Maybe it’s the British air, the warm British beer, or perhaps the welcome from their British and European fans… or maybe it’s just Cheap Trick’s management pulling off some good deals in a relatively short period of time. Whatever, European fans, and those in the United Kingdom in particular were spoiled by the announcement of the bands third trip across the Atlantic in little over 12 months. I don’t think we got such frequency even back in the University/club tour days back in 78/79.
Unlike the visits 12
months and 5 months ago, this time the band would be in a support slot. They
were invited by Deep Purple to open at their four UK arena shows at the end of
November 2011, though with a generous 60 minute set time. So travel plans were
made, hotels booked, time off work negotiated, arrangements made to meet various
friends, and all the usual stuff. All that remained was for time to fly by until
it was time to get on the road and see our favourite band once more.
Sat 26 November - Cheap Trick at Glasgow, Scotland
The beginning of this very busy week started very early. In fact, it started yesterday for my fiancée Patricia, as she travelled overnight from Chicago to arrive at Manchester early on this Saturday morning. So I was up at about 6am on a cold, rainy and windy morning, to first drive the 60 miles to Manchester Airport and then about 200 miles north to Glasgow. My drive to Manchester took longer than expected, due to delays caused by both road works and by speed restrictions because of the weather. Patricia had to wait awhile for me, but I finally made it and we left Manchester Airport at 8.30pm. The drive north wasn’t too bad, and nice to stop at Mike Hayes’ place a little south of Glasgow at lunchtime for a welcome cup of coffee and a catch-up. Always good to see him, and amazing to think that I’ve known Mike for over 30 years because of Cheap Trick. We then got to our Hilton hotel a few miles away and had time to freshen up and change before driving through rain, wind and darkening gloom to Glasgow city centre. After some confusion around the venue area (I hate driving in city centres!) we finally found the road where we had planned to park. We walked in cold wind and persistent rain to a Chinese restaurant near the SECC venue, and had a nice, early meal with CT friends Elliot & Diane, Roger and Mandy, as well as Mike, Carol and Mike’s daughter.
We got into the venue at about 6.45am, nice to briefly see Trick friends Helene and Nathalie whilst waiting to pick up our tickets. First stop was the merch stand – almost everything was Deep Purple of course, but nice to see a CT UK tour poster… but no CT UK tour shirt this time? A little disappointing. (see picture below from London)
The concert venue within the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) is cavernous, with a large amount of flat, main floor seating, and temporary banked seating to the rear. Banked seating to either side was curtained off. This venue was unlike the other three arenas on the tour, which are all much more like American hockey or basketball arena’s and built with banked seating all the way around. This place was much flatter. The stage here was wide and large, as Deep Purple had 50+ orchestra members to seat at the rear of the stage. Although as the support band CT obviously had less stage to use, they still had plenty to work with.
The venue was probably set up to seat 5,000-6,000, and was probably half full when CT’s audio montage introduction started at 7.28pm, and people continued to take their seats throughout the bands set. The band came on at 7.30pm.
RN – black suit,
black/white CT logo patterned shirt, Dream Police bow tie
Gonna Raise Hell, California Man, I Want You To Want Me, Baby Loves To Rock, Ballad Of TV Violence, If You Want My Love, Need Your Love, Sick Man Of Europe, Surrender // Dream Police, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight Now
The set opened in some style, with “Gonna Raise Hell”, moving on with “California Man” and “I Want You to Want Me” which was probably the most recognizable CT tune for most of the crowd. Having a 60 minute set time allowed Rick the luxury of a little talking time between a few songs, and after a rousing “Baby Loves to Rock”, he thanked the crowd and reminded them that “Just in case you’re not sure, we are the one, the only, accept no substitutes Cheap Trick”. He thanked Deep Purple, and with tongue in cheek he noted “It’s great to be back… Glasgow has changed a lot since we were here last summer!” He then introduced the next song – “Here’s a ballad for people who hate ballads”, with the band going into the dark “Ballad of TV Violence”.
Before “If You Want My Love”, Rick invited people to sing along, “… if you don’t know it, sing it even louder!” After, he noted “You sang that great! The next one is from the Dream Police or At Budokan album…” and the band surprised me by going into “Need Your Love”. I hadn’t expected that, though it was a good choice given the extended style of Deep Purple songs that most of the crowd would be familiar with. The set “finished” up with “Sick Man of Europe” and “Surrender”.
The break was very brief before Rick asked “Do you want to hear another one? Are you SURE you want to hear another one?” and it was heartening to hear and see the warm response of the crowd. The band played “Dream Police”, “Auf Wiedersehen” and “Goodnight Now” (with 3 endings and Rick playing the korina 5 neck) before the set ended at 8.27pm.
The band had gone down well and had been increasingly well received by the mostly Deep Purple crowd as the set had progressed. As at the other shows, it was nice to see some Cheap Trick fans in attendance and spot the odd 6x CT logo t-shirt in the crowds, but we were naturally and overwhelmingly outnumbered by Deep Purple fans. However, it was good to see how much the crowd applauded Cheap Trick at the end of their set. The band had given an energetic performance, and Rick, Robin and Tom had all made use of the wide stage. It was difficult to see Magic on keyboards, as he was way off on Tom’s side (almost off-stage) though he was definitely there.
We chose not to stay
for Deep Purple, and by 9pm we were driving back in the rain to the hotel. We
stayed in the bar for a couple of hours with the other CT friends staying there.
To bed after midnight.
Sunday 27 November – Cheap Trick at Birmingham, England
A relatively early start, and down to breakfast at about 8am to eat with our friends. It was a blustery and showery morning, and we said our goodbyes to them at 9.15am. Patricia and I left the hotel at 10am, having to make a couple of stops within the first hour before finding a motorway services with free wifi. Much as I like staying at Hilton hotels, it does annoy me how much they charge for internet access, when other and cheaper hotel chains can provide it for free. I’d sooner not give them the £10+, but instead stop and use free wifi on the motorway. Anyway, those stops cost us an hour all told.
It was a long, 300 mile drive down to Birmingham from Glasgow, stops included. Much of the scenery all the way down from Glasgow to the Scottish border was picturesque, with hills and valleys and rivers and even a bit of moor. Pretty scenery past the English Lake District too.
We reached our Hilton hotel as Bromsgrove, at the south west corner of the Birmingham area at 4.15pm. Headed out an hour later, driving the 25 miles around the Birmingham orbital motorway and arrived at the National Exhibition Centre on the opposite side of Birmingham at 6pm. The site is huge, with multiple halls and parking lots. We parked and walked the ½ mile to the LG Arena building, it was dry but very cold, brrrr! We ran into Welsh fans Darran and Jocelyn in the box office area when we were collecting our tickets. It’s always good to see them.
The LG Arena is huge, and you first enter into a large area with various food concessions, bars and merchandise booths. This “lobby” area could probably hold a couple of thousand.
The inside of the arena itself was the style of an American hockey arena, with main floor with seating and banked seating to the side and rear. However, the rear floor/wall was curtained off, though that still left seating for maybe 6,000-8,000.
The audio montage started at 7.28pm, and the band came on at 7.30pm to their familiar PBS-style female announcer intro – “Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls. Please welcome to the stage the best f*ckin rock band this town has ever seen, Cheap Trick”. Nice to see the venue about 2/3 full when the band came on, and full by the time they finished.
RN – black suit,
black/white CT logo patterned shirt, Dream Police bow tie
On Top Of The World, California Man, I Want You To Want Me, Never Had A Lot To Lose, Voices, Magical Mystery Tour, Sick Man of Europe, Need Your Love, Surrender // Dream Police, Gonna Raise Hell
The set opened with “On Top of the World”, which was a nice, early indication that, as with previous visits here, the band would be changing the setlist a bit for each show. It continued with “California Man”, Rick shouting “Roy Wood” during it in recognition the famous local musician that had written the song. “I Want You to Want Me” was a crowd pleaser of course, and was followed by “Never Had a Lot to Lose”.
Rick then reminded the crowd that in case they weren’t sure, they were watching “…the one, the only, accept no substitutes Cheap Trick”. He continued “It’s a pleasure to be here with Deep Purple, and a pleasure to be in Birmingham. The second song was a Roy Wood song, we love Roy… I think he got evicted from here!” After a brief pause, he added “Did you hear we’re here with Deep Purple? <cue crowd cheer>. They’d be pissed if they thought I didn’t say anything!”
The band then played “Voices”, followed by “Magical Mystery Tour”. You’d have thought the Beatles song would have got the crowd going a bit, but they stayed pretty static. “Sick Man of Europe” followed that, then “Need Your Love” and “Surrender”. Robin thanked the crowd, adding “We’re Cheap Trick, thanks for having us tonight, see you down the road apiece”. As at Glasgow, the crowd gave the band very warm appreciation, and they were very quickly back in stage. Rick established that the crowd was sure they wanted to hear one more, then the band played “Dream Police” and a wonderful “Gonna Raise Hell”. Always a great set-closer in my opinion. The set ended at 8.31pm, and the band got a great reception at the end with many giving them a standing ovation. And I don’t mean just ten or twenty, but several hundred. That was nice to see. The band left the stage, and Robin left his white cap on his mic stand, a nice visual.
We stayed for Deep
Purple, as I wanted to see them at least once on this tour. Their set opened
with their orchestra at 9pm, and we stayed for 5-6 songs through to 9.30pm.
They’ve never really done it for me, and whilst it was nice to hear “Highway
Star “and “Woman from Tokyo”, I didn’t want to endure another hour or more
before hearing “Smoke on the Water” and “Black Night”. We left them to it at
9.30pm, and driving away from the Arena/NEC is dead easy when you leave early!
We stopped at a Burger King at a motorway services for late dinner, and back to
the hotel after 10.30pm. Brrr, it was pretty cold by now! Meanwhile, Deep Purple
was still at it about 25 miles away…
Monday 28 November – Birmingham to Leeds, via Liverpool
Ah, a non-show day, but still busy nonetheless. The plan for the day was quite simple, get home to Leeds from Birmingham, just 120 miles. However, as we had time we decided to make a small musical pilgrimage en-route.
After breakfast, we left the hotel at 10am and drove north on the M5/M6 motorways. After about 70 miles or so, we turned off the motorway, towards Liverpool. I suppose it’s one of those typical things in life that, you often don’t visit places that are relatively close to you. Leeds is only 70-90 minutes drive away from Liverpool, yet I’d only visited twice in the past 19 years, and one of those was to play sport and go home straight afterwards.
I’ll spare you the minute by minute details. After negotiating the roads and traffic, we parked near the city centre, and walked up to Mathew Street. We visited the Hard Days Night Hotel and neighbouring shop, walked down Mathew Street, and coolest of all, went downstairs into the Cavern Club (read more about the history of The Cavern Club here - http://www.cavernclub.org/1980s - including about its authentic reconstruction in 1983). Afterwards, despite busy traffic we drove the length of Penny Lane, before finding our way out of Liverpool and getting onto the motorway back to Leeds.
Tuesday 29 November – Cheap Trick at Manchester, England
Today was wet and windy. Typical British weather for this time of year… or ANY time of year here! We drove over to Manchester mid-afternoon, and thankfully it had stopped raining by the time we parked near the MEN Arena at 4.15pm. We walked to the nearby Hard Rock Café and nursed drinks from 4.30pm, but only saw one other CT shirt whilst we were there. We went back over to the venue at about 6.15pm to collect our tickets, and happily ran into CT friend (and 12 string bass player) Ian E, plus a couple of my colleagues from work (one of which is a bass player!)
The MEN (Manchester Evening News) Arena is another large hockey-style arena, though the seating to the rear wall was all blocked off. However, there was still seating for probably 6,000-8,000 or so. Again, nice to see at least half already in their seats at 7.28pm when the audio montage started, with Cheap Trick coming on stage at 7.30pm.
RN – black suit,
black/white CT logo patterned shirt, Dream Police bow tie
Ain’t That A Shame, Hello There, California Man, I Want You To Want Me, Way Of The World, The Flame, 70’s Song, Sick Man Of Europe, Need Your Love, Surrender // Dream Police, Gonna Raise Hell (cut short after about 90 seconds)
The set opened up with “Ain’t That a Shame”, followed in quick succession by “Hello There”, “California Man” and “I Want You to Want Me”. Rick briefly reminded the crowd who Cheap Trick were, adding “Thank you for having us in Manchester” before the band went into “Way of the World”.
Rick then thanked Deep Purple, before continuing “Here’s a song that was number one all over the world… except Manchester. It features my favourite singer in the whole wide world”, and as ever, Robin did a wonderful job with “The Flame”. Rick did another brief introduction, “Every time you see That 70’s Show except the first season, that’s Cheap Trick doing That 70’s Song”, and of course that was the next song. That was followed up by this tours setlist staples, “Sick Man of Europe”, another monster “Need Your Love” and “Surrender”. Robin thanked the crowd for their very warm reaction at the end of the main part of CT’s set with “Thank you for having Cheap Trick tonight, thanks to Deep Purple for having us, we’ll see you down the road apiece”.
At this point the venue was nearly full and the band had been increasingly well received through their set, just like at Glasgow and Birmingham. Rick introduced the band members before saying “Thanks for having us. There’s time to do one more if that’s alright. It would be nice if you made more noise… made a lot of noise! Here’s one from the Dream Police album, it’s Dream Police”. And indeed it was. After that, the band went into “Gonna Raise Hell” to end the show with, but only about 90 seconds in (at 8.22pm), we heard loud crackling and then nothing apart from a couple of far-away drum hits by Daxx before he too realized the sound had gone. It was very odd, the crowd was bemused as was the band. There wasn’t a rush of roadies onto the stage to fix anything either. Rick went to Tom’s mic but couldn’t say anything, so waved and joined the rest of the band off-stage. There was no announcement on the PA about what had happened. After a short while, the house lights finally came on and roadies came on to remove CT’s kit. A very anti-climactic end to the show, which certainly gave people something to talk about. I heard snippets of conversation as we left the arena, as to what happened, had someone pulled the plug, was it just straight equipment failure? Whatever, it was a sad ending to what had been another fine set which had been winning over many of the Deep Purple crowd. It later transpired that stage equipment failure was the cause.
We didn’t stay for Deep Purple, who I gather went on stage on time. We went to a bar near the Hard Rock Café, and had a drink with Manchester fan Dave B and his wife, also Ian E. Left Manchester before the end of Deep Purple’s set (so got out of the car park quickly) and back to Leeds by 11.30pm.
It was a cold but sunny morning as we headed into Leeds centre and took a train down to London for a two night stay and the last show of this short tour. In contrast to Leeds, London turned out to be grey and rainy. After checking into our hotel at 2pm, we had problems getting hold of German fans/friends Jorn and Alex by phone, so we went to a Burger King opposite nearby Gloucester Road tube station to eat. Whilst there, I spotted them coming out of the tube station, so ran out to catch them! Nice to catch up with them over food, before we all got the tube across London to the O2 Arena complex.
I’ve never been to the O2 though have seen it often on my travels. Inside it’s pretty spacious, with bars and restaurants, as well as the big, main arena and at least one other smaller music venue. We went to the designated CT fans meeting place (the Union Square bar) at about 4.30pm, got drinks and waited. The bar gradually got busier and other Trick fans arrived, including Roger & Mandy, Darran, Jocelyn and Amy, Chris and his sis, Alain, Julien and Cyrille from France, Kai and Barbara from Germany, Richard and his wife… and perhaps one or two others (sorry if I’ve accidentally forgotten anybody).
The inside of the O2 Arena was, like Birmingham and Manchester, similar in style to an American hockey arena. But this was the largest arena of the tour, holding up to 23,000 I believe. The stage was at one end, with flat, main floor seating in front and fairly steeply banked seating to the sides and curving to the rear. There were also a couple of levels of executive boxes as well, and another, high level of seating though that level was dark. However, the place must still have been expecting 8,000-10,000 tonight at a guess. Certainly a healthy crowd and the largest of the tour.
Cheap Trick’s audio intro started at 7.31pm with the band taking to the stage at 7.33pm.
RN – black suit,
black/white CT logo patterned shirt, Dream Police bow tie
Ain’t That A Shame, Hello There, California Man, I Want You To Want Me, If You Want My Love, The Flame, Magical Mystery Tour, Sick Man of Europe, Need Your Love, Surrender // Dream Police, Gonna Raise Hell, Goodnight Now
The set started off similar to Manchester last night, with “Ain’t That a Shame”, followed by “Hello There”, “California Man” and “I Want You to Want Me”. There didn’t seem to be any hangover from last nights aborted set, as the band went about their business in fine style. If anything, they seemed to raise the performance tonight just a little, which is hard given they’d already been performing well at each of the previous three shows. It’s obviously impossible to measure, but perhaps it being the last night of the tour, or maybe it being the final show, or maybe even with a point to prove after last night was cut short… whatever, this was proving to be a vintage performance. At least half of the crowd were in when CT started, and the place was nearly full when they finished.
After “IWYTWM”, Rick reminded the crowd who Cheap Trick are, just in case. He continued “We’re happy to be here in London with our good friends Deep Purple”. He repeated “Our good friends, Deep Purple” to get more of a cheer from the crowd. He asked “Does everybody feel like singing? The next one is from one of the finest movies of the last 25 years… it should have been up for a major award. From that great movie Joe Dirt…” and the band of course went into “If You Want My Love”.
Rick introduced the next song as “The next tune was number one all around the world except HERE… but we’re going to do it. It features my favourite lead singer in the whole wide world, Mr Robin Zander”. Of course that led into “The Flame” which certainly made at least one CT fan in the crowd very, very happy! At this point I must mention that as the show started, we spotted CT fans/friends Roger, Mandy, Jorn and Alex standing off at the front of the main floor but over on the extreme left (Rick’s side). How they’d sweet-talked security into letting them stand I don’t know, but happily they did. They were very visible, all wearing CT logo shirts, and very cool that they were spotted and given much attention throughout by Rick, Robin and even Tom. In an arena setting and in a support slot, I guess it’s hard to spot your own fans, so I’m sure the band were appreciative of such visible support. And not to mention Kai and Barbara in front, near centre too. The other CT fans (like us) were more scattered, further back or to the steeply banked side seats. Oh, and Mandy was thrilled to hear “The Flame”!
That was followed by “Magical Mystery Tour”, “Sick Man of Europe”, “Need Your Love” and “Surrender” after which Robin thanked the crowd and added “Thank you for coming out to see Cheap Trick. Thank you to Deep Purple for having us out, it’s been a lot of fun”. After a very short break, Rick was back on to introduce the band, and add “They say we have time for one more, are you sure it’s OK? Are you SURE you want us to play another one? The band of course went into “Dream Police”, then a stunning “Gonna Raise Hell”. During his drum solo, Daxx hit the snare so hard it toppled over, which raised a smile on Tom’s face as he was standing beside the drumkit. The drum tech had to come on and set it back up, with Daxx still drumming all the while (it’s on Youtube if you look). And to top it all off, the band finished with “Goodnight Now” (Rick had the 5 neck out for this) with 3 endings. The set ended at 8.37pm, and the band was given a terrific reaction by the crowd, with a large number giving them a standing ovation. They deserved it. Nice to see them take a bow as a group, which they did at the end of each show except Manchester. And cool (for us) that we’d got an overrun at London of an extra 5 minutes or so. An amazing end to the 4 shows, and the triumphant finish tonight was a marked contrast to the disappointing and early finish at Manchester last night.
We headed out as Deep Purple started, and as at the other venues, door security were amazed we were leaving right at the start of the main act. “We’ve seen who we came to see” we told them, as we left the venue through a deserted lobby. We went back to the Union Square bar, and were gradually joined by most of the Trick fans (nice that we were not the only ones who didn’t get off on Deep Purple and left the show early). We re-lived CT’s show, as well as hearing more from Jorn and Kai about their CT tribute show taking place in Germany in late January. We ended up leaving the O2 around 11.30pm as everyone had to make sure they’d get back to where they needed to before the London Underground stopped running sometime after midnight. By now it was dry but very cold.
Patricia and I stayed on in London for Thursday and Friday morning, returning to Leeds on Friday afternoon. We did a lot of walking, seeing sights and re-visiting some of Pat’s favourite places in central London. Thursday night saw us to see the West End production of “Backbeat”, produced by Cheap Trick friend Carl Sydow. With Pat and I both being Beatles fans, it was a no-brainer, and we’d luckily been able to get tickets earlier in the day. The show is great, with impressive acting, terrific live music and an interesting portrayal of the early life of The Beatles. Recommended for anyone who might be in the West End of London before the run ends in (I believe) February 2012.
We were up early on Saturday morning for me to drive Patricia over to Manchester Airport for her flight home. Time had flown by, and it was hard to believe that it had only been 7 days since I was here to pick her up.
It had been another wonderful set of shows from Cheap Trick, with the pleasing bonus of allowing us to meet-up once more with many British and European friends along the way. Definitely a win-win.
Aside from the abrupt and unfortunate early ending at Manchester, the band had done a terrific job. Doing an opening slot is probably hard enough anyway, but at arena shows where there are even more people who’ve come for the headliners? No doubt many of the Deep Purple fans knew of Cheap Trick already, but I’m sure the band sent many more away to later think of looking up Cheap Trick and maybe buying a CD or two. Everyone in the band did a great job, so it’s impossible to single anyone out.
By the way, many more of my pictures from 3 of the 4 shows can be found on the official website, www.cheaptrick.com
First and foremost, thanks to Cheap Trick, Carla, management, production team and crew. A wonderful job as always with the shows, and thanks also for your usual kindness. Thanks to Patricia as ever during the week, and , thank you to all the friends I met, both old and new at the shows. Again (and just 5 months after the last opportunity) it was wonderful to see and catch up many old friends at pretty much each show (Lisa A - sorry to miss you at Birmingham). It always sounds clichéd when I say it every time, but honestly, meeting people is always so much a part of the Cheap Trick experience!
Thanks everyone, see you down the road apiece!
Kim Gisborne - Leeds, England - December 2011
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