Well, here I am again at last with another concert tale... like 2007 before it, 2009 was just too full of Real Life stuff for any travelling (and believe me, it was no picnic). But we made it through in the end, and even though things were still a little uncertain when the Franklin Park date appeared on Jimi's tour schedule, as soon as I could confirm that the day and venue were accurate, I started making plans to repeat the journey I took in the summer of '08, where I flew out from Denver and stayed with an old friend who lives in Milwaukee, and the two of us went to the show together. And, now as then, I won't bore everyone with the non-concert parts of the trip; I'll just say that it was lovely to see Irene again and leave it at that.
The show itself was on Saturday night, and didn't start until late (9 PM) so we at least got a chance to have a proper dinner at a restaurant before we left our hotel. It had been raining on and off all day, however, and the local radar showed another big line of storms coming in just as we were heading out for Franklin Park (we'd stayed in a Country Inn and Suites on the other side of O'hare airport, so it was a bit of a drive). And when we got there, I was VERY grateful that the stage and seating were all inside a big tent, because about halfway through the set, that line of storms passed right overhead and It. Just. Poured! I had managed to snag one of the very last open chairs in the front row when Irene and I arrived (she found a place toward the back, where it was a little cooler) and we literally had a stream running underneath our feet during the worst of it outside. (I was glad I'd had the foresight to bring all my stuff in a backpack that I could keep up off the ground, or everything probably would have gotten soaked--and I remember hoping devoutly that the crew had made sure all the electrical equipment on stage was properly grounded! ).
Apart from the weather, though, the show itself was really good, if a bit short for my taste; they only went for about an hour and a half, judging by the time-stamps on my pics. Still, Jimi had been sick with bronchitis at the last show I'd been to in '08, poor thing, so it was nice to catch him when he was happy, healthy, and in top form vocally this time around. I was also tremendously pleased to finally hear some songs off Crossroads Moment done live--I'll admit I might have wished they'd done something other than the title track, but it wasn't that big a deal. (That whole album is so good, it would have been pretty much impossible to get a dud no matter what they played!) And since I knew he lives in Chicago, it wasn't very much of a surprise when Jim Peterik joined everyone on stage, but it was fun to see him up there nonetheless--you could tell that he and Jimi were really having a great time performing together. I admit I don't know much about the other special guest, Kevin Chalfant, but Wikipedia tells me he was lead vocalist for Journey for a time, which rather explains the choice of song that he did. And, speaking of which, here's the complete setlist:
Eye of the Tiger
High On You
Is This Love (Woohoo!)
I'm Always Here
The Search Is Over
Crossroads Moment (with Jim Peterik; they introduced him right before this)
Lights (originally by Journey - this was the one Kevin Chalfant took over lead vocals for)
As Is (Jimi got a standing ovation for this, and with reason--it's a powerful song, and he performed it beautifully)
I Can't Hold Back (I think Kevin C. had left the stage for "As Is," but he came back and did backing vocals on this one)
Eye Of The Tiger (yes, they did it twice, as the opener and the encore)
I had bought an extra copy of Crossroads Moment several months ago and kept it pristine in the shrink-wrap in the hope that I'd eventually be able to get it autographed--so I kind of had to laugh when I got to this show and discovered that they were actually selling copies of the CD along with other mechandise. (Oh well, not like it took up THAT much space in my luggage!) And Jimi did come out to sign things for a bit once the show was over, so naturally I got in line and waited my turn. When I made it up to the front, he asked me what I wanted him to write on the CD (my response: "whatever you feel like" ) and I quickly bought one of the 8x10 photos off the mechandise table and got it signed for Irene while I was there. As he finished signing the photo, though, he looked up at me and said, "Do I know you?" I laughed and replied, "Well, you USED to," remembering how thunderstruck I'd been when he'd remembered me at the Oneida show in '08. And I was just going to leave it at that, since there were still quite a few people waiting in line behind me and I didn't want to hold up the works for too long, but Sally (webmaster of his official site and a friend of mine; she and I met at a Rock & Pop Masters show in Cheyenne, WY back in 2006) happened to be standing near enough to have heard the conversation, and she said something to him that must have jogged his memory about exactly who I was. Because as soon as she did, he broke into a big grin and then leaned over the table between us and gave me a one-armed hug around the shoulders! It was very brief, and I was so surprised that I didn't get much of a chance to return it, but yeah, if everything else about this show hadn't already made the whole trip worthwhile, that moment certainly would have.
So, that's the long and the short of it... hope you enjoyed reading, and you can click over to the Franklin Park Live Gallery to see the pics I took (the complete set of my concert photos can be found in their usual location).