Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

St Augustine Amphitheatre, St Augustine, Florida – November 3, 2017

Unexpectedly, this has become one of our favorite places. Most of us had never been to St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States. Certainly it has long history, and you can see it in the buildings, from an old fort to the 1800s-era hotels and factories. It’s a lot like New Orleans in style, but cleaner and less wild. The mix of French/Spanish/English cultures is all present here, and everyone found something (or many things) of interest here on our day off.

Then we came to the venue to find a delightful amphitheater, smaller but nicely covered from the blasting sunshine. Great designs, amazing catering, friendly people. Very nice. However, the stage is hard concrete and the roof is a smooth metal covering, so both of these cause sound reflections and echo. A throw rug was put down onstage to rein in some of the echo from guitar amps, but nothing we can do about the roof and its very bright echoes. Still, the place is lovely, very fitting to this comfortable and historic town.

In addition – the great Edgar Winter and his band are opening tonight! They are a small and tight group, all excellent players and singers. They do a measure of the hits you’d know (‘Free Ride’, ‘Tobacco Road’, ‘Frankenstein’) and also various new and old songs. They were highly entertaining, with great stage moves, cool sounds and the guys in the band seemed to be having as much fun as this boisterous audience. What a warm-up to our show – they had a superb reaction from this crowd.

Soon after, we’re in place and making music. This show has a notable feature; many more women in the audience than usual. It must be a Florida thing, though it’s clear that many of them are deep Who fans, singing along to even the more obscure song lyrics.

It’s fascinating to see these crowds; they are not necessarily Who fans (though many are) so they love hearing Who hits and radio songs (like ‘Who Are You’, ‘Athena’, ‘Baba O’Riley’) they know pretty well. But Roger dropping in powerful alternates is a challenge – they’ve likely never heard these songs before. Yet the results are good; even though people may sit down and not sing along, they are listening pretty intently, and respond well when the song is done. ‘Giving It All Away,’ ‘Without Your Love’ and ‘Always Heading Home’ – these are tracks that no one expects or comes to hear, yet they’ve become the powerhouse moments we usually experience during ‘Love Reign” O’er Me’ at a normal Who event. He certainly has good taste in songs . . .

As Roger sipped from his mug, he laughed and exclaimed “I bet you all think this is tea!? It is! It’s 75-year-old tea!!” Who knows, in reality, he has all these options open to him onstage, and what he samples is his own choice each moment.

‘Another Tricky Day’ was dedicated to the crazy events in Washington. Roger proclaimed he was English, and refused to comment on our politics here. Song-wise, I’m really noticing the bridge section of ‘Another Tricky Day’. It’s clearly one of Pete’s best (along with ‘You Better You Bet’.) He’s a master of all song parts, but the bridge of a song takes you to a new place, then returns you back to the origin gracefully. Listen to ‘Tricky Day” sometime and you’ll see what I mean – flawless!

Not many changes in the show, but ‘Getting In Tune’ is out, but replaced by a real winner: ‘Dreaming From the Waist’. It’s been a long time since that one was heard on a stage, and even though this band just learned it (well, excepting Roger and Simon T) they sounded great on it. It has such a great chorus, and the musicians worked hard to nail the harmonies before the show. Roger joked about ‘Dreaming From The Waist’ as he said Pete wrote it when Roger was about 31 and Pete was 30; a song about middle age! He has no idea why . . .

Roger further explains that ‘Without Your Love’ was written by Billy Nicholls, a superb writer and singer. He was backing vocalist on some Who tours and has been involved with many of Roger and Pete’s own work in various ways. He’s a longtime member of the family, and this song is a favorite of the band to play, it’s just beautiful.

Roger dedicated ‘Blueberry Hill’ to newly-departed Fats Domino. “I used to love this guy. It would feel like you knew him, and he seemed like a really cool guy. We’ll do this to send him off.” I know Pete is a big fan of the 1969 Fats Is Back record, too. The sound of ‘Lady Madonna’ hitting the airwaves in 1968 caused a sort of re-launch of the big man’s career briefly, but most musicians were already fans of the original recordings of the ’50s.

Some fun signs in the audience (politely up and shown, then out of the way not to block other viewer’s sight. Nicely done!) that said (1) Hoped I’d Die (2) Instead I Got Old. Roger saw them and acknowledged them right away – “Never!!!” he said.

Later on they held up a Slip Kid sign, one of Roger’s favorite songs to do, but it was not attempted. Most musicians see signs from the stage (if legible) but don’t always want to do as asked – maybe with more rehearsal, it would be possible.

So – we loved St. Augustine, the place and the people. Many of us hope to return here for a holiday, as it really was a great discovery for most of us. Check it out yourself, and come see the amphitheater if anyone’s playing.

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
Dreaming From the Waist
Without Your Love
Blueberry Hill
Summertime Blues
Baba O’Riley
Young Man Blues
Naked Eye
Always Heading Home