This show was something of a gamble--I don't normally even consider travelling anywhere to see Jimi perform during the winter, or before about May in the spring, just because I would really hate to spend the money on airfare, etc. and put in all the time and effort it takes me to get ready to be gone, and then have to cancel everything at the last minute because a snowstorm blew in on the wrong day. And this particular gig was doubly risky on the weather front; if late February is a bad time to be flying out of Denver, it's not exactly the ideal time to be going anywhere in Minnesota, either. But in spite of that consideration, the more I heard about this concert, the more tempting it seemed: It was a real Jimi solo show, which is becoming an altogether too-rare occurence since he rejoined Survivor, VIP tickets were only $25 and included a guaranteed meet-and-greet afterward (although that ended up not working out quite as I'd hoped) and on top of everything else, the date was very close to my birthday. So I finally decided to give myself the trip as a gift and hope like mad that the weather would cooperate--and Somebody out there must have been feeling indulgent enough to grant at last that part of my wish, because while it stormed shortly before I left and then again just after I got back, it was more than reasonable for the time of year during the few days I was there, with dry roads and even some sun from time to time.
So, I flew out of Denver on Thursday, February 27th more or less without issue. I had heard from a friend online that Jimi had just played what I guess was a private or corporate show of some kind in Vail, CO (so close!) mid-week, and I wondered if maybe I might be lucky enough to run into him at DIA or even end up on the same flight into Minneapolis, but no dice, alas. Still, the flight was fine and they didn't lose my luggage (I normally try to avoid checking a bag when I travel by air, but there was just no way around it this time) and while I did get a bit lost on the way from the airport to my hotel, even with the GPS unit in my rental car, at least I got to see the outside of the Mall of America along the way.
I spent most of Friday quietly in my hotel room, getting as much of my stuff together and ready ahead of time as I could, and checking out Google Maps to find the best way to get to the club where the show was being held. (And I'm very glad I did some research on that point, because I would have run into a bunch of road construction if I'd gone the shortest and most obvious route.) The show was supposed to start at 8 PM, but I had chosen a hotel that was a lot nearer the airport than the venue, and where I would have to drive most of the way across town in the tail end of rush hour, I decided I had probably better get going by about 6:30. So I did, and made it to the club without incident, then found somewhere to park--though that last part did turn out to be a slight adventure in and of itself. The club's lot wasn't large and there was ice and snow piled up everywhere from previous storms, and I had visions of falling and breaking my neck (or one of my expensive camera lenses!) before I even got to the building. Fortunately, neither came to pass and I was soon able to turn in my ticket at the front door and get my VIP wristband, then wander on in to the main part of the club and find somewhere to sit.
Quite a few people had already showed up for the performance, even though I myself was about an hour early, but most of them were sitting towards the back of the audience area, and the very front row of chairs was cordoned off with yellow tape. I thought for a minute that I was going to have to take a chair further back, as well, but when I stopped and actually looked at the signs, the front row was simply reserved for VIP ticket-holders--well, that's me! So I found a chair towards the center where I'd have a nice clear line of sight to the stage, but before I could sit down, this lady sitting at the table just behind me spoke to me and even addressed me by name. I confess that all I did at first was blink at her and say, "Yes?" in a rather confused voice, because I couldn't place her for the life of me, though she did seem vaguely familiar. It wasn't until she told me her name and said that she had been one of the people to organize the show at Morty's in Glyndon back in 2010 that I put the pieces together--hopefully she wasn't too insulted by my poor memory! There was also another gentleman in the front row with a pro camera, and it turned out that he had been invited to photograph this show specifically, so he and I talked shop a little before the concert itself got started.
The opening act (a local blues-rock group called the Dean Weisser Band) came on pretty promptly at 8, and they actually played a full two-hour concert all by themselves. Which was fine--they were good musicians, and it certainly gave me plenty of time to change lenses on my camera (I always travel with the 75mm attached to the body, and only put that huge 200mm on when I'm actually ready to use it) and take some test shots. Still, I confess I was getting rather impatient by the time they got to the end of their set and the crew started rearranging the stage for the main act--Fergie Fredriksen had been added to the bill just a couple of days before I left Denver, and I was really looking forward to seeing he and Jimi perform together again, particularly since I'd bought a copy of his latest CD in the interim and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I started grinning like a fool when I finally spotted both he and Jimi hanging out in the wings--and then I had to restrain myself from getting up and doing a little happy dance when the band came out. Because I hadn't realized until then exactly who they were; they had been billed as "Headliner," but it was actually all the guys from Heartbreaker, whom I'd seen Jimi perform with not only at Glyndon but also Red Wing in 2011, and their shows are always so terrific that I felt like I'd just gotten an extra last-minute birthday gift!
And speaking of gifts, Jimi gave me another one when he finally came up on stage to where I could see him properly. He seems to favor fairly casual stage outfits, at least at the sort of shows (ie, free or somewhere in the $10-25 ticket range) I tend to end up at, and while I've never minded the fact--he has excellent dress sense, and always looks yummy to me no matter what he wears--my one wish has been to get to a performance noteworthy enough for him to break out the leather pants. And that wish was finally granted at this show; I think I actually said, out loud, in that moment, "OMG, he's in his leathers!" (I still wonder if anyone heard me... oh well, even if they did, that was a surprise worth an exclamation or two!)
So, yeah--the scenery at this show was even more delightful than usual, and the music was every bit as thoroughly awesome as I'd expected. Here's the full setlist:
High On You (Jimi)
It's The Singer Not The Song (Jimi)
I Can't Hold Back (Jimi)
Is This Love (Jimi, and also--woot! So, so, SO nice to hear this live again!)
Hold The Line (Fergie)
I'll Be Over You (Fergie, and it was fantastic--this is probably my favorite Toto song ever)
Burning Heart (Jimi)
I'm Always Here (Jimi)
Crossroads Moment (Jimi)
Love Is Alive (Jimi)
Good Lovin' Gone Bad by Bad Company (Fergie)
Feel Like Makin' Love by Bad Company (Jimi, and can I just say mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm... )
Gone, Gone, Gone by Bad Company (Jimi)
Separate Ways by Journey (Fergie)
The Search Is Over (Jimi)
Rebel Son (Jimi)
Gimme All Your Lovin' by ZZ Top (This started out as just Jimi, and ended up morphing into a kind of duet-medley between he and Fergie where they also sang bits of "Some Kind Of Wonderful" by Grand Funk Railroad and "Roadhouse Blues" by the Doors)
Eye Of The Tiger (Jimi)
As everyone was taking their bows at the end of the show, I got my first clue that I might not get the time I'd hoped for with Himself afterward; one of the guys in the band made mention of the fact that Jimi had just come from a whole series of back-to-back shows in the past few days, and that he had a 5 AM flight to catch on top of it. (And I can't help but think now, good heavens, that kind of schedule would tax a YOUNG person, never mind someone in his 60's! Somebody needs to manage that poor guy's schedule a little better, methinks...) At the time, though, my heart just froze at the idea that I could have spent all that effort and come all that way only to not see him face-to-face for even a minute or two--remember, the last show I'd been to before this was Olathe, and I'd missed him entirely there, too. So once everyone had left the stage for good, I hurried to pack up all my gear so that I could seek out Sally Irwin and see if she knew what the plan really was. I spotted her quickly enough, and we chatted briefly and then I asked her if Jimi would indeed be coming out to sign autographs and whatnot. Her reply was something along the lines of, "Well, he's SUPPOSED to," which was not at all reassuring, so shortly afterward I started edging my way on through the club toward where the door into the backstage and dressing room area was, hoping that maybe I could catch him just as he came out.
I actually ended up seeing Fergie first, which was no bad thing--I'd brought my copy of his Happiness Is The Road CD and was able to get it signed and also direct him to C&S if he was interested in the pics I'd taken at the Glyndon show, and he was quite friendly and nice about the whole thing. (And while he looked like he felt a heck of a lot better this time than he did at Glyndon, and he's never been a very bulky guy from the pics I've seen online, he still looks way too thin to me, poor thing... continuing to think good thoughts for him and his health!) I hung around a little longer after Fergie left, still hoping to see Jimi, and he finally did make an appearance a few minutes later. But almost as soon as I saw him, I knew I'd been right to be concerned--it hadn't been all that visible while he was performing onstage, but up close, it was pretty obvious he was just flat-out exhausted. He did pause long enough to give me one quick hug, but when I asked him if he had just a minute (I had a print of one of my concert photos with me that I really wanted to get signed) he said no and that he was on his way out. In hindsight, I probably should have just stepped aside and let him go, but again, at the time I was just devastated to think I wouldn't have any mementos from this show besides the pics I'd taken, and I followed him out of the backstage area at a discreet distance, extracting the print from my backpack as I went. Someone else stopped him for an autograph on his way to the door, and I managed to put my own pic right in front of him when he was done with the first one and indeed get it signed, but it's even more of an illegible scribble than usual, and I admit I've felt guilty afterward about delaying him for even a few extra seconds when he was operating on the very last of his energy.
So, all in all, it was a fun show and I'm not the least bit sorry I went, though I do wish things afterward could have gone differently than they did. Oh well--next time, maybe, and if you'd like to see the photos I took, you can find Jimi's gallery here, the one for Fergie and the guys from Heartbreaker here, and the full list of all my concert pics in its usual location.