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I hadn’t actually planned on going to Texas when these dates were first announced. I’d got back from California and Chicago in mid-October and things were tense at work as we awaited details of upcoming job cuts. But I would need to be in the office over the upcoming Christmas and New Year period, so in place of going back to Florida for NYE I decided to book a short weekend in Texas for my final shows of the year. The schedule of Houston and Austin fitted nicely and I managed to find a reasonable air fare from my local airport, so I was returning to Texas for the first time in nearly 5 years.

Friday 14 November – The journey out/Cheap Trick in Houston

As usual, a very early start, and not helped by having seen a band play in Leeds the night before. So with less than 4 hours of sleep behind me, I was out of my house at 4.20am, parked and checked-in at the airport by 5.10pm. The early flight to Amsterdam was uneventful, a nice surprise given weather forecasts for gale force winds. I made my connection for Houston comfortably, but was unable to use any frequent flyer points to upgrade as Business Class was full.

The non-stop flight was 10 hours long, and as usual I had found it hard to doze for more than 30 minutes. So I used some of the time to listen to albums I'd recently converted to MP3. As well as Cheap Trick’s classic debut album and "Special One", it was good to listen to Warren Zevon’s excellent final album, "The Wind". Worth listening to.

The plane landed nearly 20 minutes ahead of schedule in sunny Houston, though we used up over 10 minutes of that taxiing to the terminal. We just beat another international flight in, so immigration didn’t take too long, and I didn’t have to wait for baggage as I only had carry on. It also didn’t take long to get my rental car from the impressive new rental car terminal nearby, so I found myself arriving just south of downtown around 3.30pm. CT friend Nese had kindly offered me a bed for the night, so it was good to arrive, freshen up quickly and catch up on news before we drove to the Theatre District for about 5pm and the venue for tonight’s show.

The Verizon Theatre was in a modern concrete complex, and right next door to the Hard Rock Café. The venue was large inside, with a good sized stage. The main floor had around 30 rows of seating gently sloping upwards, and also a balcony to three sides. The high, black ceiling had exposed struts painted black, and overall it was a pleasing, though modern venue. One nice surprise I had when I first went in was to see good friend Mika from Japan, she’d come in unannounced for these two shows and the previous night's show in Corpus Christi. It was later good to run into other friends including Lisa J, Cara from New York, Steph from Boston, Lisa R and Elsa from San Francisco, Junko, Noriko and Mutsumi from Japan, and from Dallas - Mindy, Jenny, Brian and Chris.

The show had two acts before Cheap Trick. First up were the Damnwells from Brooklyn NY, who started to a mostly empty auditorium. But what I saw/heard of them was good, and I think they won over some new fans by the end of their set. Next on was Wayne Kramer, best known for his work in the legendary MC5. I’d seen Wayne open for Cheap Trick in Anaheim last year, and again Wayne and his band played an excellent set.

Cheap Trick took to the stage at 9.30pm, introduced by Rick’s tech, Dave Rule.

RN- Black suit, black John Candas t-shirt

RZ – Black suit, white shirt, dark tie, black hat

TP – Long White jacket, black shirt with target design, dark pants

BC – Black t-shirt, black jeans


Fan Club, I Can’t Take It, If I Could, Lookout


Just Got Back, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Pop Drone, My Obsession, I Want You To Want Me, Best Friend, I Know What I Want, Words, Never Had a Lot To Lose, The Flame, 70’s Song, Surrender // (encore) Scent of a Woman, Dream Police, Goodnight Now

As they’ve been doing at many shows since the summer, the band started off with the short acoustic set before moving on to the electric set. Fun to hear Rick play a couple of bars of "Play by the Rules" before the band launched into "If I Could", which has come into the acoustic set since California in October. It was nice to see a few people dancing off to the sides during "If You Want My Love". "My Obsession" was introduced as the new single, and after "IWYTWM" Rick made a few announcements including that everybody would get a 50% discount in a local music store if they mentioned Cheap Trick!   "I haven’t spoken to them about it but I’m sure they’ll honour it" he joked! Tom played a little of the intro to "Daddy Should Have Stayed in High School" before launching into "I Know What I Want", and a cool moment at the start of the song as Rick and Robin pulled a "rock star pose" together towards the rear of the stage on Tom’s side. Before "The Flame" Rick bantered a little with the crowd and invited a newly pregnant young woman to come onto the stage. She did, with the help of a strong security man at stage front, and Rick comically shied away as she went to kiss him, saying "no paternity suits for this guy". He then gave his advice to the crowd in general to "flirt but don’t squirt"! He has a line for every occasion!

Overall I thought this a nice show, the sound was great and the crowd was very into it too. The show ended at 11.05pm, and quite a while later I managed to find the whereabouts of the group of fans I needed to be with (which included my host, Nese) - they’d gone to party at a bar/pub a few miles from downtown Houston. Having only got a message with the name of the pub, I was relieved to finally find out where to go and actually find the place (after much driving down the wrong roads etc)! Thanks to the kind table of customers (Michael and his two friends!) outside the Hard Rock for their help and phoning local Information on my behalf! The group of CT friends were well into party spirit by the time I reached them at 12.30am.  Nese and I eventually got back to her place after 3am, and I was pleased to get to bed and catch up on sleep after a 30 hour day!

Saturday 15 November – Cheap Trick in Austin

An early start again as I wanted to play tourist, if only for an hour. So I was up and out by 8.20am, and heading west towards San Antonio. Today was cloudier (though warm) and I drove through a couple of light showers en route. I’d checked before I left England so knew that there was the possibility of rain today and tomorrow. I reached San Antonio three hours later, found somewhere to park, and took a walk to see the Alamo and also walk along some of the city's Riverwalk. The Alamo was cool, but a little strange to see it and its grounds surrounded by modern buildings. The Riverwalk was nice, you can walk along paths beside a network of canals in the downtown area, and along many parts there are riverside bars and café’s.

But I couldn’t stop long, so I soon headed north for Austin, hitting persistent rain just a few miles south of the city. Got checked into my north Austin hotel, quick shower and back downtown to park up and find tonight's venue. "Stubbs" was on the edge of downtown, and it was a good job I was early (2.45pm) and so got a good parking spot near the venue (and no charge on the parking meters at weekends). I was doubly lucky to get parked early, as not only was CT playing here later, but there was also a big college football game being played this evening just a couple of miles north, and this was one of the pick up spots for buses to the stadium.

Some of the familiar fans were already in line outside the venue when I arrived, and I soon had lunch inside Stubbs’ with Lisa J, Steph and Junko. Having BBQ in Texas seemed highly appropriate, and the ribs that soon arrived were Texas sized – very large! Tasted good too, liberally doused in Stubbs' own BBQ sauce!

The venue for the show was outside, next to the rustic bar/BBQ restaurant building. It was a dusty "courtyard" with a few trees dotted about, and bare earth floor. It was a standing-only venue, and the front stage area was fairly narrow being only the width of the stage for quite a way back. The stage was on the small side, and had a triangular shaped cover/canopy over it, both to protect the stage a little and also direct sound out. The band arrived with camera crew in tow, a continuation of the filming that was being done in Japan in August. Soundcheck started at 4.20pm, Rick warmed up with a few bars of "Woke Up With a Monster" before the band played an electric version of "Oh Caroline". Whilst waiting to change over to do an acoustic song, Rick launched into a rude little ditty titled "Indian Maid"! The band then played "If I Could" acoustic, and soundcheck ended up with Rick singing a couple of solo lines of the Who’s "Substitute" and Robin played some more guitar for sound levels. Rick and Wayne Kramer were both then interviewed by the film crew.

After the band left I went to help with setting up the merchandise stand, situated at the rear of the venue. It was nice to work again with Brian, who'd been working some of the West Coast shows last month. There were a few short, light showers during the afternoon, but luckily nothing bad enough to put the evenings show at risk. I stayed on the booth during both opening acts, again they were the Damnwells and then Wayne Kramer. The Damnwells again sounded good, and "Brother Wayne" was excellent and I envy the CT crew members who had been able to watch him show after show during this short run of dates. His latest CD, "Adult World" is recommended!

Cheap Trick came on at 9.01pm to a warm reception from the Austin crowd on this warm and humid evening.

RN- Black suit, black "Mr T" t-shirt

RZ – Black suit, white shirt, dark tie, black hat

TP – White shirt, dark pants, blue denim jacket

BC – Black t-shirt, black jeans


Fan Club, I Can’t Take It, If I Could, Lookout


Just Got Back, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Pop Drone, My Obsession, I Want You To Want Me, Best Friend, I Know What I Want, Words, Never Had a Lot To Lose, The Flame, 70’s Song, Surrender // (encore) Scent of a Woman, Dream Police, Goodnight Now

After "Big Eyes" Rick mentioned that the Longhorns were "ahead right now, kicking major ass" at the big, televised football game going on just up the road. He also did his regular introduction to "If You Want My Love" by mentioning that it had featured in the movie "Joe Dirt", drawing derisive laughter from the crowd. Its funny how everyone seems to hate the movie yet most people seem to know it! After "If You Want My Love" Rick needed his in-ear monitor set changed, the first of some recurrent technical problems. Since Rick was being sorted out by his tech, we had the rarity of Robin introducing the next song, "Pop Drone". After that song Rick referred to the "testical problem"… either a (deliberate) slip of the tongue or he was also having problems in the trouser department! He then went on to point out Danny Saint in the crowd, noting "He’s no saint and this is the soberest I’ve seen him… but it’s early yet!" He also noted other fans, from places like Germany and Japan, but the biggest cheer when he thanked "all of YOU!" for coming! The start to "My Obsession" was aborted first time around, and during the song it was a little odd to hear Tom’s backing vocals so high in the mix. I should mention that during CT's set I was standing some way back from the stage, near the soundboard, so whilst my view was slightly restricted I was getting the best of the sound. And like in Houston last night, it sounded good; it was just a shame that technical problems on the stage detracted a little from what was a very good show.

During "I Want You to Want Me" Robin stuck one of his picks onto his damp cheek. Rick still had monitor problems which were again attended to after this song, then he mentioned a fan near the front "from roller derby, "Cheap Trixie". He also mentioned Jenny Candas near the front, daughter of CT’s late friend and merchandiser. Rick’s in-ear set was changed again after "Best Friend", and after "I Know What I Want" it was Robin’s turn to have problems. So during that pause Rick launched into an edited version of "Indian Maid"! He also mentioned the DVD documentary that is still in the making, and apologised for the shows technical problems. Whilst introducing "The Flame" Rick announced that "the next song went to #1 all over the world except England… but who needs them?"… hmmm, definitely a humourous dig at the two-strong English contingent of myself and Phil! My vantage point some way back from the stage allowed me to see the cool view of a couple of dozen lighters held up during "The Flame". Interesting to see Robin sing the first half of "Surrender" from various places at the rear of the stage before resuming at stage front centre as normal. Robin’s mic seemed to cut out briefly at the very first line of "Scent of a Woman", causing him to stop singing the line and walk off to his side stage to enquire if his mic was working.

Musically it was a good show, with the band performing well, the new songs sounding great (particularly the acoustic "If I Could") and the sound was really good. But as mentioned above, Rick and Robin both experienced technical problems throughout the show which were frustrating and which made the show a little "stop-start".

As always, great to see old friends and meet new ones! As well as those who'd been in Houston last night, I got to see one of my favourite Sons of Texas, Mr Danny Saint, with his girlfriend! It was also nice for Texas Chick to come and say hello, and a nice surprise to see Jay from CA who I'd last seen briefly at last months Redding show.

Brian and I finished up merchandise well after 11pm, and I'm afraid I missed catching up with friends to say goodbye. I decided not to try to find them (possibly at the nearby Caucus Club, which had advertised having a band playing CT songs after CT's show had finished!). I was tired, so instead I negotiated the late but heavy downtown Austin traffic to get back to the highway and head north for my hotel and bed!

Sunday 16 November

A long travelling day ahead, I went and picked up Nese at her downtown hotel around 8.30am, and she caught me up on some of the mild partying that had gone on after last nights show. We headed north again, to find a breakfast place that was one of her old haunts. We spent an interesting time driving around and getting more confused, making u-turns and so on before finally finding the Omelettery, which turned out to be a cool, 60's style diner with a very relaxed Sunday morning feel. After breakfast we headed along 290 east back to Houston, passing through large areas of scrubland as well as a few small towns. The morning had started warm and partly sunny in Austin, though as we got closer to Houston the sky got darker and we drove through a few light rain showers before I got Nese to her apartment at 12.50pm. I then headed up highway 59 for Bush Intercontinental Airport, almost immediately hitting a traffic jam caused by the funnelling of traffic from four lanes into one because of construction. At least I had time to sit and take a good look at one side of Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros baseball team! Soon after I'd got through the one lane, it started raining and got heavier and heavier… and heavier. A fully fledged thunderstorm broke, and visibility was down to almost nothing due to both the driving rain and the spray. I was down to 15-20 mph, though others madly still drove at something like 50mph in the faster lanes. I crawled up to the rental car centre near the airport, and it was a relief to drive inside the modern, covered terminal and unload my car in the dry!

My flight to Amsterdam turned out to be delayed by an hour because the inbound plane had been delayed in landing due to the storms. It was to be a very full flight, and soon after boarding and getting into my economy class seat, a member of the ground crew came along to say I'd been upgraded! I guess they needed every available economy seat and so my frequent flyer status had worked in my favour, a rare occurrence. The early part of the 8 hour flight was very bumpy due to the turbulence, but I was later able to lay out and get around 3 hours of light sleep, something I can rarely do on planes. Saw a beautiful sunrise as we crossed the Dutch coastline approaching Amsterdam Schipol, landing on time despite taking off late. I had plenty of time for my connection, and the flight to Leeds/Bradford was eventually delayed, again due to a late incoming plane. Monday morning (17th) at Leeds was very wet, grey and murky as we landed 15 minutes late. I was through immigration and customs quickly as I only had carry on, picked up my car OK and drove to the office. As I passed familiar landmarks on the way to the centre of Leeds, it almost felt impossible that I driven in the opposite direction only 3 days earlier, and had driven over 650 miles and seen two shows in Texas in between!


Many thanks to Nese for kindly offering me somewhere to sleep on the Friday night, and for her company on the drive back to Houston from Austin. Thanks to everyone I met at the shows (and apologies for anyone I missed naming), it was a lot of fun as always! And thanks to Cheap Trick, Carla, the crew, good to see you all as always!

Kim Gisborne (Leeds, England) - 18th Nov 2003


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