Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Avalon Ballroom Theatre at Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort, ON – November 6, 2017

We are in quite different territory than Florida now: Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side (You can look right across the canyon and falls to see the American side of Niagara/Buffalo area.) There is a huge tourist trade here, with the Falls being the focal point and hundreds of shops, restaurants, hotels and casinos surrounding them. We’re in the Avalon Theatre here, part of the Fallsview Casino complex. It’s the exact opposite, sonically, of the previous outdoor show. That was a bright, echo-prone stage, and this is a dark carpeted, an almost velvet-covered room: No echo or reverb at all. Even the seats are cushioned, so there is no “bounce” from them. All in a day’s work . . .

The band come in ready to rehearse, always trying to improve something; small things missed on the last show, or an idea to try to make a track work better. This time, they are adding in a drum part here and there to keep the rhythm going during a few quieter parts. It seems to work and everyone agrees to try this out for the show tonight.

It’s a beautiful space, about 1,600 seats, I believe. The backstage area is nice and filled with dozens of photos of those who have played here – despite the smaller size. Major names of all the music business, it seems, everyone short of U2 and Springsteen have been here before us.

The audience is mixed, you can tell some are Who fans, from Canada and the USA (don’t forget the long history of The Who in Canada, always a strong place of support since the first tour.) And others are casino gamblers, high-rollers who get “comp” (complimentary = free!) tickets to entertain them and encourage them to return and gamble next time. They are often easy customers to please – even though they are not die-hard fans, they appreciate a good show and great music; we’ll bring it.

Our man in light, Jim Mustapha, is taking over the flashing stuff while longtime Who man, Tom Kenny, is away. Jim knows all of Tom’s moves and is using local lighting rigs (less expensive not to rent and carry all our own lights for this) to do a good version of The Who show lighting. It looks cool every night, and Jim is always welcome around.

Our setlist has a middle section of rare Who stuff: ‘Going Mobile’, ‘How Many Friends’, ‘It’s Not Enough’ and ‘Dreaming From the Waist’ – not to mention ‘Another Tricky Day’ and ‘Athena’ earlier! Roger seems to change our prescribed setlist, which often catches the crew off-guard, but we’ve done this before many times. ‘Naked Eye’ popped up, unplanned – and was a nice mellow break from the high-energy ones.

We have William Snyder along today, the main Who photographer of many decades. His big Who book is still in the works. Tonight he gathers a few hundred more shots of Roger and the band, both in rehearsal and the show. We had to get special permission from the venue for him to shoot, as they normally don’t allow it. Nicely, they relented and our photos on the blog today come from someone much more talented than I – thanks, Bill Snyder!

Toward the end, the harmonica solo in ‘Baba O’Riley’ was halted by Roger, and everything ground to a sudden halt. The sound was confusing – so different than the last show – and he needed to have it right to hear what he was doing. So – with changes made, we started it all over again! “You lucky bastards!” Simon Townshend shouted into the microphone. It was better the second time, and everyone was put back into good moods.

Another strange mishap came right after the supposed final song, ‘Young Man Blues’. The band had taken bows, Roger said “Thanks!” and then called for a final piece not written on the setlist; the beautiful new song, ‘Always Heading Home’. But it was not to be: The power had cut out onstage! Someone had tripped over a wire or the circuit breaker and it took quite some time before it could be found. There was so much standing around that Roger even called “Sorry – we’ll have to go, that’s all we can do”, thinking the power would not return. People were certainly disappointed not to hear more. Then just seconds later, the power was returned – but it takes two minutes to boot up the software of the keyboards! Roger joked “Is it a STEAM piano or something??” So we had to wait a bit more.

As it happens, this delay produced just a STUNNING version of this great song. Look for it on YouTube maybe. Roger sang his heart out, the mood was very warm and positive despite the roughness just before. Like with The Who, sometimes a disaster turns into a triumphant moment. We are here for another show in just two days. THEN we head home!

Onward . . .

SETLIST

Overture
Pinball Wizard
I Can See for Miles
Behind Blue Eyes
Giving It All Away
Another Tricky Day
Athena
Who Are You
Days of Light
Going Mobile
How Many Friends
It’s Not Enough
Blueberry Hill
Dreaming From the Waist
Naked Eye
Without Your Love
Summertime Blues
Baba O’Riley
. . . and again!
Young Man Blues
Always Heading Home

PS: Look out for Roger’s video in the News section of thewho.com