Showgirls, Fireworks, World Records and Cheap Trick!
(aka New Years Eve 2005 in Las Vegas)
OK, so I made up the bit about the showgirls! But the other things are true and we'll get to them shortly.
Another year over and another New Years Eve show. And after three successive end-of-year shows in Florida, the band was this year booked to play in Las Vegas.
I set out from chilly England on Friday 30th December. I had an extra early start (left home at 5.55 am for a noon flight) as snow had been threatened overnight, so I wanted to allow extra time driving across the Pennine hills to Manchester Airport. Luckily it was damp but not quite as cold as predicted, so my drive was comfortable and I only encountered a little sleet and rain rather than snow. I therefore ended up at the airport over 4 hours ahead of my flight. I checked in around 8am and spent a lot of time in the lounge. Luckily I'd brought a couple of good Robert Ludlum thrillers to read!
My Delta flight took off 30 minutes late and I had a 9 hour flight ahead to Atlanta, and then connecting to Las Vegas. I started to get this feeling of dread before we took off from Manchester, as there was a toddler seated in the middle seats just across from me, and two more toddlers, each on their parents laps, a couple of rows ahead of me in the front row of the economy cabin. Why the two up front didn't have seats of their own I don't know, as they were more like 2-3 years old rather than babes in arms. Anyway, my worst fears were realised soon after take off as all 3 toddlers started using the aisle by me as their personal kindergarten and they did so for probably for 8 hours of the 9 hour flight <sigh>. Their respective parents did nothing to restrain them or stop them climbing onto strangers laps or whatever. It was a long, LONG flight, and more than once I was tempted to buy the outrageously priced alcohol just to dull the whole event! Oh, and the main video screen wasn't working in my part of the cabin, so watching the movies was a bit difficult, trying to view a small TV monitor over to one side between many heads. Oh well, the joys of "cheap" air travel (not so cheap at this time of year!)
Immigration and transfer at Atlanta was the quickest I've experienced there, and I was soon at my next gate to kill a little time. The flight to Las Vegas left 40 minutes late, and it was full with people going to see in the new year in Sin City. It was a long 4 hour flight, and by the time we landed I was struggling as the long and un-relaxing travel day was taking its toll. Arrivals/baggage claim at McCarran was a total zoo, with many people awaiting baggage at various carousels whilst other flights in were delayed. I was going to be sharing a Vegas room with Tricktoria who was driving down from Northern California (a 12 hour drive), and when I landed at Vegas she was still some 30-40 miles away having been delayed en-route by two traffic accidents. But her delay fitted in with mine, as the baggage carousel that the Atlanta bags were arriving on broke down halfway through. My bag hadn't emerged at this point, so I was waiting along with about another hundred people, and we finally got told to go to a different carousel for the remainder of our luggage. My yellow bag finally rolled out, and I was only at the passenger pick-up point a couple of minutes before Tricktoria arrived. She was as tired as I was, having been on the road so long. We crossed the spectacular neon-lit Strip on our way up to downtown Las Vegas, luckily found a parking spot and went and checked into the Golden Nugget, home for the next 3 nights. It was a relief to fall into bed and try to get some sleep, as tomorrow would be another long day.
Saturday 31 December 2005 - show day!
The day started off cool and overcast, and it was probably the "poorest" weather I've ever experienced in Vegas (though of course that is relative - you just expect it to be hot and sunny all year round). Had a coffee and muffin breakfast in the downstairs Starbucks before taking a wander outside down Fremont Street to find where Cheap Trick would be playing tonight. There was a stage right by the Golden Nugget, which we briefly thought was it and which would have been really convenient. But we found a second stage a couple of blocks down, and the familiar amps and checkerboard covered steps were a fairly strong indication that this was where CT would be playing tonight! The stage by the Golden Nugget was therefore for the Spin Doctors and Gin Blossoms, whilst Cheap Trick and a local band would play on this one (which was between Fitzgeralds and the 4 Queens casinos).
The stage was a permanent one, and mostly open to the elements although covered on top. It was also flanked by palmetto trees. The crew were setting up, so we soon headed back to the Golden Nugget and had some lunch in the café there, as that would be the last meal opportunity of the day.
Back to the stage a little after 2pm, and I'd put on a sweatshirt as it was distinctly cool outside. Fremont Street wasn't very busy as yet, and we soon ran into a number of fans such as Shoandra and Rick, Junko, Hiromi, Mutsumi and Norika from Japan, Stacey from Denver, Daria and Clare from LA, and good later on to see other familiar faces such as Danny Saint, Roger and Mandy from London, Sayuri, and probably others I've forgotten to mention (to whom I offer apologies for my failing memory!)
Around 3.40pm Bun E arrived and very briefly soundchecked for no more than 5 minutes, and Tom arrived minutes later and was on stage only for a couple of minutes.
We'd heard that the police would be closing Fremont Street from 4pm for an hour, in order to carry out a security sweep with sniffer dogs, so by then most of the diehard CT fans were in the doorways of nearby casino's which had locked their doors. Though oddly, the street wasn't deserted during the hour. There were still a few tourists wandering down, though no one could stake an early spot in front of CT's stage as a row of security guards were stationed there. During this time I was helping Jon set up the merchandise booth to Tom's side of the stage. It was very breezy and there were short spells of light drizzle or rain which didn't help. Though we were just under cover of the giant light canopy that extends for 5-6 blocks over Fremont St, the wind was blowing in along 3rd street from behind the stage. So we were unable to put up (at that time) any t-shirt displays as the wind was too strong. There was also a little concern amongst some of CT's crew about the weather (remember the rain at Orlando NYE 2002?) though forecasts apparently said this rain should blow through by 8pm.
The casino's started opening their doors onto Fremont St again at 5pm, though not in a co-ordinated way. So a few fans got to stage front whilst others were still being held back. This caused some of the latter to burst through the security guards without pausing to show their wristbands and race to the stage to get a prime spot. The blowing rain had by now made the street slippery, and one fan slipped hard and painfully onto the street as she raced towards the stage. But she was OK and was able to limp to get her front spot. The front row didn't fill for probably another hour, so the rushing really wasn't necessary. Most people attending the Fremont St party tonight were just here to drink and celebrate the new year, rather than to specifically see CT.
Business on merchandise was patchy, though the wind eventually died down enough for us to put up some t-shirts onto the racks, including the new, limited edition red Budokan shirt. I'd say this design is the biggest thing since transistors!
The local, opening band came on at 7.05pm (following a 5 minute lightshow on the overhead Fremont St canopy) and played a 40 minute set of cover songs, and played a second 40 minute set from 8.05pm. By the time Cheap Trick were due to take the stage at 10.10pm, there was a sizeable crowd, and the band were first introduced by a local radio station announcer before the more familiar intro by tech Dave Rule.
RN - Black suit, black "Piece" t-shirt, blue ball
cap on top of the familiar black one
Hello There, Big Eyes, If You Want My Love, Best Friend, I Want You to Want Me, I Know What I Want, Voices, Never Had a Lot to Lose, The Flame, 70's Song, Surrender // Dream Police, California Man, Goodnight Now
There were a number of video-cameramen shooting the show and cool to see pictures displayed on the overhead Fremont Street light canopy throughout the set.
Although my sight line of Bun E was mostly obscured because of where our merchandise area was, I soon noticed Bun wearing a woolly cap which held on a white towel protecting the back of his neck from the cold wind coming in from behind him. Sort of an Arab head-dress look.
After "Big Eyes" Rick announced "Happy New Year almost and just in case you're not sure, we are the one, the only, accept no substitutes Cheap Trick" which brought a cheer from the large crowd. He then pointed out fans from Denver, Japan, Michigan, Detroit, Boston, New York, Las Vegas (to a big cheer!) and Chicago. After "If You Want My Love" Rick pointed out some local TV people on a raised area opposite the stage and said "The KTNV people have great voices!" He also added (alluding to the world record attempt later) that "The Mayor of Las Vegas will be giving a great drinking lesson in how to abuse alcohol", then added "Tom says there is no right way to abuse alcohol!" He mentioned some friends from California before introducing the next song as being "in E minor, C and A so everyone in Las Vegas play your guitars!" They went into a long, rocking "Best Friend" and (in my opinion) this song has to now be considered as one of their live classics. During the song Rick took off the blue ballcap, but still had his normal black one underneath, and after the song had ended, Robin took off his jacket sidestage to reveal the long sleeve sweater beneath.
As mentioned earlier, I couldn't see much of Bun or Tom because of my location, but I could see Rick was as himself as ever during the show, and Robin was animated and looked to be having a good time despite the chilly evening.
After "I Want You to Want Me" Rick again mentioned local news stations "KTNV, KVBC no, KVVU I think they're all rival stations", then adding "I know a couple of other four letter words too!" He then asked to have the lights up, though in truth, with all the casino and street lights nearby, having the stage lights up made little difference! Anyway, he announced that "It's a pleasure to be in Las Vegas on New Years Eve", and then added that "the singer of the next song is a former resident of Las Vegas in the great state of Nevada and is a cardholder at The Golden Spike!" I've no idea of the significance (if any) of that nearby casino, but I've now calculated that there are only three small towns, two in Wyoming and one in Arkansas that Tom hasn't lived in! <LOL> Anyway, Tom of course went into "I Know What I Want", starting first with a short "Auf Wiedersehen" bass intro. At the end of the song, Rick stated "Thank you Mr Las Vegas!"
At the end of "Voices", Rick leaned across the significant gap at stage front to pass his guitar to Shoandra and Ricks son, Chris. That must have been a bit of a shock to his new tech, though the guitar was quickly retrieved! After "Lot to Lose", Rick said "Well Robin, we finally made it they named a restaurant after the next song". He'd spotted a neon sign some 50 yards opposite advertising the "Flame" restaurant though we couldn't actually find the restaurant the next day. Anyway, the next song was of course "The Flame".
After "The Flame" Rick invited requests, then spotted someone "from London" and asked where her husband was? "Drunk? At home?" Poor Sayuri! He then invited someone in a red jacket to come to the stage and get a guitar pick it turned out to be a 4-5 year old Japanese looking child, and the crowd collectively went "awwwww!" Rick gave him the coveted piece of plastic, then said "Now you've got a pick, quit waving your hands at me!" Robin had his jacket back on for "Surrender" and at the end Rick tried to hand off his 5 neck to a fan at the front but it was too far to reach comfortably. As the band took the crowds cheering and applause at the end of the main set, Robin said "On behalf of Cheap Trick we wish you the best of the New Year, and we'll see you down the road apiece". Definitely a nice New Years message.
Of course Rick came back on a minute or two later to ask "Does that mean you want to hear some more?" getting a large roar in response. The band played the usual three song chorus, with "Goodnight Now" having two endings. The show ended at 11.19pm, and we then had the usual post show rush on merchandise, and then we really did have to rush and then pack up quickly as the truck needed to be loaded up and away before midnight.
Whilst starting to pack up, the Mayor of Las Vegas took to the stage at 11.30pm to lead the crowd in an attempt on a world record for the largest ever toast, to try to beat a record currently held in Japan. Luckily Tricktoria had signed me up and got me a plastic glass of wine whilst I was finishing selling, so I was quickly able to join the toast in between counting t-shirts and finding gaffer tape! It will take a few weeks to verify, but here's hoping some Cheap Trick fans (including me!) are soon part of a certified world record! And of course Bun E is (or was) part of the world drumming record that was set a couple of years back.
The merch boxes were on the truck by 11:50pm, the crew made their way back to their hotel and I went and found Tricktoria still standing by where the merchandise table had been. By now Fremont Street was packed, with people coming out of the casino's to drink and watch the final video display on the overhead canopy until it came time for the countdown to midnight. At last it arrived 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 HAPPY NEW YEAR! The place erupted and right by us a confetti cannon fired heaps of confetti high into the air over the crowd. And looking back along 3rd Street towards the Strip, we had a limited view of a spectacular 10 minute firework display, which must have been amazing to have had a full view of.
We tried to find some of the other CT fans that we'd heard would be somewhere in or near Fitzgeralds, but without success. However, the people manning the wine stands (and who'd been giving away the glasses of wine for the world record attempt) were packing up, but eager to get rid of their remaining glasses rather than throw them away (they'd been poured earlier, sealed and chilled). We tried to just get one more free glass, and ended up being given a whole handful! Well, it seemed a pity to waste it
The New Year and home
I don't really remember getting back to the hotel a hundred yards or so away, but I do remember waking up with my first hangover in many, many years. Ouch! The first day of 2006 was spent very quietly, mostly nursing a delicate head and stomach! Now I remember why I rarely drink!
Monday 2nd saw us take a road trip, though we set off later than planned. Both Tricktoria and I had been to Vegas several times, so I suggested driving to Phoenix for a few hours. I'd never actually visited there, only flown through its airport once. The day was bright and sunny, and we set off for what proved to be a longer drive than I'd expected. We got delayed for around 30 minutes approaching and crossing the Hoover Dam, and lost another hour in doing so by passing into the Mountain Time Zone. It took us about 5 hours driving to get to Phoenix, and though most of the way was typical Southwest desert scrub, we did pass some interesting rock outcrops , some typical cacti as well as drove along the Joshua Tree Forest Highway (down route 93).
In Phoenix we briefly stopped at a couple of places to shop before going downtown, and dusk found the city centre area eerily deserted. We chose to park in the underground car park of the Collier Centre right by the Hard Rock Café there were only two other cars in the place. The HRC was very quiet, we walked around (no CT stuff on display) and shopped, then left to walk to nearby Cooperstown. Alice Cooper's sports bar is only a couple of blocks away on the other side of the America West Arena, but we barely saw another soul on our short walk. Cooperstown too was quiet, with just a few diners and underworked staff. It's a mix of sports bar (with several large screens above the bar as well as sports memorabilia on the walls) and music themed bar, with Alice Cooper posters and other music stuff on the wall and tables with cool Alice collages on the surfaces. It was an older brick building with an outdoor courtyard, and inside it was spacious and high ceilinged with a small upstairs bar to one side. We had an early evening meal, and there were certainly a lot of choices on the menu. The serving staff had eye make-up similar to Alice's, though for some it hadn't taken long to put on (a couple of horizontal lines of mascara and one vertical, pretty skimpy). We mentioned having seen Alice with Cheap Trick just a few weeks ago, and the young servers were mostly unfamiliar with Alice's (or Cheap Trick's) music, and the piped music didn't include any Alice songs. One server did remark that they get quite a few people in from Britain, "so I guess Alice must still be popular there?" As well as catering to local sports fans when the local sports teams were at home, I'd guess Cooperstown would be an attraction to visit for many music fans visiting Phoenix, and I have to admit being somewhat disappointed by it. My perception may have been clouded by it obviously being a VERY quiet night downtown and in the bar, but I just thought it would be a bit more geared to receiving Alice fans from all over, y'know? And going there had been a part of our decision to drive such a long way today. Anyway, the food was good, and I'd think it a fun place to be when there's a crowd in. Oh, and of course Alice didn't choose tonight to make one of his occasional visits in!
Anyway, mid evening saw us start back for Vegas, and driving out of a totally deserted and mostly dark downtown was eerie, like a scene from one of those movies where mankind has disappeared. Also, the long drive back wasn't helped by a detour before we had even left the environs of Phoenix. We got detoured off a closed portion of route 60 into a suburb called Glendale except there were no further signs guiding us back to the road heading north west. Well, at least we drove past a central area lit up with pretty Christmas lights as we tried to head ourselves vaguely back in the right direction. We eventually got onto our road, but no thanks to whoever was responsible for signposting that detour. Oh, and did I say how FAR Phoenix spreads? I'd heard that it was one of the two or three fastest growing cities in the USA, but I truly had no idea how big this urban conurbation was until today. It just goes on for miles and miles and you get the picture. Huge sprawl.
Back up route 60 (or was it by now 93?), we passed through a small town that had its small city centre park still decorated for Christmas it was odd to see large, multi-armed cacti covered in fairy lights. Definitely an Arizona/SouthWest thing! It was a long, long drive back up to Vegas, but I have to say that the view was just amazing as you come over the hill on 93/95 just past Boulder City and you see the sweep of neon lights and the faraway Strip still some 10 miles ahead of you. It was good to reach the Hilton at around 1am, quickly check in and get to bed. It had been a long day, but I'm glad we took the opportunity to see somewhere new however odd it had been in Phoenix. Maybe a holiday-day was a bad day to visit?
Anyway, the next morning (Tuesday 3rd) saw me heading home after this short and busy trip. I said my goodbyes to Tricktoria at McCarran Airport, and joined the long lines to go through security screening. The Delta flight to Atlanta took 3˝ hours, and I was at my gate for my overnight flight to Manchester with two hours to spare. Well, I was at the gate but the plane wasn't. Even the crew turned up and were sitting around and waiting. And waiting. With 45 minutes to take off, they eventually they told us that a plane was coming from a hanger, but when it arrived it would have to be serviced and cleaned from its last flight, plus the catering and luggage had to be loaded. We finally took off from Atlanta an hour and a half late, the flight was full and I had the seat in front of me reclined in my face for the whole overnight flight <sigh>. Some flights are harder than others. I tried to doze, and we eventually reached north England, only to be told we were put into a holding pattern due to mist on the ground. We finally landed at Manchester (Weds 4th) , and taxiied to the terminal to then be told there was another plane at our gate <sigh> C'mon people it's not like they didn't know we were coming. We eventually got to the gate and disembarked 2 hours late. Luckily my yellow bag finally made it onto the carousel, I got the shuttle to my car park, and drove back to Leeds and to my office.
Despite the drag that my flights had been this time, it had been a good trip overall, and nice to see the New Year in again with my favourite group of musicians.
It was good, as always, to see many friends whilst at the show. I've named most in the review, but I'm sure I've missed some names off, and any omissions are entirely accidental and due to my failing memory! So if I've missed your name off, I'm truly sorry.
Very many thanks are due (once again) to Tricktoria for allowing me to share her hotel room and for all the driving :-) And thanks as ever are due to Carla, the band and the crew - good to see you all once again
Kim Gisborne, Leeds England - 8th Jan 2006
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