Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits 50! Tour: Sprint Centre, Kansas City, April 29, 2016

Second show of the new tour, and, finally, Kansas City. Well, this show really means something. Tickets went on-sale over 550 days ago for this, and due to illness mainly – it has been pushed back several times. I hope nearly everyone was able to make it who had originally planned to. It was certainly a strong night (note, there are no “bad” shows!) so hopefully, worth the wait?

Soundcheck today was pretty great. Beyond just the music, it was sort of a Comedy Caravan between the two principles, who were full of banter and in a good mood. Sometimes, we call this The Two Ronnies in reference to the brilliant UK comedy duo (google ‘Fork Handles’ if you want to see them in action.) Rog and Pete were laughing about all sorts of things. The VIP guests in the audience were delighted, an extended version of what we often see onstage during the shows.

Especially pointed was their joking about longtime soundman Bob Pridden (since 1966), who usually controls the onstage sound for Pete. After prodding for some acoustic guitar changes (which weren’t happening too well) Pete ended up by offered Bob’s services to Roger instead…

We’ve had a new opening (“support” to the English) act for this leg; Slydigs. They are managed by The Who’s management company, Trinifold, and have done just a few shows before with us in the UK. As with Toronto, they pleased the Who crowd much more than could be expected. The Slydigs guys are an English rock band in a very classic 60s/70s style, so it fits right in with what the headliners will be doing later, although it’s not a copy or Who-style band. They announced their pleasure to be here today, as this was their first-ever show in America, something quite special for almost any musician from the UK. The applause at the end of their set both nights was pretty extreme, unusual for a band not really yet known!

Every night, we prepare by looking for previous Who shows in the area, and this bit is added to the regularly-circulating slides of the pre-show. Each night, therefore, end up unique – and the locals really seem to enjoy it. Especially if you’ve been to a show in 1970 or ’89 or 2005; it can bring back strong memories. We try also to find posters, photos, etc. from these historical shows, and tonight was a jackpot. A local librarian had sent us some press announcements of a Who high school show here (opening up for The Buckinghams) in 1967 – the first American tour. Looking deeper, we found more and more photos, plus some locals happened to bring in newspaper and school paper clippings. This section of the show became one of the night’s highlights, as even a few people who were present at the 1967 “dance/concert” came up to tell us about it.

The Who came out, slowly emerging onto the big stage, and greeted the first Kansas City audience they’ve played to in a long time. Both Roger and Pete were strongly apologetic over the long-delayed show, and loudly admitted (a) they were late, and (b) they were very sorry!

The room is a big arena, similar to most venues we play, but taller and more steep on the sides. For some reason, this gives a more cavernous, smooth echo in the room – makes it sound like a proper rock show, at least from the stage.

The setlist was the same as the last show, no surprises here. It definitely started off on a rocky foot, as there were serious mis-cues and off-time parts in the first two numbers. But within a song or two, everything was normal as usual, maybe even better.

At the start of ‘5:15’ -which had only been brought back to the set at the last show. Pete played some VERY odd guitar chords. He stopped the band, announced that it was wrong and “it’s not my fault!” and proceeded to repeat the errors. Stopping for a while to work out what he should be playing, he noted that Roger calls these their “senior moments.” Finally, it was worked out correctly, and the classic Quadrophenia number rolled out.

Pete noted that Quadrophenia had been a “quickly-composed” (in two years!) piece that they’d never really gotten together for the stage the way he envisioned it. But, he recalled, the previous 2013 Quadrophenia and More tour had finally made it possible to realize his dream. Each night he’d really enjoyed getting to do it “right” and hear the music live in the original style.

Continuing the humour of the evening, Pete felt that his guitar was suddenly worn too high – like The Beatles used to do. He said he felt a bit like John Lennon, and quickly did a version of ‘She Loves You’ with a silly voice.

Without a doubt, the highlight of this show was an unusual twist during ‘I’m One’. It’s Pete’s song, meaning he plays acoustic guitar and sings the lead vocal. It’s a nice slow-quieter song in the set, giving everyone onstage a nice little break from the other (heavily-energetic) numbers. As the song returns to the quiet intro-part later, Pete usually starts that final verse solo. Tonight, he added a totally new melody and sang new words “I can’t help but comment on the old-age pensioners who have taken this opportunity to sit down!” and Pete and everyone else laughed! But, he added “And you deserve it!”

At which point, Roger himself sat down on the stage, playing his last harmonica bits. After the final chords, Pete also dropped onto his back with a dramatic flail of his legs into the air, joining the others taking a rest. As he popped up again, Pete noted “At my age, it’s OK getting down. It’s getting back UP again that’s the problem.”

Somehow, these two old-age-rock guys have shown us all it’s possible to do it fully and do it well, no matter what the age of the performer. They bring presence and energy, soft and hard moments, and are truly, truly enjoying this tour. They still do what The Who are known for. We hope you get to see this one.

Thanks to the Kansas City people for being patient, the great BBQ, and doing your part in such a big night.

Onward . . .

Tonight’s Set List

I Can’t Explain
Who Are You
The Seeker
The Kids Are Alright
I Can See For Miles
My Generation
Pictures Of Lily
Behind Blue Eyes
Join Together
You Better You Bet
I’m One
The Rock
Love, Reign O’er Me
Eminence Front
Amazing Journey
Pinball Wizard
See Me, Feel Me
Baba O’Riley
Won’t Get Fooled Again




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