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The first half of June saw a nice run of four Midwest shows (with a few rest days thrown in), so that was reason enough to take to the skies again! Actually, the shows were fairly disparate in that I’d be based in Illinois but the shows were in the neighbouring States of Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and (not neighbouring) Ohio. One was a theatre show and the rest outdoors, so an interesting mix and lots of road miles.

Friday 6 June – Flying Over & Cheap Trick in Merrillville, Indiana

Actually, my journey started on the Thursday evening, leading to a 50 hour "day", ouch! I’d been up before 6am on Thursday and worked, then home to pack and (unsuccessfully) grab a few hours sleep. My travels were again via Amsterdam with my first flight from Leeds/Bradford out at 6.10am Friday morning. I’ve normally done airport parking when flying out so early, but that has been for short, 3-4 day trips. This was going to be 10 days, so my parking fee would be around £50 ($80). As there was no public transport to get me to the airport for 5am check-in, and a taxi would be pretty expensive too, I chose to take the last public transport bus to the airport and spend the night there… Yes, extreme measures! Call me crazy! So after being at work all day, I was out of my house around 9.15pm Thursday night, and at the airport by 10.45pm. Leeds/Bradford is a small, regional airport, so it was pretty much deserted until about 4.15am when the first passengers started arriving for the early morning flights. But it was a long night… I tried to sleep, but they were wide awake, they didn’t let me alone! Not the dream police, but the cleaning staff! Notably, the guy with the big floor cleaning/polishing machine, who started around midnight. I got perhaps one hours doze from 2am but I was pretty tired by the time my check-in started at 4.30am.

My flight to Amsterdam was uneventful, as was the long transatlantic from Amsterdam to Chicago. I had hoped to sleep on the latter, but with a full cabin, two young boys running around uncontrolled by their parents, and the seat in front of me reclined into my face throughout, it made for a long and rest-free flight. I was glad to reach O’Hare at lunchtime, and soon be met by Patricia. After a quick shower at a nearby friends (to wake me up as much as clean me off!), we set off in the rain, heading south towards familiar Merrillville in northern Indiana. We encountered pockets of heavy traffic as well as showers, but finally reached the Star Plaza just after 4pm.

The band soon arrived and soundchecked shortly before 5pm, playing "Oh Caroline" electric and then "Play By The Rules" (aka "I Don’t Love Here Anymore" from Next Position Please) acoustic, a taster for an interesting change in tonight's show.

After soundcheck I helped out with setting up merchandise before joining a number of friends in the nearby Radisson Hotel Tiki Bar for a quick drink and food, always a pleasure to meet up with some old (and new) friends :-) (A particular pleasure to see Dayna who I hadn't seen in 2-3 years). I headed back to the venue before doors opened at 6.50pm, and I helped sell merchandise through to 9.15pm. It was non-stop, so I missed seeing both opening acts, The Boyzz and then CT’s new Big3 labelmates, Vesica Pisces. But I was inside in time to see Cheap Trick take to the stage at 9.23pm. As usual, Dave Rule introduced them, though in a more understated manner than usual - "Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls… Cheap Trick".

RN – Shiny bronze suit with black pinstripes, John Candas t-shirt

RZ – black suit, white shirt and black hat – changed into brown striped jacket for the electric set

TP – black pants, pink shirt, deep pink jacket

BC – black t-shirt, black jeans

Setlist was:-

(Acoustic) - Fan Club, Oh Candy, Play By The Rules, It All Comes Back To You, Carnival Game, Lookout

(Electric) – Just Got Back, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Wrong All Along, I Know What I Want, I Want You To Want Me, Best Friend, Lot To Lose, Words, Downed, Tonight It’s You, Heaven Tonight, Ain’t That A Shame, Surrender // Scent Of A Woman, Dream Police, Goodnight Now

As you can see from the setlist, it was certainly a change from the normal show in that the band first played some acoustic songs before launching into the electric set. At first the stage set up had stools for Rick and Robin for the acoustic songs, and the back rigs were covered with black cloth. The theatre was sadly only about 50% full, 2/3 of the main floor was full and there were a few folks up in the balcony. It was certainly a shame not to see more people out tonight. But there was no drop in the quality of the show, despite the crowd size.

The acoustic set opened with a slowed down version of "Fan Club" which was more atmospheric and powerful for being stripped down, ran into "Oh Candy", and then the big surprise for most, "Play by the Rules". I don't think anyone would have laid money on hearing that one, ever, me included! I thought it showed off Robin's vocal range really well, with each line going up. It was during this song that I first saw Security moving people from leaning on the front of the stage, also checking tickets to see who'd come down front from seats further back. I'm sure for those in the front rows all the security checking got to be a distraction during the show. Great to hear "Carnival Game" again for the first time in a couple of years, though it seemed at one point that Robin lost track of where he was in the song, singing as if the song was ending when in fact it was leading up to the guitar break. However, I don't think that was noticable to any but the hardcore of fans. After "Lookout" the new spotlights projected the CT logo onto the stage backdrop as the stage was quickly readied for the electric set, and the covers came off the back rigs to show that Rick's had a new design. Gone were the Japanese characters and skeleton, to be replaced by bold checkerboard.

The CT logo flashed around on the backdrop as the band quickly returned and launched into "Just Got Back", another nice surprise and not often heard. The new spotlights again came to the fore during "If You Want My Love", projecting colourful patterns onto the crowd, and they really were an improvement on previous lighting. I wasn't in the best position sonically, but I thought there were problems with Robins vox during "Wrong All Along", with the sound being low or patchy at times. After this song Bun E had to quickly change a snare head that had rippled in the centre, his tech ended up having to change snare heads three times during the show due to the same problem. In party mood, it was fun to see a large balloon being bounced around in the crowd during "I Want You To Want Me", not something usually seen in an indoor show! After "Best Friend" Rick playfully pointed out a couple from Detroit which aroused some boo's from others in the crowd. But Rick jokingly added "don't worry, they'll be leaving soon!". After "Lot To Lose" Rick mentioned the imminent release of the new CD (July 22) and also that the Daddy Daycare movie (in which CT have a cameo appearance) had just grossed $100 million up to this week. A lively encore started with "Scent of a Woman" (the first single from the new CD) and which includes audience participation during the "Yeah Yeah's" at the end.

The show ended at 11.15pm, and it had certainly been a set to remember. After helping with the post show merchandise rush, we had a quick drink in the hotel before driving back to Chicago. The journey was less traffic bound than 9 hours earlier, but my long day was catching up with me as I kept falling asleep! I was certainly happy to fall into a bed at 1.30am!

Saturday 7 June – Cheap Trick in Stevens Point, Wisconsin

I awoke early, and Pat and I left just after 10am for the trip up to mid Wisconsin and the beer town of Stevens Point. But on the way we did something I'd meant to do for some years, and briefly stopped at the Beef-a-Roo on E. Riverside Drive in Rockford, the one with the Cheap Trick "shrine". Actually, it’s a large, framed picture of the Dream Police album cover, with a number of other CT memorabilia enclosed, such as a signed DP LP, drumsticks and badges. Certainly cool to see at last. In Wisconsin we drove into patches of heavy cloud and rain which didn't bode well for the outdoor show, but thankfully it was dry though cloudy when we arrived at Stevens Point at 3pm and checked into our hotel.

We soon headed into town, managing to find Brewery Park next to the Point Brewery (big surprise!). Interesting en route to see signs outside a number of places (such as Papa Johns Pizza and Comfort Suites) announcing CT at Brewery Park this evening. Seems like tonights show was really a big deal in town. It was grey and damp though not raining as such, and a few fans were already in line. The stage was outdoors, facing onto a small park and baseball diamond. Behind the stage were the main Brewery buildings, and to the rear of the park (opposite the stage) were 4 large beer and food tents. No prizes for guessing whose beer was available!

By the time Vesica Pisces opened the show, it was dry and the sky had cleared considerably, so there was no likelihood of rain. I was out and about during their set, but what little I heard sounded OK.

Cheap Trick took to the stage at 8.17pm to a good welcome from a large crowd which pretty much filled the park.

RN – shiny bronze suit with black pinstripes, maroon Point Beer t-shirt

RZ – black suit, white shirt, avocado green tie, black hat

TP – blue jeans, blue denim shirt, grey fringed leather jacket, black cowboy hat, multicoloured cowboy boots

BC – black long sleeved Piece t-shirt, black jeans

Setlist was:- Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Wrong All Along, I Know What I Want, I Want You To Want Me, Best Friend, Lot To Lose, Voices, Downed, Tonight It’s You, Heaven Tonight, Ain’t That A Shame, Surrender // Scent Of A Woman, Dream Police, Goodnight Now

I stood off to the side by the merchandise booth, so had a side-on view of the stage. I was able to see Rick, Robin and Tom OK, though couldn't see Bun E, though I was told that he looked in a happy mood throughout the set.

After "Lot To Lose", someone shouted to Rick "Where's your bottle of Point Beer?". Quick as a flash, Rick replied that there were "about 5 million of them next door!". After "Tonight Its You" Rick announced that the local Wisconsin wrestling champions were standing to his side of the stage, that they'd been State Champions for three years… and were looking for female wrestlers to practice with! Errr, somehow I think that was a Rick-ism!

The nice show ended at 9.35pm. The crowd seemed really into it and the band looked and sounded fine, so I think a good time was had by all. Pat, Ron (from Milwaukee) and I headed out around 10.15pm and had a couple of late drinks in our hotel bar with some friends from Chicago, before calling it a night. The bar was a riot, as it had a small dance floor and disco, and whilst we were there (and in honour of CT having played in town that night), the DJ played "Surrender" and "The Flame". But they sounded like cover versions and not CT, very weird!

Sunday 8th – Wednesday 13th June

Some downtime (of sorts) before the next show on Thursday. On the Sunday morning we drove south from Stevens Point to Madison and then east into Milwaukee, driving through frequent showers of rain all along the journey. We finally reached Miller Park and got in and to our seats just in time for the national anthem to be sung. Yes, another visit to see the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. Today, the team with the third worst record in all of Major League Baseball (the worst record belonged to my poor San Diego Padres!) were playing the high flying Boston Red Sox, and with such poor weather outside it was no surprise that the roof was closed and the floodlights on. The game was somewhat lacklustre and the result predictable, Boston winning 9-1 against a Brewers side without a clue. With apologies to Dawn and Tammy, who I had "persuaded" to come along… next time we'll go see the Cubs down in Chicago! Actually the Cubs were playing the Yankees at Wrigley Field that evening, but it being the Yanks first series in Chicago in over 60 years, it was a sell-out months ago. Hence we decided on Milwaukee…

Monday saw Pat and I take the train downtown into Chicago on a beautiful warm and sunny day! We toured half of the wonderful Field Museum, which I highly recommend. One of the feature exhibits was "Baseball as America", and they had some very cool items in that. But equally, many of the museum's regular exhibits were excellently displayed, and it'll be worth a revisit to see the stuff I missed. And it was nearby, outside, that we saw the first of several unusual figures… a 7 foot tall bobblehead figure of a baseball player, painted up to represent the Florida Marlins (though the painting was far more abstract than just the regular ball uniform). This was one of 32 bobblehead figures located throughout downtown, each representing one of the MLB teams, and in preparation for the annual All Star Game, this year being hosted by the Chicago White Sox in July. Shopping up on and near Michigan Avenue we found some more of these brightly coloured figures.

The next couple of days were moderately relaxing, visiting and shopping and the like.

Thursday 14 June – Cheap Trick in Altoona, Iowa

Bun E's birthday dawned cool and grey (at least in the north Chicago 'burbs, and as Pat was working today, good friend Mary came by around 11.30 to pick me up for the long drive to Altoona, Iowa (close to Des Moines). It stayed mostly cloudy as we drove the 300+ miles, and I was surprised at how green and rolling much of the countryside in southern Iowa was. Very pretty.

We reached Altoona at 5.20pm, it was hot, humid and sunny, and I was surprised to see that the Prairie Meadows racetrack also incorporated a casino. I hadn't spotted that online, not that it made much difference. The stage was set up outdoors on the concrete apron in front of the glass fronted, air conditioned grandstand. In front of the stage were rows of reserved, bench type seating, going back to reserved areas for folks bringing garden chairs, and finally some 30-40 yards from the stage from the stage was the GA standing area. In the middle of the racetrack was a tower with a large video screen on which was a cool graphic for the show. On a black background was a white centre rectangle. In the centre was a red circle with the Prairie Meadows logo. To either side were the silhouettes of the band members from the Silver CD. Above on white was the wording "Cheap Trick at Altoonakan" (!!) and below was "Trackside Live". You can see a picture in the photo galleries on my website. At the rear of the stage was Ricks brand new checkerboard Hamer Explorer, each large square containing a different graphic from Rick's history of guitar picks, very cool looking, again there's a picture on my site.

The crowd was good sized for the free show, though the reserved seating (for track/casino club members) was no more than 50% full, and it was a shame that the standing crowd ended up so far away as a result of the reserved seating area. The show was filmed by two video camera's and projected onto the big screen on the racetrack, and there was no opening band. Good to run into Stacey and friends from Colorado before the show, on the first of a 3 show road trip from Denver!

It was still very warm as the band came on at 7.07pm, and I'm sure that Robin dressed casually with the temperature in mind.

RN – shiny bronze suit with black pinstripes, black t-shirt

RZ – white shirt, blue jeans, white cowboy hat, Lennon shades

TP – black pants, black shirt, blue denim jacket

BC – black t-shirt, black jeans

Setlist was:- Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Wrong All Along, I Know What I Want, I Want You To Want Me, My Obsession, She’s Tight, Flame, Downed, Tonight It’s You, Heaven Tonight, Ain’t That A Shame, Surrender // Scent Of A Woman, Dream Police, Goodnight Now

Shortly before the show the setlist was amended, with "Best Friend", "Lot to Lose" and "Words" being scratched and replaced by "My Obsession", "She's Tight" and "The Flame". "Hello There" opened with Rick playing his new checkerboard guitar. After "Big Eyes" Rick noticed Staceys "Happy Birthday Bun E" sign in the crowd, and remarked that Bun was 32 years old today! After "Wrong All Along", Rick mentioned the cool "Altoonakan" graphic he'd spotted earlier, and mentioned that there was an Altoona in Pennsylvania as well as here in Iowa. He said preferred to be in this Altoona, as the people in Altoona PA "have 3 eyes and stuff…!". Simpsons type reference? And I should check whether there really is an Altoona in PA! As usual, "I Want You to Want Me" got most of the crowd on its feet and dancing, after which Rick announced that "Scent of a Woman" was the #1 most added song nationally on US radio stations this week. "She's Tight" again had the crowd rocking, definitely a good move to include this in the set, as well as the following song "The Flame". The latter saw Robin experiencing guitar problems in the early part of the song, and Rick also had to change guitars late in the song. I'd guess the hunidity didn't help the tech's in trying to keep the guitars in tune. After "Flame" Rick mentioned that champion horse "Funny Cide" came from Iowa, and mentioned that it hadn't won the recent big race, which provoked some of the occasional hilarious banter with Tom! "It didn't?" asked Tom, which got Rick into explaining that the horse was a gelding… "which means that he had his thing cut off… THAT'S gotta hurt!". Rick returned that topic after "Heaven Tonight" when he spotted me off to the side, mentioned that I wasn't married and I wasn't a gelding! Now I don't know how he knew for sure (about the gelding bit, not the unmarried bit!)… but I'm glad to say he was right!!

The show ended at 8.27pm and it had been a nice show though not without its sound problems. The crowd seemed to go for it in a big way and adding in two older hits was certainly the right move, and the merch table was busy after the show ended.

Mary and I left Altoona at 9pm, it was a long journey though thankfully the roads were quiet, and we got back to north Chicago at 2.15am.

Friday 13 June – Cheap Trick in Columbus, Ohio… or not

(Cast your minds back to reading about New Years Eve in Orlando, under six months ago, and you’ll get an idea what’s coming…)

I barely had enough sleep before having to be up for another long drive, this time across Indiana and to Columbus, Ohio. We left at 8.25am for the 5+ hr drive, and we'd also lose an hour too by moving into the EST time zone. It was warm but we drove through a lot of showers before we reached Columbus shortly before 4pm and checked into our somewhat dated Days Inn on W Broad St. We drove into the city centre and parked in a multi storey car park across the road from where the evenings (outdoor) show was to take place.

The Allstate Plaza (in the Arena District) was a tree lined plaza in front of the Nationwide Arena, flanked on one side by a main road and on the other by low office buildings with offices, bars and restaurants at street level. It was sunny when we arrived, and many CT fan friends were already there, including Jimmy who'd driven from Carolina, Nance from Minnesota, several friends from Chicago as well as a number of "local" Ohio fans, good to see them all! Things were still being set up, and the local radio station were broadcasting from the plaza during the afternoon and early evening. Somehow I ended up getting briefly interviewed by the roving DJ, not sure what the listeners would have made of my accent! Cool to see the CT show advertised on the big screen on the side of the nearby parking garage. Fans got moved out of the plaza at 6pm to the gates at the end and side, which were due to open at 7pm. Unfortunately by now we had heavy, grey clouds passing over, and loud rumbles and peals of thunder together with lightning preceded a very heavy and sudden downpour of rain at 6.50pm which soaked most people in line, and got the vendors and merch people hurrying to try to move their stocks under cover. The downpour lasted for 20 minutes before easing off, at which point security finally let everyone in. And on stage, the tech's had to move equipment so that the rain didn't get everything wet, though the front of the stage had to keep being mopped "dry".

The rain held off from around 7.10pm and opening act Vesica Pisces came on at 8.10pm, having to be careful on the damp front area of the stage. They played a good 40 minute set, and I was pleasantly surprised by them. Unfortunately it started raining during their final song, the appropriately titled "Laughing at the Rain"… though no one was smiling as the moderate shower started. Vesica Pisces' equipment was hastily moved off, and Cheap Trick's crew got the stage ready and tuned up some of the instruments, though the rain only got harder and equipment had to be moved and covered. The rain blew across the stage, easing off and then getting heavier, but never letting up, and it increasingly felt to many of the front row of fans who'd been in Orlando last New Years Eve that we were facing another rain cancellation. And so at 9.50pm, Colin, the bands stage manager had no choice but to announce that the show couldn't take place. I think to most folks that news was inevitable, but it got a little ugly for a few minutes as some people, who seemed to have no idea of the danger of water and electricity shouted their anger at the tech's. This whilst standing in front of the stage as the heavy rain kept on falling.

In hindsight, the promoters of the show (possibly the radio station?) should have been tracking the weather more closely and making some decisions, particularly as this show was outdoors. I gather there had been a lot of heavy rain in the Columbus area for some days/weeks, and surely someone could have foreseen from high tech Doppler scans on TV that there were heavy storms going to occur tonight? Of course it's easy to say after the event, but someone should have watched the weather and made the decision to drop Vesica Pisces from opening and get CT on around 8pm to play a short set. I hope the promoters in Columbus get their act together for other outdoor summer shows at that plaza, such as for Blues Traveller.

Purely for completeness, the setlist was going to be:- Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Wrong All Along, I Know What I Want, I Want You To Want Me, Best Friend, Lot To Lose, Voices, Downed, Tonight It’s You, Heaven Tonight, Ain’t That A Shame, Surrender // Scent Of A Woman, Dream Police, Goodnight Now

Saturday 14th – Monday 16th June

Pat and I left a still rainy Columbus late next morning and headed back to Chicago. We stopped off en route in Indianapolis, taking a wander around the regenerated downtown area (loved the ornate facade of the Indiana Rep Theatre) and had lunch at the surprisingly large Hard Rock Café (no CT stuff though). Back to Chicago by 8.30pm, to relax before travelling home tomorrow.

Sunday saw us going out for breakfast before I had to pack and head to O'Hare for the overnight flight back to Amsterdam. Security was even tighter than last time, after checking in my suitcase I had to take it (unlocked) to a nearby area where security staff hand searched luggage at random. And the line for personal security screening was long and slow too, taking 30 minutes to get through. As usual I didn't sleep, having two fidgety children in the seats in front of me, and an old Eastern European woman next to me who kept poking my arm (and at first was sitting in my seat when I boarded). Eventually got to Amsterdam, connected to Leeds, and got the bus into town and into work for 4 hours, at which point I really had to give up, go home and sleep!


As always, many folks to thank. Huge thanks to Patricia for her warm hospitality and driving throughout my stay, also thanks to Mary for the long day trip to Altoona and back. Thanks to Dawn T and Tammy for putting up with going the see the Brewers – next time we’ll do the Cubs, honest! Thanks to everyone I met at the 3 shows (and the Columbus non-show!), I won't name you all as I know I'll miss people off, but as always you were a big part of going to the shows! And last but never least, thanks to CT, Carla and the crew.

Kim Gisborne, Leeds, England. 22 June 2003


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