped me make the rest of the drive back to Leeds safely, reaching my house at 4.30pm. And during the drive the sole topic on conversation on BBC Radio 5 was the tragedy in South East Asia. When I'd driven down to Gatwick a week ago, the news was just breaking and now the death toll was around 150,000. Incomprehensible and tragic.
And so ended a memorable (though exhausting) Cheap Trick trip. It had been a lot of fun to road trip with several good friends, and nice to get more time than I usually get to socialise.
As always, there are many thanks to give out. First and foremost, THANKS to my travelling companions on the road trip, in particular Dawn from Chicago who helped plan and book so much and who shared the driving duty with me! Thanks also to Junko, Rieko, Jimmy and Adam for being such fun people to share the trip and shows with! Thanks also to the many friends I met at the four shows, and my sincere apologies to those I've forgotten to name in the review - any omissions are totally due to my tired and failing memory rather than for any deliberate reason! You know who you were, it was a pleasure to see you all! And last but never least, thanks to Cheap Trick, Carla, Jon and the guys in the crew! As always it was good to see you, and thanks for putting up with me once again!
And finally, much as it was so much fun I do hope that next years NYE show isn't at Disney Orlando! That area is just nuts and its roads are terrible, as bad (if not worse) as Miami! However, there's whole 12 months of "whatever happens" before the next NYE show! HAPPY NEW YEAR to all!
Kim Gisborne Leeds, England - 8 Jan 2005
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