Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida – October 30, 2017

And so, the first concert of this mini-tour . . .

We loaded back into the hall and got ready for the first crowd. Knowing they would experience some special things, it was a positive sensation, not the usual apprehension of a first show.

In addition, our support act was singer/writer Leslie Mendelson, who sang ‘Baba O’Riley’ at our London benefit show a couple of years back. This time she gets  to play guitar and do her own songs – as well as harmonica, which she told us she’d learned just to play ‘Baba’ that night, and now it’s part of her set. With her guitarist along to fill out the sound and arrangements, the audience really loved it, giving them standing ovation at the end. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Roger comes out to big cheers, and as it’s a fairly small hall (about 2,000 people) for many this is the closest they’ll see him. He’s in a very good mood, and remains so throughout the show. The band is excited – just a little nervous about having new material (a lot of it!) to play tonight for the first time. We even had one new old song to learn today, and they rehearsed it – but it wasn’t ready in time for the show.

The event started with the ‘Overture’ from Tommy; Roger knew there is no better show opener, and it put people right into the mood of the show. Following right away was ‘Pinball Wizard’. Then Roger announced “That was it! The shortest Tommy of all time!” True . . .

The rest of the show was a combination of Who stuff you would all know, and are regularly heard, plus the previously-teased rarities. ‘Another Tricky Day’ came in, not so rare, but a great song that The Who have not played in some time. Right after, ‘Athena’ – the first time it’s been done live since The Who played it on their 1982 tour. Such a great song.

Roger always does some of his solo hits, things that charted around the world, and they are strong songs that hold up well even today. Simon Townshend took over singing lead for ‘Going Mobile’ which lets Roger take a break and play some bluesy harmonica.

‘How Many Friends’ was next, never before heard since its 1975 debut on The Who By Numbers album. It works well live, although it’s not a heavy number, Roger leans more toward songs with a melody and a solid groove in his solo shows. Not everyone knew it, but they seemed to like it – and the message resonates today. One of the strongest songs on the Endless Wire album, ‘It’s Not Enough’, also had its live debut tonight. It sounds much better live than on record, which is common for so many Who songs. Roger knew the song had a lot of lyrics to remember, so he told the audience he’d spent the weekend working on memorising them – but he better use his notes, producing a handful of pages. Then he laughed, saying it was a lot to have out, then threw them up in the air! They landed all over the stage – as he’d decided to wing-it and try it without any help. It was a great and funny moment, admitting the lack of perfection beforehand makes a little shaky version of the song very acceptable. Immediately after, Roger admitted he knew the lyrics, and sang an a cappella version while the band watched. (For a first show, these new songs were sounding pretty damn good.)

Roger introduced ‘Giving It All Away’ (just a superb song) as one he’d gotten from Leo Sayer and his writing partner David Courtney. When Roger had a home studio in England, he’d discovered Leo Sayer and was letting him use the studio to make his first record. Asking Leo for a song to use, they’d produced a whole album’s worth in a week! Among these was ‘Giving It All Away’ which is just a showstopper, a powerful moment in the show.

Live at Leeds-era Who was revisited with both ‘Summertime Blues’ and ‘Young Man Blues’. Hard rockers, they got the crowd up on their feet.

We’d had an actual bat flying around the stage during rehearsals and even the soundcheck – I guess they live here during the day in the rafters. Making loops and dives all around the musicians, we weren’t bothered, and hoped it would happen during the show, as it would be a perfect Hallowe’en stage gag. But they’d headed out for feeding in the warm night air of Florida – and we didn’t see them again.

Onward . . .

SETLIST

Overture/
Pinball Wizard
I Can See for Miles
Behind Blue Eyes
Another Tricky Day
Athena
Who Are You
Days of Light
Going Mobile
How Many Friends
It’s Not Enough
Getting in Tune
Giving It All Away
Without Your Love
Summertime Blues
Baba O’Riley
Young Man Blues
Always Heading Home