Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits 50! Tour: Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, FL, April 19, 2015

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Another wild crowd in a row . . . something is happening this tour. It’s a nice return to the excitement of years ago. Unexpected, and very welcome.

People have been quite responsive to the new pre-show media on the big screen. It’s an idea we’re trying out first on this new tour. When the doors open, almost two hours before The Who arrive onstage, there’s a lot of time to come in, find seats, get settled. Usually people stop at the merchandise booth for a look or purchase, and grab some food and/or drink in time for the show. Then you’re in those seats for another hour-plus of time. Of course, watching Joan is great fun, but for an easy hour – nothing to do.

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So we’ve created a multi-visual experience. A lot of it is text, stories and items from Who history. We have a lot of vintage visuals: show posters from all eras, tour programmes, classic stage shots. We have a few themes, where we’ve put photo groups that make sense. Rather than just a random set of photos in a slide show, they have themes that come and go across several minutes. You’ll likely learn some obscure things about Who songs or iconic things, like the roundel. We have tried to include unique things about The Who, the fans, and the very city we’re in – so it does change from night to night. All in all – it’s been fun to do, and we hope it made your night a little better experience.


Veterans Arena is right by the river, a beautiful spot, and our third show by water in a row. Similar set list, and similar response, although different moments (as usual) grab the audience in unique ways each night. Part of that is The Who – their style of playing is far from rigid and precise, and they take chances. So there are mixtures of high and low moments. Sometimes they are chosen, but often they just happen. Ladies and gentlemen; this is not a pre-programmed show.

Longtime lighting director Tom Kenny is on a headset, “calling the spots” which tells the many spotlight operators around the building (up in the air) where to point and when to turn on/off at key moments; all the while he is keying the lights by hand on time with the music. Soundman for the the main PA is Robert Collins. He’s also mixing by-hand, responding to the moments and changes in the show. This is unlike many modern shows where the lighting rig, the videos, the sound mix and the playback tracks (sometimes no real musicians or singing is done) are all synchronized: they hit a START command the whole show runs itself, flawlessly and in perfect sync. Pre-programmed shows allow some great things to happen, but prevents things like spontaneous jamming musically, or unique looks and sounds for a single show. We much prefer the way this band is oriented – taking chances and hoping it works out well; the Who audience seems to like it this way…

The Jacksonville roller coaster ride went up and down. There seems to be a great response to ‘Magic Bus’, especially with this crowd. The jamming segment wasn’t so strong toward the end although the band did run through that very part for nearly 20 minutes at the soundcheck – an immense amount of time for them to spend on any particular piece! And still it went off. People still loved it.

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‘A Quick One While, He’s Away’ – the mini opera – is always challenging as it’s the least-known of the songs in the set. But it’s always cool to see the deep faithful in the audience go nuts when they hear it as most never thought they’d ever hear it live. And it’s not so intense, giving us all time to relaunch and energize into the last part of the set which is quite a bit more demanding.

All the hits certainly brought everyone up on their feet. ‘Who Are You’ being the first major one, and of course the one-two punch of ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ at the end. Zak’s drum fill for the closing of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ is always different. Tonight’s started as the most simple pair of snare rolls, then dropped into the complex off-beat parts he flawlessly knocks out before the big scream and finale.

As in the old days, The Who have not been doing encores at all this tour. That was their way, back in the days of smashing equipment – and another guy by the name of Jimi Hendrix rarely used to do them either. Somehow, the music business has made a false tradition of artists leaving, waiting in sweat in a dark hallway, and then pretending to be called out again  and the audience expects this. The Who show now is over two hours, and not a sleeper either; it’s a passionate and hard-played set all the way through. So it feels right to stop on such a great high point, an almost perfect ending, call it over, close the book and leave. Yet there certainly was enough excess response at the end tonight to allow Pete (having realized there was no band intro during the set) to introduce the backing musicians by name during the final bows.

Thanks Jax! What a great night it was.


Tonight’s Set List

I Can’t Explain
The Seeker
Who Are You
I Can See for Miles
The Kids Are Alright
Pictures of Lily
My Generation
Magic Bus
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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