Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits 50! Tour: Honda Center, Anaheim, CA, May 22, 2016



I wanted to mention the riggers today – they are a critically important part of our crew. Like the Marine Corps, they are the “first in, last out” at any show. You’ll never see them work, normally. Their job is quite visible and important – but you may never know it’s there. Mainly, the riggers hang the tons of stage equipment that must be positioned overhead each day. As every venue has a different structure, it’s quite a task to plan and adapt our setup for today’s room. Currently we have Paul Ingwerson and Steve Chambers doing the work on this tour leg (previously Bart Durban and Jerry Ritter.)

Most of the work they do is done six-to-eight hours before the band even enter the building. Their job takes them FAR up into the strong girders at the roof, where they suspend heavy chains that support lights, video or anything needed. Today’s roof structure is 130 feet above the floor, and they have dozens of chain motors hanging from it. The riggers have to place our large video wall, light trusses, or the PA system speakers in exactly the right point relative to each other, so the show is the same from night to night. If there is no supporting point where we need one, they triangulate and combine multiple steel cables to reach the exact point needed above the stage. Laser sights on the floor help them spot and check the positions above.

3 (1)

1 (1)

Some might worry about hanging tons (tonnes, in proper English!) of lighting trusses, video screens, and speakers over the audience and performers. Personally, we never worry about it; their safety practices are beyond exceptional. Multiple backups prevent any issues. We’ve had a rigger eject local helpers as they weren’t being safe enough – that’s the way to be! There is NO room for messing around or doing something casually; it’s by-the-book for these two guys, and we have never had any cause for concern. Next time you see a big concert, understand that the large mass of equipment hanging above the stage – was all down on the ground, not long before!

Anaheim is almost an hour from Los Angeles, and is famous as the home of Disneyland. It’s almost a hometown show for many of us, and several of our team’s families (crew, band and even some of the Townshend clan) attended this show.

A solid sound-check audience attends, one of the bigger groups. It’s a good sign; there are a lot of fans here. Many are coming down from Los Angeles, as the crowded show-to-come in L.A. is likely to be a madhouse. We have the regulars, fans who are at nearly every show, and several who have taken a week off from work and come to see as many shows as they can in one short block. From the get-go, it was a weird environment, a cavernous building with a looooong reverb and echo. One of our keyboard players thought we’d reprogrammed his sounds with new effects – nope, it is this hall. Early on, Pete said “this sound-check is a complete waste of time” to groans from the audience. He realized what they’d thought – clarifying it wasn’t a waste to be there and have them watching, but it was pointless to try and adjust the sound correctly until the room was filled with people. The sound will be 100% different (likely better) at that point, and not before. “It will be alright when they get the people in – hanging from the ceiling.”

Then Mr. Townshend thanks the VIP guests for spending $40,000 each, which was a bit of an exaggeration. He felt we’re also likely disappointed Justin Bieber has declined to do any more meet-and-greet events at his shows. But The Who VIP contribution is wonderful, and it has multiple rewards for those attending. At the end, Roger said “Thanks for coming, guys” and Pete quickly added “Yeah, thanks… suckers!” Of course, the true Who fans are always used to, and fond of, being verbally abused a little now and then.

‘Who Are You’ starts the show, and it is stunning, probably the best I’ve heard this whole tour. Full energy onstage, especially from Pete. I don’t know if he’s read the last review of the Oakland show, where some critic said the show was good, but “safe.” Indeed, this show was proof it’s NOT safe. Certainly no one got hurt, but there was wildness, raw energy, unplanned music, mistakes, confusion, brilliance, humor, all of it.

‘The Seeker’ started really heavy, as strongly as I’ve ever heard it. The crowd are turning out to be intense music fans here. There’s always been a strong music scene in Orange County here. “Music towns” are all over the USA: Detroit, Austin, NYC, Philly, San Bernardino, Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland – many of these are not “fancy” places, as with Anaheim area – but people are serious about going out for a good time!

Pete told a story about Monterey Pop Festival, but mentioned they played “this next absolute piece of s**t, and we’ve played it 455,000 times since.” Then storming right into ‘My Generation.’ At the end, the song slowed to a halt, then Pete began strumming some new chords, and leaned toward the band, hinting they should play along. For a bit, the crew thought it was ‘Naked Eye’ but it turned out to be some alternate version of the ‘My Generation’ ending section. This never really quite took off, but it was a bold attempt to hijack the show in a new, unplanned direction (so much for playing it “safe” Mr. Oakland Reviewer!) I can tell you that everyone was wide awake at that point. Roger even chimed in when the newly improvised section fell apart, “Nothing like a bit of free-form…!”

‘The Rock’ started aggressively, too, with a guitar feedback wailing into the downbeat of the tune. John Corey played a beautiful piano intro to ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ just after – sometimes the intro pieces sound like a “jazz haunted house,” but this one was right in the spirit of the original record, a very unique combination of jazz, serious classic piano, or soundtrack mood music. Beautiful work.

‘Eminence Front’ continues to be another peak in the show; not necessarily a song most people think of, or want to hear when they come see The Who. Yet the live version is SO strong people come with a new appreciation for it. We’d hoped the band would someday re-record it for this grouping, as it feels so much better than the record version.


Should this be your last chance seeing The Who, you are catching good shows on this tour. Word of mouth is getting out about this tour, and how great it is. Hopefully, you’ve been or will be seeing it soon!!

One thing I’d like to note is Pete’s guitar playing. I know there are many fans who are obsessed with the 1969-era sound and style of his guitar work; with good reason, it’s exceptional stuff. Most guitarists hit a peak like that, and taper off slowly over the years. There are very few exceptions (Jeff Beck?) who have actually improved as they matured. In Pete’s case, the style has certainly evolved. Each night IS different, and sometimes his roadies just grin as we hear new parts being tried out in front of the audience. They either work or they don’t, but they are pretty bold and “out there” choices at times, at other times just beautiful/melodic parts that have just been invented on-the-spot. Without question, the young PT was a fine guitarist, but the modern-day PT has practiced much, grown more daring and comfortable with a guitar than ever before. It’s this progression that keeps “old songs” fresh and vital; new sounds and approaches – without losing what is good.

This was certainly a strong show, everyone had a good one, technically and artistically.


Onwards . . .

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
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

3 thoughts on “The Who Hits 50! Tour: Honda Center, Anaheim, CA, May 22, 2016”

  1. Erik Nerheim says:

    You are correct, if your even a little fan of The Who, you should see this tour.
    You are not correct saying we are seeing good shows this year. What I saw at Staples center last night was f****** Great!
    I am a fan as old as the band, who grew up on their music, I was in heaven.
    I realized through Pete’s words, I am not alone, other people feel the same as I.
    What a special night to experienced seeing them live again with my daughter.
    Pete was as good as ever, and Roger was belting it out.
    For future attendees, don’t smoke pot if your up front. Roger has asthma, as he pointedly told the people who were smoking. Don’t want to say what Pete said to do with it.
    Roger was ready to fight! The English rebel in him coming out at the end!
    Roger looked absolutely drained as he walked off the stage. No doubt, the smoke was getting to him. He still put on a fantastic performance.
    Mr. Starkey was unleashing on the drums. The sound was great.
    What a night of music to my ears!
    Wish I could see them again in Vegas on Sunday! I think the natural high I’m on now will subside by then. Oh well, have to treasure this memory.
    Highlights were Amazing Journey moving into Sparks. Nothing better than Sparks live!
    Thank you to Pete, Roger, Simon, Zak, and all, for a unforgettable experience, and never forget John and Keith!

  2. Jim Walker says:

    I was in the second row in Portland standing in front of Townshend, and his performance was absolutely incredible. You have to respect his ability to create the complexity of his sound, but then to actually witness him play, and make it look so easy, was absolutely stunning to watch. It’s inspiring to see someone perform at such a high level at anything, and it is two hours that I will never forget. He totally ripped it!

  3. Robert J Bugiada says:

    I was there. It was my 60th Birthday. The band sounded great. I would love to download a recording of the show.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.