Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Colosseum, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, NV – August 11, 2017

The last show in Vegas!! We made it.

Six shows in two weeks – not too hard and nobody went stir-crazy. We’ve had good audiences, which was the main worry. In Vegas, you’d expect a good portion of the crowd to be just-in from their home states and looking for a show – any show. Yes, there are always Who die-hards down in front, and plenty of people with older Who shirts scattered around. But we knew it would be slightly less-savvy audience members coming in general. Without adjusting their show very much, the band seemed to have found a good combination of the “famous” and “the good” to play and please most everyone.

As mentioned before, we’ve had some fun outside the shows. Pools, trips to nature, casinos, food etc. One of our crew even got married to his longtime sweetheart this week! It was not announced ’til tonight, but Rog and Pete and some others were not staying in Las Vegas. Instead, they’d learned a trick from the Rod Stewart residency here; stay outside of town (Los Angeles) and take the short flight in and out for each show. Keeps one out of the heat and away from the insanity that Vegas promotes. Easy flight with private planes, no security or luggage hassles.

Yet today, the travel trick almost failed; monsoon-season storms kept coming and going here. The days were blazing hot but we’d get sudden wind and rains. Today it prevented the artists’ plane from landing at the Vegas airport, which is normally plagued by winds, but was unworkable today. They were dropped off at nearby Henderson airfield and were intending to ride into town in a black sedan… until the tire went flat. The driver got out to change it, mid-storm, and came back in thoroughly soaked head to toe. Then the car’s tire failed again soon after, and they had to wait for a limo to come and get everyone – just in time for the show.

They came out feeling good, as our last show was a stunner. Soon after, Pete announced the show was about to go downhill for a few minutes, as they were about to play… ‘Squeezebox’! He doesn’t like it much and is not shy of telling everyone so. During the song, he yelled “Banjo solo!!” as he’s been making fun of musical director Frank Simes about this moment. Frank’s not doing a lot during the show, but his banjo is ready for that brief solo from the record, which Frank’s musical highlight – IF it happens. “Banjo! F***ing Banjo Banjo BANJO!” Pete yelled over the solo. Afterward, Pete said “Never has any banjo player here been ridiculed as he has here tonight!”

‘Naked Eye’ follows ‘My Generation’, as it has in many Who shows past. Always great to have it pop up, the slow feel and mood always gets the crowd, and visibly suits Roger and Pete each time they play it. For a non-famous song, it sure is famous and welcome.

‘Join Together’: Pete made fun of the backing musicians playing jaw harp, bass-harmonica and tambourine. Afterward, he let on something special about the track’s origin: When he’d been doing the experiments on tape with the organ/synthesizer part for ‘Baba O’Riley’ he’d cued up the tape to one part, and it just repeated “chung, chung, chung….” for a long time. He got inspired and cut up and spliced some parts, making it repeat even longer – his goal was to have it last for 10-minutes and roll on and on. Then he came up with the riff (on the guitar, but it’s the same deep bass line that makes the song explode every night.) Now, he says, it seems like it takes at least “a verse too long” every night. We disagree – it seems great to us!

Well, Roger faltered a bit on ‘Love Reign’ tonight, and said it was The Vegas Throat that finally got him… “no one escapes it!”

‘Drowned’ has a super-flamenco bit on acoustic guitar tonight, he seems to love toying with the parts and making something new each night. He noted that the grand “experiment” to play in Vegas seems to have worked. They may (he explained) be the first legitimate rock band to play this venue. The other artists don’t offer much wildness or change, or “experiment or insult their audience” – quite the opposite of the Who shows. Whether we all return or not (Roger said) is unknown – but it’s been offered, and this was pretty good fun! Maybe again in 2018?

(Yes, there was talk of retirement on the Hits 50! tour, but Roger and Pete claimed to have an incredible time on that tour, possibly their favorite time ever on the road. I recall the 2000 tour as maybe the best Who setlist ever, but the Hits 50 era has seen them in very strong form, too. So it’s extended itself into… now… and the future.)

Onward!