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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Some GREAT News!

ALL RIGHT, TOKYO! It's Official!

Good a time as any to reprint MY ALASKAN CHEAP TRICK ADVENTURE (originally posted on the Cheap Trick message board in 2007)

“I hope you don’t mind that we brought some sunshine,” Rick Nielsen told a roaring crowd in the Alaska State Fair’s Borealis Theatre on Friday night (August 23, 2007). Cheap Trick had indeed brought the Midwest heat wave to Alaska…

My Alaskan Cheap Trick Adventure began earlier Friday morning as fog lifted from the Bethel Airport and my wife and I boarded Alaska Airlines Flight 42 to Anchorage where we would pick up a car, and my daughter and her boyfriend, and drive north to Palmer. It was the usual hour long, 500 mile run from Western Alaska to the state’s largest city, with clear weather all the way, giving us beautiful views of the Alaska Range as we flew over.

Now, the place I live, Bethel, is a community of a little over 6,000 people. I drive 5 miles to work every day. The plan of the day for Friday was to make the 40 mile run to the Fair up the Glenn Highway, a trip I hadn’t made in years. I was fully expecting to feel a little asphalt culture shock.
We set out and after years of considering 50 miles per hour FAST, I rediscovered the fact that on Alaskan highways the posted speed limit is a suggested minimum. 65 really means 80…We got to Palmer, in the heart of the state’s Matanuska Valley in no time at all.
Once we got into the Fairgrounds (our reserved seats included Fair admission) the first place I looked for was the Borealis Theatre, venue for the day’s long awaited event. You see, Cheap Trick was supposed to play at the Fair in 2005 but cancelled much to my disappointment. Today was making up for it!
I had emailed Trick Int’l about the possibility of a Meet and Greet, but they said it wasn’t happening, so as soon as I could I started scoping out the route to backstage.
Let me tell you, this venue is GREAT for a fan. The visual access is wonderful. I was able to see through the fence to the stage as it was set up, and even watch the full-bore soundcheck performed by the crew.

As I walked around the fairgrounds I could hear one of the crew saying “two, two, yuup” to test the mikes, and later, although I wasn’t there, it sounded like the Boys Themselves were warming up.
The backstage area is very nice, very Alaskan. This cabin first had a sign that said “Cheap Trick Dining Hall” and later it simply read “BC.” Once more, a view of the back stage.
The show was scheduled to start at 7:30, gate at 6:30 so I was getting ready to skulk around the back entrance when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a but a familiar face in a bright blue jacket. I said “Hi Rick” as he walked past and he replied with a “How’s it going,” or somesuch. I was stunned. I pulled my camera out and grabbed my wife and started down the midway. As we went, a fellow concertgoer I had spoken with earlier (he admired my Rockford t-shirt) said “Your lead guitarist is right in front of you.” I spotted the bright blue at a distance and began to make tracks.
Soon enough we caught up with the greatest songwriter of all time who was gracious enough to share a few words and let me get a couple of pictures with my wife.
“This is a pretty wild place,” he observed, and I of course blurted out what a big fan I was and how I was glad they made it after their cancellation (ho hum) and then I told him I was from Western Alaska and he asked me what I did there and I said I had lived there for nearly 30 years and he said “You didn’t answer my question!” So I told. Then I told him my wife is Yup’ik Eskimo and he, very classily replies “Oh, you pick pretty!” Then he said he was part Sioux, a small part. By then the manager ( I think, you’ll see the back of his head soon) came back and handed Rick a pork chop on a stick, and we left him to munch out and head to the show.
But first I had to take one last look backstage to see if anyone else interesting was there. Whoa! There was Tom on his cell phone.
Well, time to go in the gate before the rush.
The Borealis Theatre is a very intimate setting with some great seats, some sucky seats and a gorgeous grass amphitheatre for festival seating. Julie and I were in Row E, just below Stage Right.

There was plenty of behind the scenes activity on the stage for us to watch. This gentleman gave all appearances of being the manager; he’s the one that got Rick his pork chop.
I don’t know how well, on a BIG stage, you are able to see stuff like this, and for obvious reasons I titled this photo Second Best Job in the World.
Well, here’s Bun E.’s kit, and a shot of Stage Left.
One last check of things and We Were Ready!
Much to the delight of the Alaskan crowd Rick paid us tribute by walking out at the opening with a fur hat on. I of course was too slow on the shutter to catch his fashion debut!
Bun E. punched in, Robin strutted,singing Hello There, Rick took the band into Big Eyes which was a real workout for Robin and Tom. And here’s Rick finishing it off.
Yes, it was the now standard concert playlist and we loved every second of it!

One of my favorites and a CT classic, Oh Candy was a reason for Rick to bring out the Checkerboard. By now Robin has unbuttoned his leather jacket and will soon lose it completely. Here’s Tom playing Oh Candy. After the song Rick handed his axe to a lady in the front row, then after a minute or so he said “Oh, I thought you were my cousin” as he took it back.
Rick’s birthday present to his son, Welcome to the World was next (Robin had a lyrics sheet for it at his feet).
After If You Want My Love they whipped out a fine rendition of Come On Come On Come On and Robin finally gave in to the Alaska heat! “>Tom never took off HIS jacket!
A couple of lucky ladies got to hold some of Rick’s guitars. He told this one to keep it. I remember some of the audience chanting “Run, Run” as one lady wondered what to do. Rick says “There are only two ways to get a guitar. One is to BE me. The other is…I’m thinking…”
Rick intro’d Tom and I Know What I Want with his yellow plexi. It was a real treat seeing Tom belt it out. Here are Robin and Rick backing Tom as Bun E. laughs at something… And here is one more of Tom singing.
Rick waved his ’88 with Bun E.’s picture on it, made a little patter and then HUNG IT FROM THE LIGHT BAR! Luckily, Ricks tech rescued Bun E.
Lucky fans, these. Rick saw their shirts and, suggesting they were newlyweds, invited them up on stage to “consummate your marriage.” And up they went.
Here’s a little something for the ladies out there…
And here’s a little something else…
"Mother told me, Yes she told me I’d meet girls like you, She also told me Stay Away, You never know what you’ll catch..."
Oh man, here’s Robin saying Good Night! Is this the end of the show? Then I saw Rick’s technician re-loading the semi-automatic mic stand with more picks! So I knew better!
This time I didn’t miss! The malaqi (Yup’ik word for fur hat) looked great on Rick, even if it was a little warm! But he wore it through the first half of Dream Police. Here he is. Ladies and Gentlemen, Alaska’s Finest (at least on August 24th!) Could this guy be Rick’s biggest fan?
Except for the shots with my wife and daughter, this is one of my favorite pictures as Cheap Trick sings Goodnight... And here’s the finale’.
‘Bye, Rick.
Like I said, the back stage is really accessible, and so is Cheap Trick! I saw my wife and daughter and her boyfriend and a couple of other people down past the gate and there was Bun E. shaking hands through the chain link. I stuck my hand through the barbed wire and Bun E. shook it and warned me, “Don’t cut your hand!” Then he apologized for having nothing to sign or sign with. I then whipped out a Sharpie pen and a stack of notecards and he generously moved down to the gate to sign and smile! He told us he would “send over the rest of the guys.” Thanks, Bun E.!
Lo and behold who should stroll up but Robin in his Greek fisherman hat (pulled down way to low). He signed my wife’s t-shirt and a couple of notecards, made some small talk and headed back in.
During the concert my wife said “I should have given him (Rick) my necklace.” She makes a lot of Alaska native handicrafts, including Yup’ik dance necklaces, so when he came out to say Hi she took off her beaded necklace and gave it to him.
You can see it under the strings of his hat here as he signs her shirt. Rick also singed a few autographs, including an old Dream Police 45 dust cover, which really caught his attention. He asked the guy, “Where did you get this?”
Tom didn’t make it out, but he did spend some time talking to a small boy and his dad who got backstage, and I don’t know how many people leave a concert with all 4 autographs LOL.
All in all it was a great trip. Final score- Picks: 5 for me, 5 or 6 for my wife, a new black hat for me, a t shirt for her, 3 autographs and great pics.
Rick told the crowd at the end, “Maybe we’ll see you next year.” We all sure hope so.
The next day I felt like all the air had been let out of me!
When I got back to work on Monday a coworker, bobbing her head asked if I “rocked out?”
I replied, simply, “I sang myself hoarse.”
As we say out here, Quyana Tailuuten (Thank you for coming), and thanks for being so gracious to your fans!
All pics @2007 by Mark E. Springer, ask if you want to use them for something.

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