May 10, 2016 – CALGARY – Scotiabank Saddledome
Great to be back in Calgary. It’s been a while, but always a good response here, and our merchandise team says it’s one of the strongest places for selling things; this and some city in Texas consistently are the towns that take home the most souvenirs from the shows – yet no one knows why!
The Saddledome is a very distinctive-looking modern building, inside and out. From the outside, it has a curved roof (like a giant Pringles chip) hence the name. The interior is shiny and clean, quite the opposite of many arenas that have been around since the 1960s or earlier; survivors that still function well.
Speaking of – The WHO HITS 50 Tour hit Calgary tonight, with a nice turnout. A very full house of polite Canadians, filling the hockey arena usually used by the local Flames team. This audience had a strong contingent of rather young people present, lots of “kids” in their teens and ’20-somethings were here tonight. This might become the youtube generation, which is one of the reasons The WHO is still popular with younger people – their very visual delivery makes the stronger on youtube than other bands with great songs but less visual style.
As our pre-show slides mentioned, the band had first played here at The Stampede Corral – the venue tied to the famous annual Calgary livestock Stampede event. Literally an arena for horse-riding and cowboy events, band would play here in the ’60s. Pete made mention of this as his first memory of Calgary. They come in and set up, but during the set noticed a strong and pervasive odor coming up from the stage. Evidently someone not fond of rock bands had taken all the area’s manure and swept it right under the stage where they would be playing…
No such happenings tonight though!
This is a nice big room, so it’s pleasing to see faces all the way out to infinity from the stage. After “My Generation”, Pete acknowledged the resoponse to the still-exciting old classic; “That’s it! They’re old ones. But they’re good ones.” Indeed.
Soon after when Roger was addressing the crowd between numbers, Pete yelled “SHUT UP!!” which flustered Roger completely. Understanding the situation, Pete explained (to Roger AND the rest of us) “Roger doesn’t like it when I tell the guy in the front row to shut up – as he can’t hear him!” Roger wears “in-ear” monitors, as does all the band – except Pete. These are wireless, high-quality, expensive earbuds. They allow each band member to have a custom blend of the sounds, no matter how loud or soft they are normally. A great option for a moving musician – and it helps singers hear themselves over loud things like amps and drums. The drawback is the lack of real-space perception and not-hearing some things right near you that aren’t running through the monitor mix desk – like some parts of the audience. So Pete had been “ssshh-ing” someone talking loudly in the audience, not Roger – only Roger hadn’t known what was going on.
They were a singalong type of crowd, this one, so an easy anthem like “Join Together” had thousands singing right along with Roger. At the end he said “Sounding GREAT, Calgary… you bettah!” and continued the singing theme with “You Better You Bet.” Also, unexpectedly, the quiet ones were as popular as big noisy ones tonight, so the introspective “I’m One” and “Behind Blue Eyes” both brought rather huge rounds if applause compared to normal.
“Squeeze Box” – still in the set, and if you haven’t seen it (maybe if you came to a previous show where the song wasn’t played) try to catch some live version of it on youtube: Someone’s done a wonderful animated film taking John’s “By Numbers” cartoon WHO characters and giving them life. We won’t give away what happens, but it’s rather well-done, cute fun, and adds a nice dimension to a rather straightforward song.
Oddly, despite the new building facility, during our hurried load-out after the show is over, the building has a big flaw; the backstage loading dock area is tiny, compared to most venues worldwide. As such, it was nearly a disaster trying to organize, sequence, and load our hundreds of flight cases onto the 8 trucks we take each night. Certainly a hassle we don’t need, but at least it’s not outdoors in the rain or show (which we’ve seen once in a while.)
Bonus note: Formerly the Cantos Museum (of musical instruments), Canada has built a large new museum facility only about 4 blocks from the Saddledome. Called the National Music Centre (NMC) it will be opening this Summer. Housing one of the world’s best collections of musical instruments, it promises to be a true destination for music fans. I was honored to tour the building just before our show today; things are still being completed but one of the 3 large studios there is based around the old Rolling Stones Mobile recording truck. This portable studio houses a full set of studio equipment, vintage 1970s. It has been restored to full function. This is significant for WHO fans as, besides having recorded “Smoke on the Water” and “Exile on Main St.,” this is the very studio that recorded “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Worth a visit – when it opens!