10 February 2016: Rehearsals – Shepperton Studios, London
We’re back again at Shepperton Studios. Shepperton has a history only rivaled by legendary Ealing and Pinewood Studios, and hundreds of incredible films (Clockwork Orange, The Omen, Alien) were filmed here. Many Who fans know this studio’s name, as it has huge connections to the band’s history. At one point in the ’70s, the band made a group investment to buy a large portion of the old film studio lot. They had storage spaces here, a rental company, rehearsal stages, a laser design firm, and more. In 1978, one of the stages was used for a psuedo-concert (with fans brought in) to film the Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again clips for The Kids Are Alright. These were the final performances Keith Moon ever did with the band.
In the photos at the end here, you’ll see a rather nondescript-looking piece of lawn near some buildings. This was the spot where a large pile of technical “stuff” was assembled by crewmen Roger Searle and Alan Rogan. The setting was complete with a chair taken from the on-site canteen (“Not To Be Taken Away” it says.) The pile became the backdrop for the now-iconic Who Are You record cover. The spot is right outside the stage we’re in this week…
Today, everyone’s together again and a lot of time today was spent just catching up. We’ve all known each other for years, even those from decades-old relationships like manager Bill Curbishley and Pete Townshend spend much of the day talking about “things happening” in our lives. This was a fairly long break (considering we’re still in the middle of a “single tour” of many segments) so there is much to say…
Eventually, we get down to business, which is musical rehearsal for the coming Wembley show, and America beyond. The proposed set of songs is laid out and the band fires up. Admittedly, it’s expected to be a little rusty, and it is – as we’re still setting proper sound levels and tones for the stage and house mixes. However, it’s not far off, and within a few songs it starts to gel. Roger’s back and almost fully recovered from the serious issues that hospitalised him. No one is playing at 100% yet, but rarely do at a rehearsal. Part of the issue is the cold, wet weather, which pervades the room despite industrial-sized heaters pumping before the band plays; it’s simply too big to warm up enough. Pete keeps his overcoat on during the entire rehearsal, which hinders the action, but it’s not a performance, just working out the old parts and muscle-memory. Still, at times, “it” hits and the sound and power expected of The Who is very present.
There’s nothing lacking at all when the songs from Tommy come around. Most singers’ voices drop away during a performance – they push as hard as possible hoping to make it to the end of the race. Yet Roger’s voice does something unusual, and we’ve seen it over and over again during the years; it actually warms up during the show, getting better and stronger as the show goes on. So during Amazing Journey and Pinball Wizard, he sounds nearly identical to the young voice that recorded those pieces a long time ago. A very good sign.
Much is the same as the previous shows of this tour, although there seem to be a few song changes in the coming set. It doesn’t usually change much, due to sound and video needs – you can’t just pull a song from the air and play it without some preparation. The band did play a few today that weren’t in the show earlier this year, these are particular songs that will appeal to diehard Who fans. This also means that some others will have be removed to make space. The choices are an unknown that makes each show slightly special; the actual setlist is only approved minutes before the show begins, for whatever reasons!
We hope to see you all this weekend, hearing The Who in London is always a good thing!