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WaterDragon's
Rock and Pop Masters
Concert Tale
Cheyenne, Wyoming
24 June, 2006
(Review written 25 June, 2006)

Well, I think going to this show pretty much qualifies as the most impulsive thing I've ever done. laughing emoticon A net-friend of mine emailed me in the evening on the Thursday before the show and said, "There's going to be a Rock & Pop Masters concert in Cheyenne on Saturday the 24th, are you going?" My first response was, What on earth is RPM doing in Cheyenne, WY? the second was, Jimi's gonna be there--I gotta go! and the third was, Drat it all, I don't know if I can go, my back may not be up to it. I've been having problems on and off with lower back pain for some time, and I'd even been seeing a physical therapist to try and get the issue sorted out once and for all, but when my hubby and I took that trip to New Mexico to see my parents back in May, I hurt myself again and I'm still trying to recover completely. My particular problem makes standing and especially sitting up for long periods difficult, so even just the two hours from Denver to Cheyenne and then several at a show all in one day was really out of the question.

As fate would have it, though, I found a hotel online with a room free on Friday, which would allow me to make the trip one day, rest during that evening and for most of the next day before going to the show that night, and then drive myself home again on Sunday. I still wasn't 100% sure I could manage it, but I knew I'd kick myself forever if I didn't at least give it a try. Survivor's been cancelling an awful lot of their scheduled tourdates this summer (edited to add: and now that Jimi has officially left the band, we know why!) and I've been reluctant to travel anywhere to see them for fear that the metaphorical rug will get pulled out from under me. So I knew this might be my only chance to get to a live performance of any kind for a while, and I hated the thought of going an entire year without seeing Jimi do his thing on stage at least once.

So I packed up and went, my sore back and my too-busy-to-go-with-me hubby notwithstanding. laughing emoticon The trip up Friday was definitely not comfortable, but I made it intact and got checked into my hotel room, then went back out and bought a ticket for the show the next day. (It was $10 to get in, but all general admission; they were playing in a softball field at a local park.) Then I went back to my room and crashed for the rest of the evening, though I was quite impressed with myself that I managed to get my laptop to talk to the hotel's wireless internet without the aid of my tech-guru husband!

Saturday morning was mainly uneventful; I had breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then kicked back with a book for most of the day. I ate lunch in my room, and rather late--I knew I'd be getting dinner late as well, even though the show was supposed to start fairly early. Once I was done with lunch, I got everything together that I'd need to take with me--camera, rain poncho, water bottle, etc.--and went to put on both sunscreen and insect repellent. (I spend too much time indoors and consequently sunburn just thinking about it, and there are several lakes in/near the park where the show was being held, so I figured the mosquitoes might be pretty fierce.) It was only just as I was finishing with that, though, that I noticed it had gotten rather dark outside, even though it was still only early afternoon. And when I took a good look out the window, my heart sank--Cheyenne gets a lot of thunderstorms during the summer, and that was exactly what was brewing. I checked the weather online and found out that not only was it storming, golfball-sized hail had been reported south of town. shocked emoticon (That was definitely an "oh, crap" moment!) On the other hand, though, the radar showed the rain moving to the southeast, and I still had a little bit before I had to leave the hotel, so I sent up a prayer that the worst of the weather would either miss Cheyenne entirely, or at least hit it only a glancing blow and not be enough to make them cancel the concert.

And Somebody must have heard that prayer, for even though it started to rain as I left the hotel just before 4 PM, and kept up pretty hard as I drove across town to Lions Park, the park itself only got a sprinkle, and the dark clouds passed over quickly. In fact, by the time I managed to find somewhere to leave the car (the interior of Lions Park and all its associated lots had been closed because of the Superday festival that the show was part of) the sun had come back out, and my heart lifted again. (Although some of that might also have been due to the fact that as I walked across to the softball field, I could hear Jimi singing "I Can't Hold Back"--they were apparently just finishing up soundcheck. grinning emoticon ) The ill weather even turned out to be a good thing in the end; I'd been afraid that it would be really hot out, but the little bit of rain cooled things off considerably, and there was enough wind in the wake of the storm that I actually had to wear my jacket all the way through the show or I would have been too cold!

Anyway--I had to stand and wait for a while outside the gates of the field; I was a little bit early, and I gathered from the conversation of the festival volunteers guarding the entrance that although the RPM soundcheck was over, the one for Avenue, the opening act, was taking longer than expected. Finally, though, they took our tickets and we were allowed inside, and I hurried over and plunked myself down in what I figured would be a prime picture-taking location a bit to the right of stage-center. (I also took the opportunity, since the grass was dry, to lie down and do some stretches to help make sure my back would hold out all the way through the show, which I'm sure confused the people around me no end. laughing emoticon )

The opening act started more or less on time, and they weren't bad as opening acts go--nothing spectacular, just a local cover band with one or two original songs, but at least they could play and their singers were all pretty decent. The crowd had not been very large to start with, maybe 300 people at most (which was actually more than I thought they might get for an honest-to-goodness ROCK concert; Cheyenne's a town where country is king) but more trickled in during the 45 minutes or so that Avenue played. As they were getting to the end of their set, though, I got a surprise. A man and a lady came up and started setting up chairs just to my right, and when I glanced over at them, more out of idle curiosity than anything else, I did a double-take.

Back in December of last year, Jimi took part in a charity gig in Florida, and an auction had been held before the show, the winner of which got to get up on stage and sing a duet with him. That honor had gone to Sally Irwin, whom I knew somewhat from online, and from the pics I had seen of she and Jimi together at that concert, I was pretty sure that this was the same person. Still, I wasn't totally sure, and since I was in town by myself, I felt that some caution was advised. So I decided to sit back and observe for a little while before I spoke up, and sure enough, I got another hint that I was on to something when she got out what was obviously quite a high-end camera (you should have seen the zoom lens on this thing laughing emoticon ) since I knew Sally loved photography and concert photography in particular.

It wasn't until RPM had actually started the show, however, that my suspicions crystallized into certainty. They brought various band members on stage gradually, starting out with the core band (Charlie Morgan [drums], Barry Dunaway [bass], and their lead guitarist, Jerry Riggs), plus Larry and (I believe) Lane Hoppen on keyboards, and Joe Lynn Turner doing some percussion. Those six did one song together, and then John Cafferty and Michael "Tunes" Antunes came on and did a number, and finally Jimi joined everyone else and did his first song, namely "High On You." Now, this woman I'd been watching had been standing up near the stage taking pictures all this time, and in the middle of the song, Jimi walked over to her, said, "C'mere, baby" in that sweet Southern drawl of his ( swooning emoticon ! ) and swung his mike stand down in front of her so she could sing a line or two of the song. At that point, I decided that yes, I had indeed been correct in my identification--that could hardly be anyone BUT Sally! laughing emoticon

The rest of the show was pretty good, though I confess I didn't pay too much attention to the music except when Jimi was doing lead vocals. blushing emoticon (I'm probably showing my age here, but I know pretty much nothing about anyone else who was onstage that night, and I only knew one or two of the non-Survivor songs they played, and those not well enough to sing along to. 70's music is very hit-or-miss with me, I fear... some of it I like quite well, but other things just bore me to sleep.) Still, at least I was able to concentrate on taking pics, which was good since this was the first time I'd really given my new digital camera a good workout and I was on a bit of a learning curve. (Though I will say right now that that thing is worth every penny we paid for it--wait till you see some of the fantastic shots I got!) And, despite the rather primitive venue and the small crowd (I'd be surprised if it ever topped 500 people) the guys still did a nice energetic show, and I think we all got our money's worth. I couldn't even begin to guess at most of the setlist, but Jimi did four quite familiar songs: the aforementioned "High On You," "The Search Is Over" (he complained about being the one who had to do the slow song of the evening laughing emoticon ) "I Can't Hold Back," and then "Eye Of The Tiger" as part of the encore, all of which sounded fabulous. (Is he ever anything else? winking emoticon ) Of course, he could have done the whole show and I would have been perfectly happy! laughing emoticon It is pretty cool that all the RPM guys can get up and perform together onstage, each sharing the spotlight with the others in turn, but after getting used to actual Survivor shows, I confess I found it a little bit strange to see Jimi spend time away from that front mike...

Anyhow--as soon as the show was over, I made bold to introduce myself to Sally and her husband, and we chatted for a little bit as we got our stuff put away and waited for the bulk of the crowd to disperse. Now, I admit, I've been really, really hoping to be able to at least say hi to Jimi again--he was such a sweetheart when I met him last summer, I don't think I could help but wish for another chance to talk to him, even if it was only for a minute or two. And he didn't seem in any particular hurry to leave the field after the show was done, but there were a LOT of security guys around, and at first I thought all I'd be able to do was wait until he happened to look in my direction and then wave at him from afar.

But wait! The festival people had set up a little tent near the entrance to the field where some of the other RPM members were signing autographs, and the minute that Jimi decided to join in that, I jumped in line. When I'd packed for this trip, I'd thrown in my Japanese copy of Survivor's new album Reach and a Sharpie marker purely in a spirit of wistful optimism, but at that point, I was very glad I had both with me! I think I made his day when I got to the table and handed him the CD to sign (which rather made MY day in turn! grinning emoticon ). He seemed quite pleased to see someone with a copy since it still hasn't been officially released in the US, and he even remembered me from last year once I mentioned that I was the one with "the strange website"--which he agreed was indeed pretty strange. blushing emoticon laughing emoticon Oh well, I've always known I'm a weirdo, but I hope not in too unpleasant a sense. winking emoticon (And I suppose it could have been worse; I'd had visions of him hollering for security if we crossed paths for a second time--"Help! It's that crazy woman with the website again!" running away emoticon laughing emoticon )

I'd have loved to talk to him for longer than it took him to sign my CD, of course, but there were other people behind me still waiting for autographs, so I yielded the field to them and went back to talk to Sally a bit more. It turned out that she and her husband were actually staying just one floor above me at the Holiday Inn, so we talked about getting together again later that night, after they'd been somewhere to have something to eat. Unfortunately there ended up not being time for it, but still, it was really lovely to meet them both! grinning emoticon Actually, I'd say the whole trip was a stunning success--the show was good, my back held up remarkably well, it didn't rain all over us, I took some GREAT pics (click over to the Cheyenne Live Gallery 1 and Cheyenne Live Gallery 2 to see them, and as always, all my concert pics can be reached from this page) and got to meet someone I knew, and I even got that couple of minutes I'd been hoping for with Jimi. So I guess things done on impulse sometimes DO turn out well! winking emoticon

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