Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits 50! Tour: Forest Hills Stadium, Forest Hills, NY, May 30th, 2015

Forest Hills 1

How do you finish a tour? We’d just been through the main NY show (always a big deal) and the incredible night for MusiCares, hard things to follow up. But we’d been booked to play this unusual place as the final spot on our first leg of The Who Hits 50! tour.
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Forest Hills, NY is rather affluent, upscale suburb in Queens. It’s about 30-60 minutes from NYC, depending on how you go – and when. The location is actually a Tennis Club; a rather traditional one with clay courts and all. However, some of the amenities of a typical concert venue are not present; the backstage is a messy construction lot and the production offices and dressing rooms are housed in wooden huts, like you might find at summer camp! It was a little rough setting up, as the stage was lined on either side with immovable tents (good in some ways, harder to work our cables and sight-lines needed)

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Still, the show must go on, and eventually everything was set for afternoon sound-check. The band had been delayed with city traffic, and arrived in a bit of a mood. Plus, things sounded truly weird up there; we usually work on a resonant, flexible stage platform with a huge roof and walls. This was a solid concrete slab, and no roof to echo the sound back. It was loud and dry sounding. Immediately everyone was aware of the change and Pete mentioned his amp was already turned down and still seemed too loud. Pete warned the band (and the visiting VIP guests) that he was already in a very “irritable” mood – we had noticed. He noted the hard stage surface and thought a rug might help. Within a minute, one enterprising crew member had stolen another crew members cheap-o flowery rug and brought it out. Pete said “Look we’re already getting Emerson, Lake and Palmer rugs brought out!” (A sly reference to a show in the ’70s where a Who roadie had cut off a corner of Greg Lake’s $40,000 Persian rug to make room for a Who lighting rig!)

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Soon, wind started kicking up, making the sunny day a little less-comfortable. Pete made some disparaging remarks about the venue and, right or wrong, they were heard clearly by all!

Joan and her Blackhearts did another great set, winning over many. Soon The Who followed, just as the sun was setting behind the high bleachers that surrounded the chair-covered court and the stage area. The reverse of Woodstock, where the sun rose as the band played, it had a magical feel from the light shifting. There was something special about the show, as everyone seemed to know The Who had played here back in 1971, yet Roger remembered only the rain. Many of the audience members raised their hands when asked if they’d been present at either of the two shows back then. They seemed to be truthful – at least they were the right age to have been there! Even the night before, a local Who tribute band had played the exact 1971 set in a local pub. Well done!

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William Snyder took the “nice” shots you see here. Thanks Bill! The rest are always things I grab with my cell phone, maybe things of interest or unique to that particular show.

A third unknown photographer was onstage, with permission of management. It turns out, he was once a local, growing up just six blocks from the stadium area. Neal Preston, now a more-than-legendary rock photographer, had come along to shoot some of his own. You may remember the color photo from the cover of the box set Thirty Years of Maximum R&B, where Pete is jumping with a sunburst Les Paul – that’s one of Neal’s. He seemed pleased to be involved once again.

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Despite the dark moods and troubles of setting up and sound-check, the show was “a blinder” (as they say back in England). Truly a winner. This was certainly a Tommy-era singalong audience, and unafraid to stand, sing, and throw their arms up in the air at any given chance. Maybe this is a NY thing?

Pete said he had a soft spot for Jewish girls ever since their first shows in America. He’d been around heartthrob Pete Noone (of Herman’s Hermits) when suddenly all the cute young Jewish girls of NY started swarming Pete instead! They said he was The Real Thing, as he had a really strong nose!!

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‘I’m One’ was great, with a loud crowd doubling Pete’s “Gibson without a case” part. ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ (also from Quad) was a huge success, nice to have that go off on such a high note! Without question, everyone LOVED the show, and it was undeniably a strong contender for a tour favorite. They are all different flavors, and it depends where you sat, what you could hear, what you saw. These always make a show seem better than the next one.

Finally, we packed up – a lot more trouble on a final show of the leg as trucks are loaded totally different to normal, so that gear can be returned or shipped forward to the next leg. Lots to do, but it was a superb way to end the tour, and I think everyone will look forward to more shows in this unusual tennis-court place!

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Onward, in a few weeks . . .


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
Slip Kid
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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