Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits 50! Tour: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN, May 1, 2016

Minneapolis was the home of Prince, and we’re right across the street from his famous First Avenue club. This is where many scenes from Purple Rain were filmed, and a zillion bands have played. Outside, hundreds of flowers and notes are attached to the wall near Prince’s painted star. So it’s a somewhat sombre location this month. Beautiful and sunny, but not as positive.

During the Who soundcheck, one overly enthusiastic VIP guest yelled for “Naked Eye!!!” quite loudly. Pete calmly sauntered to the microphone and murmured “That will go well . . .” calmly hinting that it’s not a good idea to yell requests. It was a rather functional and straightforward soundcheck today.

At both soundcheck and the show, Pete mentioned it was a “very good-sounding hall.” A great sound onstage can really help boost the performance, and a poor one can hurt it a lot. What’s good onstage may or may not be good for the audience’s sound – but it’s great to have the band feel they are in a supportive, even enhancing, room.

We do the show slide before each performance, and recently there have been memorial slides, starting back with Chris Squire of Yes then George Martin, Keith Emerson, etc. this year. And now Prince has been up this week, R.I.P.

Opening band Slydigs again doing really well – receiving standing applause from many audience members at these shows. They seem to be enjoying playing huge venues;  being on-board for a major tour is a rarity nowadays.

Roger mentioned that Minneapolis seemed to have climbed out of its rougher days, even with a brand-new hotel for them to stay in, “. . . although the windows still won’t open.” Both guys debated whether that was to keep the rock stars in or out.

Tonight was a night for jamming; the extension of songs with solos and improvised parts. Certain numbers were incredibly long, like ‘My Generation’, which was extended by many minutes. This is a long Who tradition, although the amount comes and goes, depending on what they’re feeling. Often, a future song emerges from the pieces of a jam, like the above-mentioned ‘Naked Eye’. Jamming is also a positive sign of them feeling comfortable onstage, as it’s a risk to take the music beyond the known.

Pete ‘back announced’ (as they say in radio) the great ‘Pictures of Lily’ (Usually songs get discussed before they are played.) He explained the source of the concept, some Victorian postcards of actress Lillie Langtry and her affair with British Royalty. He went on to mention their concept of naughty photos was far removed from what we have today. Even when he was young, he said, the racy magazines would have only photos of bathing beauties, or “genuine German nudists!!” A very long explanation of one of the great pop songs.

The Quadrophenia set came along, and Pete let on something interesting about ‘I’m One’. He said he may never have felt like that himself. The song is not necessarily autobiographical (although one would think it’s one of the most-so from surface appearances.) He explained: Pete joined his first band at 14 with John Entwistle. In a band, you feel a part of a gang, with support and belonging and some attention. Soon after, John introduced him to Roger, who had another band they soon joined (which became The Who). So his formative years were spent in a group context, and he felt safe there. Instead, he said, the song was for those he saw in their audiences, boys who never quite fit in, “they seemed to always have something missing; they weren’t confident. This song is about them.”

Quadrophenia was a difficult album to make; soundman Bob Pridden told me today he and Pete were simultaneously rehearsing the big Rainbow Concert to help Eric Clapton out of his dark days, all the while recording the LP at their not-yet-finished studio, called Ramport. But the results appear well-worth it!

Another from that great album, ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, also grew beyond its length tonight. The piano solo introduction is played nightly by John Corey, who composes something entirely new for nearly every show. This night’s entry was incredibly long, and ventured far beyond the normal tonality one knows from The Who. (The resulting voyage was noted verbally by Pete during the band introductions later in the show.) Bookending the very long introduction, Roger took some time singing the end line(s) of the song. In the last tour or two, he’s gone into singing some (sometimes unintentially funny) low notes. Tonight, evidently “jam nite,” he went on for almost twice the usual extension. When he finally finished, Pete led the band through several long power chords as Roger took a few victory laps, swinging his microphone around and around. Maybe someday it will reach a 15-minute version?

The heavy “Captain Walker” segment of Tommy had some great guitar jamming, continuing our theme for the night. It could just be that Roger and Pete were encouraged to show off by the dozen or so girls/women in the front rows, almost all of them going crazy – crazier, that is, than normal.

A full two hours of music tonight, continuing our long The Who Hits 50! tour. As Pete says, it started at 50, is now really 52 years (at one point he’s even said 56)

One last thing on Prince: most of our crew have, at one time or another, worked for him (myself included). He was incredibly talented, without question. And with such great talent people will put up with a lot more than they normally might take. In his case, he was always very, very hard on people – his bandmates, crew, etc. He certainly had a good side, a fun and playful character. But often his dark side won out and he could sometimes be intimidating and harsh. So with the good comes the bad, it’s yin and yang always. We’ll always remember the parts of him that entertained and amazed people, but we are happy to be on a tour with generous, kind and positive artists, as we are now. Our tour manager told one of the new team members recently, “You are gonna be SO disappointed when you go on a tour after The Who. It’s not like this everywhere!”

Onward . . .

Tonight’s Set List

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

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