Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits 50! Tour: Odyssey Arena, Belfast, Northern Ireland, June, 21 2015

We are back at it! After a short break – almost three weeks – we’ve resumed The Who Hits 50! tour. This time in Belfast, Northern Ireland, not a site of many Who shows, but a really cool place to play. We did Quadrophenia and More here about two years ago, and it was one of our better shows.

A new leg, and new beginnings: We met our opening act today, they’ll be on all the non-festival shows coming up (because festivals are full of other bands they’ve already booked) in Belfast, Dublin, Amsterdam, and Paris. This band is The Last Internationale, a trio from the USA who have been touring Europe this summer. We’ve loved Joan Jett and her people, and will miss them, but this is a nice change of pace for a bit. The Last Internationale is a good thing for a Who audience: they are stylistically traditional rock, although hard to describe. Based around singer Delila’s strong (really strong) alto voice, they have some bits that feel like Thin Lizzy or Jefferson Airplane or Zeppelin folk – or whatever. Like The Who, they have harder and softer songs. Guitarist Edgey and drummer Fern are energetic and keep it interesting visually, too. We enjoyed their set, they’re cool to deal with, and we look forward to more.

The Who came out fully refreshed, and still in form from the previous months of touring, no need to warm up at all. In fact, it’s fair to say that this audience was cooler and calmer than the band itself. They did stay seated for nearly all the show, which is unusual but not a bad thing. Everyone sees and hears well that way.

The setlist is similar, safe territory as we prepare for some HUGE shows coming up. In comparison, though, this was one of the smaller arenas we will play. It still LOOKS huge, and is a sea of faces from the stage, but it’s literally about a quarter the size of some of the big arenas we fill in some cities. Perfect for a first show though.

As has been happening, Pete and Rog discussed their age – and the age of the music and the audience as well. Unlike virtually anyone we can think of from their era (McCartney, Stones, Rod, Aerosmith, Plant, etc.) The Who are VERY comfortable being their true age. They discuss it openly each night, diffusing the (sometimes uncomfortable) concept of older rockers. Rog and Pete are not pretending to be young with leather pants and unusual hair dye. It’s great to be casual and humorous about the age they are at (in their 70s now) and still hitting with such power and force. Or as Pete said tonight, they prefer to be called “distinguished.”

An unusual break section during ‘Who Are You’. Pete played a bizarre-but-intentional atonal set of notes virtually all the way through. Not something you’d want to hear every night, but it’s small moments of difference each night that let you know “this is not the record!” ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ was so good tonight. Roger was really “in it” throughout, which pushed Pete to soar even more than usual. Beautiful work from both. Afterward, Pete joked that Roger had made up the setlist so Pete would “have to follow THAT!? Rog . . . that was amazing.” I’ve found only one clip of it so far, rough sound, but you can hear what happened:

An, ummm . . . interesting set of moments came during ‘Amazing Journey’. First off, the song started and was completely halted as Pete felt the guitar he was playing wouldn’t make it straight through the Tommy set which plays without break. So he swapped a red guitar for a new gold one and restarted the song as if nothing had happened. Then, one of our keyboard players is running some “backward sounds” during the song, recreating some of the record’s effects. The noise was too much for Pete in his “wedges” – the slanted speakers that sit onstage in front of performers. He kept asking for it to be turned down, and was not getting what he wanted. Visibly agitated and ready to solve the problem himself, Pete leaped forward, picked up the wedge, struggled violently with the sturdy connector on the back – and forcefully yanked the cable out to kill the sound from the speaker. Classic Townshend behaviour. No one hurt, but you wouldn’t want to be in the way. Our video guys assured me it was captured well on video; you’ll probably see it sometime in the future.
Speaking of video – come to a show and try to spot Viv Stanshall in one of our many show videos (not the preview slides before the shows). If you don’t know Viv, look him up online; quite a character, and a good friend of Keith Moon (hint).

The punters in the back of the crowd were standing up long ago – from ‘Who Are You’ onward. Not even the Irish jig at the end of ‘Baba O’Riley’ got the whole crowd up. Finally, the very last minute of the show (the closing of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’) the audience all got to their feet. Proving it could be done, and well-earned. Nice ending to a strong start.

Onward . . .

Tonight’s Set List

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


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