For the second summer in a row, Cheap Trick were embarking on a long summer tour as part of a three-band bill. In 2008 they were supporting Journey and Heart, neither of whom much appealed to me. I went to one show on that tour, at Tinley Park near Chicago watched Cheap Trick, saw the latter part of the Heart set and the first three songs of Journey before leaving. The 2009 summer tour was more attractive. Although again the opening act of the three, the headliners were Def Leppard, one of the most accomplished arena rock bands around. Having seen them a number of times over the past 3 years where Cheap Trick have supported them (in the UK in 2006, then five of the shows in Australia in 2008), I’ve grown to enjoy their shows. The middle band in the sandwich were Poison, who I have no particular feelings for either way, but who were I think buoyed by the recent success of Bret Michaels’ reality TV show in the States. Anyway, a more attractive triple bill for this summer, and so I chose to take in two shows. Both would be in the Midwest, at Tinley Park near Chicago and then Milwaukee.
Thurs 16 July – Travel to Chicago
As usual my travels took me to Chicago via Amsterdam on my airline of choice, KLM. And the miles from this transatlantic trip would see me reach Platinum status level again for the 10th successive year hence finally earning me “Platinum for Life” status with Air France/KLM! Well, with the economic crisis hitting the airline industry, who knows what “Life” means? Enjoy the benefits whilst it lasts I guess.
Not much else really to say about the travelling that I haven’t written many times before. I had to be up at an unearthly hour (2am actually) to get to Manchester Airport to catch my 6.10am flight to Amsterdam. My morning flight from Amsterdam to Chicago was a little more comfortable than usual. Although I was flying economy, KLM opened up the front Business Class cabin of the 747 to their frequent fliers. A sign of the economic times, that the small number of paying Business Class customers could all be accommodated in the upstairs cabin. Anyway, it was nice to have a wide seat that reclined most of the way back, legroom and personal TV, even if the catering service was economy fare. Despite the comfort I barely slept, as usual.
I made it to Chicago at lunchtime on a lovely summers day (it had been cool and overcast at Leeds and Manchester), and the rest of the day was quiet.
Fri 17 July – Cheap Trick at Tinley Park, IL
Friday started dry and warm, and the morning was quiet. Patricia and I left her house around 2pm to drive to the southern ‘burbs of Chicago and meet up with some friends before the show. It was nice to meet old friends Mary, Dawn and Laurie at a restaurant at Orland Park, and nicer still when Lisa J arrived with Junko and Hiromi who’d landed at O'Hare from Japan only a couple of hours before. I didn’t envy them going straight to a show after such a long journey – I’ve done that a few times and its hard when the tiredness hits!
By the time Pat and I left the restaurant, rain was threatening, with some dark clouds overhead. And by the time we parked at the First Bank Amphitheatre 25 minutes later it was lightly raining. Luckily our tickets were in the covered part of the amphitheatre. We had to wait fifteen minutes or so in the rain before the gates were opened at 6pm, a good opportunity to buy tour t-shirts, and also a copy of “The Latest” for only $5. A bargain! And we could also hear CT soundchecking whilst we were outside – “Miss Tomorrow” and the Beatles’ “Getting Better”. That was cool.
The amphitheatre was outdoors, with a large covered stage and large area of covered seating. To the rear was the higher up, uncovered lawn area. As I recall it rained when we were here last year from Journey, Heart and CT too. As it was, our seats, though in the covered area, were wet because of the rain blown in by the breeze. Nice to briefly see friends Patrick and John G seated a row behind us, plus Tina just a few seats away.
The amphitheatre was half full when an audio montage started at 6.57pm, prior to Cheap Trick taking the stage. That lasted for about 3 minutes, and included clips from things like the Simpsons, Japanese TV and various CT songs. Pretty cool to hear, and like a truncated version of the video montage used before the Budokan 30th Anniversary Show last year. At the end of the audio montage, the band were welcomed to the stage, though interesting it wasn’t tech Dave Rule doing the talking. The welcome was delivered by a well spoken woman’s voice, which made the line “… please welcome to the stage, the best f***in’ band this town has seen” just a tad more shocking! The band took to the stage at 7pm to a warm welcome.
Lilac jacket, white shirt, bow tie, black pants
Way of the World, I Want You to Want Me, These Days, She’s Tight, Tonight It’s You, Sick Man of Europe, Dream Police, The Flame, Surrender, Goodnight Now
Interesting to see a man come on and play keyboards off to Tom’s side of the stage. It turned out to be one of the bands long time friends, Magic Christian.
It was a buzz to hear the band open up with “Way of the World”, a song rarely played in the past 30 years, and this was my first time hearing it played live. By the end of the song, the covered part of the venue was around 2/3 full (with more coming in), so people were keen to see Cheap Trick.
To the sides of the stage were two video screens, but no video was projected for either CT or Poison. However, the 2x CT logo was projected onto the stage backdrop throughout the bands set.
After a well received “I Want You to Want Me”, Rick greeted the crowd, “Hello everybody, I think you know we are still called Cheap Trick. The next tune is from our new CD which is out next week”. The band then went into “These Days” from “The Latest” CD. This was followed by “She’s Tight” which was well received as an older and better known song.
Rick then addressed the crowd again, “Yes folks, we are a real band from Illinois – four great guys, three great chords, Cheap Trick.” He mentioned “… friends from Tokyo, friends on the lawn…” before introducing the band members and Magic Christian on keyboards. He got a big cheer after finishing “Its fun, we’re out on the road with Def Leppard and Poison”.
“Tonight Its you” sounded great, and Rick then briefly introduced, “Here’s a new song” with the band going into a rocking “Sick Man of Europe”. Afterwards, Rick again played up to the “local” crowd by noting “Wow! Thank you very much, a good looking audience… you can tell when you get near Chicago!” Hmmm, are Chicago audiences better looking? Discuss.
“Dream Police” went over well as always, and it was great to see the band going over far better to this crowd than they had here last year to a crowd of Journey and Heart fans. I guess you could say that fans of Def Lepp and Poison have more taste? After “Dream Police” Rick again got a crowd reaction by saying “Did I mention we’re playing with Poison and Def Leppard?” He added “… later this summer we’re doing a bunch of shows after this tour is over. We’d like you to see us with an orchestra” – obviously referring to the run of Sgt Pepper shows in Las Vegas in September.
“The Flame” was a crowd pleased, as was “Surrender”. After that, Robin thanked the crowd copiously, adding “… we’re Cheap Trick, goodnight everybody”. The band launched immediately into “Goodnight Now” with 3 endings, and were given a great reception at the end from the nearly full audience. They had played a nice 40 minute set, including a couple of new songs along with the favourites that the majority of the crowd would recognise. They’d also been animated on stage, relaxed and looking like they were enjoying themselves, and they hopefully won over some new fans.
Cheap Trick’s set finished at 7.40pm, and after a quick stage clearance, Poison came on at 8.05pm to a very warm welcome. As a Cheap Trick fan it was a little disappointing to see Poison get a bigger and louder reception than CT, but I guess it showed that the promoters got the billing right, sadly. What can I say? The crowd were wild for Poison, though I felt they were locked in the 80’s. They used pyrotechnics, guitar and drum solo’s and lots of high-fiving by Bret Michaels with those standing to the front of the stage. The crowd loved them, I didn’t, end of story.
Poison finished just before 9pm, and it only took 30 minutes for the stage to be cleared and readied for the headliners. As we’d seen in Australia, the show opened with a short part of the British national anthem (I guess I was the only one who sang along with that) before a short video montage which ended with the words “That was then, this is now…” The crowd went nuts, even more so than for Poison. As I said in my Australia review late last year, Def Leppard are the consummate big arena band, playing catchy, anthemic songs and using impressive video background and lighting for every song. Joe Elliot’s voice sounded a little better than in Australia, though I have to say that "our singer is still better than their singer" :-) The crowd loved them, and I have to say that I enjoyed them too.
left at the end of DL’s main set, and heard the encore as we crossed the wet
parking lot. It was nice to beat the traffic out to the highway, and an hour
later we were back at Patricia’s home.
Sat 18 July – Cheap Trick at Milwaukee, WI
Saturday morning was nice, warm with some occasional sunshine. However, we drove into threatening clouds on our way up to Milwaukee during the afternoon, and it was lightly raining by the time we parked under the elevated 794 highway, next to the Marcus Amphitheatre. We got there at 5pm, so had a bit of a wait before the gates opened to the amphitheatre. However, merchandise was on sale, plus the “Cheap Trick truck” (see my review of the Elgin show last December) was on display near the gates. Plus, we got to hang with an old CT buddy, John G. I rarely get much time to speak to John at shows so that was a bonus.
The Marcus Amphitheatre was similar to the one last night at Tinley Park, though I think with a little less covered seating and more lawn area high up to the rear. As last night, the audio montage started at 6.57pm with Cheap Trick hitting the stage at 7pm.
Lilac jacket, white shirt, bow tie, black pants
Way of the World, I Want You to Want Me, These Days, She’s Tight, Tonight It’s You, Sick Man of Europe, Dream Police, A Day in the Life, Surrender, Goodnight Now
As last night, “Way of the World” was the set opener, and by the time “I Want You to Want Me” was under way the venue was filling up and many fans were on their feet. After “IWYTWM”, Rick announced “Its great to be in Milwaukee once again. I’m not sure if you know, we’re just putting out our 150th album next Tuesday, on CD, LP and 8-track. We know there’s still lots of 8-track players in Milwaukee! Here’s a new one”. The band then went into “These Days”. That was well received, and again it was heartening to see the band getting a warm and enthusiastic welcome.
Cool to see Rick use Def Lepps catwalk during “She’s Tight”, as he’d done in Australia when doing the solo intro to “California Man”. Can’t imagine he’d get away with that if this was Aerosmith’s show! At the end of the song he handed off his Uncle Dick guitar to a Def Leppard fan in the front row. He then reminded the crowd “Just in case you’re not sure, we are Cheap Trick! On the drums, Mr Bun E Carlos, the Living Legend. Tom Petersson… Magic Christian…” He then spotted the Trikfan licence plate being held up by local fan Kimberley near the front. He then went on to introduce “Ladies and Gentlemen, my favourite singer in the whole world, Mr Robin Zander.” He added “It’s a pleasure to be playing here with Poison and Def Leppard” which went down well of course.
We were then treated to a nice “Tonight its you” and an energetic “Sick Man of Europe” before Rick took to the microphone again. “That’s a new one from The Latest”. He added “Check the website for a special show we’re doing in Madison soon for someone who used to work for us who’s real sick”. He continued “We have friends from Tokyo, Europe… and they’re not just here to see Poison and Def Leppard!”
The band played a well received “Dream Police”, after which Rick referred to the bands historic links with this city, “We used to play that a lot in Milwaukee, at the Stone Toad, Humping Hannahs, Dane County Coliseum… no, that’s not here (KG: Its in Madison) … County Stadium... Later this summer we’re doing a bunch of shows with a full orchestra… doing some real great songs. Here’s a little preview”. The band then played a wonderful version of “A Day in the Life” from Sgt Pepper, that was very cool to hear. And as a side note, interesting to note that this song is being covered this summer, not only by Cheap Trick occasionally, but also by Neil Young during his summer tour of Europe.
Two album flats were thrown out during “Surrender”, at the end of which Robin thanked the crowd. The band then launched into “Goodnight Now”, which had 4 endings, a couple of which were pretty extended! That was another sign I think of the enjoyment the band were feeling, at the end of another animated yet relaxed 40 minute set. And cool that they got a very warm reception at the end of their set.
Poison came on at 8pm, and like last night, the crowd were wild for them. We opted to stand out near one of the bars and chat with friends for most of their set. Went back in for the last 10 minutes, mostly to avoid the crush of people who’d be exiting at the end of Poison's set to find a bathroom or beer or most likely, both.
Def Leppard came on at 9.30pm, and got a huge reception. One thing of note was during their set, a firework display took place outside the amphitheatre, which was cool to spot. Again, the Lepp’s got the biggest crowd reception of the night, which was no surprise given their headline status, anthemic set and visually impressive show.
Again we left at the end of the main set to avoid the traffic, but heard some of the encore as we walked to the car. We left the venue at 11pm and were back in north Chicagoland 90 minutes later.
Sun 19-Mon 20 July – Travel home from Chicago
As always, these weekends fly by too fast. After two great shows and good company, it was time to head home and back to a very busy office. The day was dry but cloudy, and my flight back to Amsterdam left Chicago at 4.30pm. Although a busy flight, no upgrade luck. Still, I did have a seat with legroom. As usual I tried to sleep during the 7 hour overnight flight, but with little success. I arrived at Amsterdam at 6.20am local time, didn’t have long for my connection to Manchester, and was back in England at 8.15am. Oddly, it was sunny at Manchester! And from there it was off to get my car and drive into work for the rest of the day, yawn!
Many thanks as ever to Patricia for her company and hospitality. Many thanks also to Carla and Cheap Trick as always, and thanks to the various friends I met at the shows who all gave me a warm welcome! Hope to see you all again soon!
Kim Gisborne, Leeds, England – 2 August 2009
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