Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who hits 50! Tour: Moda Center, Portland, OR, May 17, 2016 – PORTLAND – Moda Center

A challenging evening for us. After a lovely day-off in Portland (one of America’s great cities, if you have not tried it yet) we were set for another good Who show. Suddenly one of our key team members was taken to the hospital with a worrying set of symptoms; you have to be careful, even with a big show to do – such things are treated as seriously as possible. Rather than wait, it was decided to handle it with a hospital visit.


Then – good news, in a way – no more trouble, but it put one of our main people out of commission during this show. On the road, each person has a role (usually more than one base is covered, you do several different jobs during the day/night) which takes a specialized set of skills. Like the musicians, we each get better at our jobs by doing them over and over during the tour. Sometimes, one member can be absent, as in this case, and we’ll cover for them: For this job, two people could overlap what they were doing and keep and eye on this person’s work. It’s extra stress and strain for those doing the “new job” – and they certainly haven’t had the experience and practice to make it go as well as usual.



However, the band knew this, and the show went off without a major hitch. The musicians were forgiving. It felt weird to have a ‘family member’ not in their usual spot, but teamwork does work well and it saved the day today. Next show, everyone will be back as usual, and we’ll be resting a bit easier.


The Portland crowd was fun, although not necessarily rough in a bad way, they were rowdy and energetic. We did see a lot more families come in, not just kids dragged along to Mom and Dad’s show, but kids with the shirt on, who knew the lyrics. That’s GREAT to see, really makes Roger and Pete happy. There’s a satisfaction in reaching those who “weren’t there” for the 1960s, ’70s etc. They have no nostalgia for this music – it’s just GOOD to them. And to experience Who music at a young age is a wonderful thing. As Lemmy of Motorhead used to say “I like the same music as everyone else; whatever you listened to before you had your filters up.” In other words, the music you hear before you know what the world is really like – it sinks in deeper and means something very special to you throughout the rest of your life, no matter what your brain tells you later on! In Lemmy’s case, it was Buddy Holly, Little Richard, The Beatles. For Roger it was Johnny Cash (why we play ‘Ring of Fire’ after each show, btw) and Pete loved The Kinks and even Booker T and the MGs, among others. Many of you (like me) are WhoO people from a young age – and new ones coming every day.



Last few shows, one of Pete’s guitars has been a white Fender Stratocaster. His main guitar is ALWAYS a red one (#4) – but the alternates come in when the main one is being tuned, or when a capo is needed to pitch the guitar higher. However, as he’s mentioned sometimes onstage, Pete doesn’t like white guitars – generally. So for this show, longtime guitar roadie Alan Rogan retired the white, and broke out one of the extras; a gleaming GOLD guitar! After a while in the afternoon – lots of adjustments to make it sound and play as closely as possible to the main guitar – Pete came in and tried it for soundcheck. It was accepted and found to be a very good guitar. So we’re now seeing it being used a lot, as a main one to use when the #4 is being otherwise detained…


Pete told the story of coming across the country, to the then-new idea of a pop/rock festival in Monterey, California. They’d learned that their old friend from London (an American named Jimi) would also be on the bill – making his big “debut” for his American audiences. The Who knew what Jimi was going to be like live, and although they had no fears of being weak themselves, “He made us work hard!” And they did, probably the only band to compare to Hendrix that day (Although, without any of the smashing or burning options, Otis Redding gave a damn good show, too!) It’s hard to imagine a time when The Who were not popular, or when Jimi Hendrix was a relative unknown, but such a time did exist.


‘Love Reign O’er me’ continues to be a showstopper, not only for the great writing (and long-format piano introductions by John Corey) but certainly Roger’s singing. If you’ve seen Roger on previous tours, this year is astonishing. One would think a pair of truly serious hospital stays would have weakened a singer somewhat, but somehow, he’s better than in the last decade. Standing ovations for this song every single night now. Afterward, Roger noted “Portland knows ALL about rain!”

After ‘Bargain’ Roger noted the audience joining in on the high notes, “some bloody good singers in Portland! Let’s see how you do on THIS one”, leading into the ultimate singalong Who song, ‘Join Together’.”(where they continued to be loud and strong.)


Someone in the audience was at their one hundredth show tonight, down in front. This was made obvious as his friend had brought a sign saying so! After a while (really at the end of the show) Pete mentioned that it was time to stop holding UP the sign; they’d seen it often enough. But congratulations on your hundredth show whoever you are.

Toward the end, Pete thanked the audience (as they have nightly) for waiting so long to see this portion of the tour. In an interesting note of humorous finality, he thought the people should “tell your friends they missed us! Tomorrow we die!” (Update: Not quite).

Heading into the home stretch for this tour leg. Hopefully you’ve been able to see one of these The Who Hits 50! Tour shows, they’ve ALL been stunning.

Onward . . .

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

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