Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits 50! Tour: Key Arena, Seattle, WA, May 15, 2016

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Great turnout today for the VIP soundcheck: There were close to 200 people who paid to witness the rehearsal. If you add up the prices paid for each of these front-section tickets (plus many bonus included amenities) the amount of money generated for Teen Cancer America is immense. Thanks to all who came and contributed; we know you’re getting something in return, but these premium prices are designed to raise as much for the charity as possible – and it’s working!

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This particular day was a VIP “got my money’s-worth” event. The band stayed onstage, working for a full 65 minutes (more than half of a full concert). This is certainly THE all-time record for a Who stage sound-check. Lots of work done today, rehearsing ‘Relay’ (not played at the show tonight, though) and ‘The Acid Queen’ among others. I think most Who fans would find this part fascinating; the discussions of what to do and why, how to approach a song, or what issues they have in getting it across live.

Pete made a few salty comments, but told the small crowd “If there weren’t children here, the language would be even worse!”

In particular, Roger was concerned that the big room had a lot of echo, bounce-back from the walls and metallic roof. Not much can be done, but assurance were made that the crowd coming in later (hopefully with a lot of clothes and big hair) would absorb much of that sonic bounce during the performance. Pete noted it wouldn’t change that much, as the roof was a shiny metallic surface overhead. As Roger said at the end “It can only get better”. It did.

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Special guest tonight (not onstage but all around this evening) were local hero Eddie Vedder and his family. They’re old friends of The Who, all big fans of the music (even the kids), and superb people; friendly and open to the various people backstage. Eddie grew up on Who music and his family were wearing his old Who shirts from the 70s and early 80s. Having such friends around always brings an extra energy to the band (and a little pressure to be good). Watching from the wings, Eddie was as big a fan as anyone in the audience, and astonished at how amazing the band and setlist are this leg. When Roger hit ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ (a song Eddie sings often with his own band), Ed was amazed that the guy who recorded it decades ago still does it exceptionally well – in the original key.

Funniest part of the show: Pete announcing the next song had “actually been written on the accordion.” Everyone in the band and crew burst out laughing, somewhat confused. Then, Pete realized his mistake and laughed too as the next song was, in fact,’My Generation’. (Picture THAT version!)

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Finally, time for ‘Squeeze Box’ and the story; yes, written on accordion. Pete was close friends with Ronnie Lane, who had given him two pieces of advice: 1: The Who were crap and the band should stop and, 2: Pete should write something on the accordion. So, one piece of advice was taken.

Discussing old songs and old days, Pete recalled the funny clothes of the late ’60s and people who “didn’t know what they were doing”. But once they did LSD, he said, they knew – and hung their tongues out, like Jimi Hendrix. This reminded him of a curious tidbit: Jimi once played Washington DC and performed one of Pete’s songs live for him onstage, though a rather unexpected one, ‘Happy Jack’!

Speaking of history and trivia – we are about to Detour (get it?) into history and trivia from Tommy, as I think you may enjoy these bits:

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I sought out answers on ‘The Acid Queen’ chrome sarcophagus from the Tommy film (yes, they played it again tonight.) Long ago, I’d heard John Entwistle came up with the coffin idea, just a rumor. Both denied it, though one of our two “principals” (i.e. Rog and Pete) said it came from Ken Russell’s wife, Shirley, who was also costume designer – and extremely talented. The other disagreed, saying it was John Clark, the film’s art director, who has sadly passed away. I also heard from an insider that had heard the story leaning toward Ken Russell’s wife again. The actual prop piece still exists, but is in a secret hideaway somewhere, I’m told. So, we may not soon know the answer.

Pete mentioned to me that the song is not JUST about dosing people to change their state of mind; there are deeper, more cultural aspects to it than the obvious literal concept. Musically, it has great sections, chords and melody – always in a new context, you can really sit back and appreciate the quality of a song in a new way.

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More trivia on ‘The Acid Queen’; Our lighting director, Tom, told me the original casting for the role was offered to David Bowie. R.I.P. David, but that would have been an interesting and ideal part for him (Queen Bitch and all) Pete said that Tina Turner was none-too-happy to see the looming sarcophagus-and-needles intended for the scene, and resisted doing the part, but all worked out in the end.

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One mention of our Simon Townshend. He’s a great addition to the band since 2002. His vocals are always perfect, his rhythm guitar (through HiWatt amps) is exactly what’s needed behind the solo sections. He’s a masterful player and singer, with the right physical energy for The Who, of course. His own part with the band goes back to the 1975 Tommy soundtrack album. Right alongside Kenney Jones and Ronnie Wood, Simon Townshend makes his Who debut on that album, singing ‘Extra Extra’ for the film. There was even a scene shot with young Simon (age 14) standing on top of a massive pile of newspapers. Sadly, the scene was cut, and we haven’t found any stills from it.

This Seattle, WA audience was ecstatic throughout, the band played with the fiery power they’ve had since Roger recovered. All in all, a superb night. Lots of buzz and excitement even after the show, just a few more nights to go before we’re done here.

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Tonight’s Set List

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


2 thoughts on “The Who Hits 50! Tour: Key Arena, Seattle, WA, May 15, 2016”

  1. Lauren says:

    Great review and information! Thank you Brian!!

  2. Allison Woods says:

    I worked this show. In the minutes between the end of the show and the beginning of the load out, Pete T and I crossed paths. He nodded hello to me, which made me ask myself “have I worked a Who show before? Have they done production for a tour here? Have I worked with him?”

    The answer to all was no, but then as a grey-haired stagehand, I’m just like all of the older hands who have worked every show since 30 years ago.

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