Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

MGM National Harbor, National Harbor, Maryland – 18 July 2017

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And another show, this one in a wholly different type of venue; a modern plush casino, full of rich carpet and upholstered seats. Sonically, this is a “soak up the sound” room, almost no echo compared to the metal “shed” in Canandaigua, and the outdoor spaces before that. Even more unusual, the seating is wide and elevated, not long and flat like an arena. None of these are bad things, in fact, we expect it will deliver a good show as the sound is SO controlled here… The band comes in to rehearse, and notices the change right away.

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For those who have not attended one of our VIP soundchecks, the lucky few have seen something like this, the typical situation: ‘I Can See For Miles’ is tested with vocals only. This is a good way to balance the 6 voices we have singing those stacked harmonies. With ‘Miles’ vocals balances, virtually all the other chorus harmonies will sound good. And usually, it’s adjustment of the bands monitor/listening systems onstage that get adjusted. After, they play some of ‘See For Miles’ with instruments, too. This is a nice medium-level band song to check those musical balances. We do ‘Who Are You’ to make sure the backing tapes and sync’ed click track are working and audible. Often they run ‘I’m One’ so Pete’s acoustic guitar can be checked, and even ‘Eminence Front’ to check Pete’s vocal and Roger’s electric guitar. Then any rough spots from previous shows – or possible songs to be played – are tested, analyzed, kicked-around, and kept or rejected. The recent addition of ‘Punk and the Godfather’ was one of these, and it surfaced just a week after we rehearsed it. Another has been tested that’s not been heard in a decade at least (but I’ll hold the name until it they decide to actually do it.)

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The show begins in good spirits, and the smallish audience (maybe a third or so of the previous show) is attentive, but not wild. It’s a more stylish place, these casinos usually are, so you don’t often have that rebellious audience vibe. But the crowd is upscale and healthy and happy – a good sight from the stage. For those that don’t realize, casino concerts have become more and more common in recent years. A normal venue has to sell tickets and split the seat money between the band and the promoter. A casino can sell smaller (or fewer) tickets and give bands a healthier percentage, as every body that comes into the building tends to eat, drink, rent a room, and even…. gamble! Without even seeing the ticket money, the venue can make good (or exceptional) income when humans come to see a show, so except more and more casino-based shows in rock.

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Roger mentions the wide variety of places we’d just played to this audience. Not to complain or be critical, just to laugh about this spin-cycle we seem to be in (and it WILL continue, as you’ll see…)

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Pete tells a funny and loooong story about his flat (apartment) in the posh neighborhood of Belgravia, near the Lambert & Stamp managers’ residence. In the course of the story, he mentions that ‘pep pills’ resulted in making him distant from his gorgeous girlfriend, and he wrote ‘Kids Are Alright’ about that very scene. This explains the unusually aloof stance that the song presents, an indifference you normally don’t hear in the normal boy/girl songs of the ’60s.

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About ‘I Can See for Miles,’ Pete mentions that it was their first proper hit in the USA; “You have such good taste!” The song is clearly one of Pete’s own favorites in the catalog, if not the favorite.

 

He mentions the clarity of sound in this non-echoing venue, and how he never felt full focus was a good thing in his guitar playing. He made a funny demonstration of how it felt in the previous outdoors shows, where he wildly banged and wobbled around the strings and neck, a flurry of indecipherable notes with wild gestures and poses. Pretty funny stuff, and maybe a little true. Then during ‘My Generation,’ he pulled out some great chromatic solo moments in the final jam section. Every leg of the tours, we hear something he’s never ever played before, and realize he’s still discovering things in guitar playing that can bring newness and freshness to the moment and the music.

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Mainly – I notice that Rog and Pete were certainly “back to talking” tonight, spending a good deal of the show chatting and joking. This is a show highlight to any seasoned WHO fan, and we’d missed some of it during the first few shows. We have not yet seen a truly fiery show, but any WHO show is a good-to-great evening, and perspective changes depending on where you sit, what you drank, or what you hoped to see. I saw plenty of people going crazy tonight, and I’m sure it was the strong night of classic WHO they’d hoped to see.

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Onward!

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