I'm really not sure where to begin this review. The show was so full of individual, special events that I hope if anything significant was inadvertently omitted, you readers will include them in the comments area below. I'm really anxious to hear about others' experiences from what I would consider to be the climax of a great year of live music.
The excitement for the Saturday night show started mid-afternoon in the parking area of the Hampton Coliseum. This venue, which has the appearance of an alien space-craft, and is located not too far from a NASA facility, is affectionately known as the Mothership. This fact will become more important later on in the show. In the parking lot, the costumed fans started to appear. An interesting and ominous presence was the large number of police, themselves in costume, all tying to blend in with the party-goers. They were dressed in jeans, t-shirts and sweatshirts, trying to look like fans. I don't think they were fooling anyone.
The doors of the coliseum opened up at 6:00. The crowd inside was pretty sparse and we were able to stake out some primo seats. The venue filled up slowly, and by the start of the show at 7:50, most seats were filled. The vibe was electric, with great anticipation of the night’s festivities in the air. String Cheese's Halloween shows have been noteworthy in the past, and since the band has had some good time off to plan and practice, the expectation was that this show would be epic. We were about to find out.
The first set opened up with Come As You Are and was followed by Restless Wind. The sound was great and the lights & visuals were brilliant. They played a new tune, Pack It Up, which was a punchy-funky song and featured Kyle on vocals, and a lot of base from Keith Mosely. Next was Turn this Around, which went into Pink Floyd's Breathe (Travis vocals) then back into Turn this Around. Kang wailed on this tune. Closing out the first set was a great 15 minute Rivertrance and then Las Vegas, for which Billy switched to an electric guitar, a Fender Telecaster.
During the first set break you could really see how the Mothership had filled up. Everyone was in costume. There were lots of jellyfish costumes, but most had given up hope that this popular Cheese tune would appear tonight as it was performed the previous night. Everyone knows that repeated songs don't happen at the type of event. There were also a surprisingly large number of Super Marios. I saw the Duff Man of Simpsons fame, Pocahantas, lots of generic animals, pirates, and clowns.
The lights went down for the second set and everyone held their breath. If something special was going to happen, this was the time. The band marched out onto the stage, in full costume. Being that we were in to Mothership, the theme was "space." The first song was REM's, It's the End of the World as We Know It, which was followed by Steve Miller Bands', Fly Like and Eagle. Next was the only Cheese original song of the set, Born on the Wrong Planet. After, they band brought out a couple of guests to help with the rest of the set: Keller Williams and Liza Oxnard. Keller treated us to Parliament's, Mothership Connection and then Liza Oxnard did a nice cover of Jamiraquoi's, Space Cowboy. This was followed by Deee Lite's, The Groove is in the Heart, featuring Jetson's coiffed dancers and a shower of confetti. A disco-ball chandelier hanging in the center of the arena was put to use, and the effect was magical. From our vantage point, seated on the side, you could see the floor was just a sea of dancing characters, showered by glittering bits of paper and glow-sticks. INCREDIBLE!! It was at this point that I looked around and had the realization that I was at the show of the year (if anyone actually gives that award out).
The second set then progressed into King Crimson's, 21st Century Schizoid Man, with Billy on vocals. The set then closed up with a medley of Major Tom (Peter Schilling) > Planet Clair (B52s) > Major Tom > It's the End of the World as We Know It. It was a short set, about an hour, but what a great hour, maybe the greatest hour (with my clothes on) of the year. The fun wasn't over yet!
The third set started about 11:15, and began with another Piece of Mine. This was followed by Bumpin' Reel and then a great version of Shine, about 17 minutes worth. Next was Drifting, into MLT into a drum duet, into Desert Dawn. This wrapped up the third set. It was hard to imagine these guys had anything left to give. I knew I was exhausted. The first encore was Search. The show ended with Howard.
When the lights went up, everyone looked around and wondered if they had just awoke from a dream, a dream of the coolest, sickest, funnest, show they could imagine.