Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits 50! Tour: MTS Centre, Winnipeg, MB, May 4, 2016

The Who returns again to Winnipeg! These last two times here, we’ve had two days off before, more than the usual, and it feels great to stretch out and explore. We enjoyed the green parks, exploring the old building areas, and local shops.

Once inside, a rock show:

At soundcheck, Pete and Roger started in ‘Squeeze Box’, despite some discussion about its merits. Pete has sometimes resisted playing it, although it’s an easy and fun song. But it’s catchy and every audience knows it well. During rehearsal, Pete mentioned it was “a great song – until The Who got ahold of it!” Later during the show, he clarified a bit more to the audience: He’d written the song as a quick joke, just something funny to put down on tape so he could play it once for Ronnie Lane of The Faces. Then it was intended to be erased and then The Who came along and it became a serious ‘catalog’ song, and it got more than a little popular over time. “At least Ronnie liked it”, Pete said.

During rehearsal, Roger was going over the song’s parts and their sequence, and was discussing how many “in and out’s” come after “squeeze me’s” and realized suddenly how THAT sounded. Both Rog and Pete saw for the first time the cartoon video that shows behind ‘Squeeze Box’; an animation using the characters drawn for the cover of By Numbers. The characters do various funny things, and Pete and Rog chuckled as they saw it evolve behind them.

They also worked on ‘The Seeker’ a bit, trying out tempo changes.  Both noted the new stage here was louder, stronger-sounding. Roger loved it (at soundcheck) and Pete warned it would all appear different at the actual show (it did, and Roger didn’t love it after all, it made other instruments too loud). Pete mentioned he might need a carpet (“. . . like an Emerson, Lake and Palmer Persian rug”) brought out to absorb some of the reflective bounce of audio off the stage, and his two-man team were ready to deliver a rug. Pete was astonished, and thought we’d gone too far, having exotic Persian rugs at the ready backstage. Then, he was informed, it was actually a simple rug from IKEA.

Old story, back in the day, Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer had bought a truly expensive Persian rug to stand upon during shows (it made a balance with the huge and expensive instrument rigs used by his bandmates). One of The Who’s roadies, Tony Haslam, was along on the ELP tour of 1973/4. He wanted to place a lighting rig at one point of the stage, but this rug was right in the way. He took a sharp knife and trimmed off a corner of the rug so the light rig lay snugly against the stage!! (Expensive mistake!)

This was our smallest group ever for the VIP seats, maybe 20 people or so. Pete called them “a select group. But not selected by ME”. With all this activity we see each day, it’s easy to forget the Who practically NEVER did sound-checks in the past. Instead, they let the crew set up and test the gear, and they came in hours later just to play. To be fair, there are more musicians, amps and keyboard than ever. John, Keith, and Pete were a much easier set to balance against a lead vocal microphone.

The audience was calmly Canadian, sitting politely during the opening act, and even as The Who came out. Suddenly they all stood and the floor seats stayed up for most of the show. Elsewhere, most people sat down to watch, excepting the few brave “lone dancers” we saw in each section.

We did have ‘Squeeze Box’, and people seemed to like it.

Pete began recounting the story of crossing Canada in the early days in a modified school bus (with no heat). Then he caught and stopped himself, as it sounded too “history lesson” – something I don’t think the audience ever minds.

Someone in the audience had a Happy Birthday sign. He noted his birthday (71st) was not yet here, but coming up. And then he pointed that really everyone’s birthday is coming up; we should all celebrate. He wanted the audience to imagine he was back at 17 instead  and sang ‘I’m One’.

We’ve noticed the audience sings along loudly on ‘Baba O’Riley’ but then spotted that most of the words are up on the big screen. Sort of a teleprompter or karaoke screen for the audience (and we thought the song was just popular!) Pete had his hop-skipping feet going like mad during the end of the show; as reliable a barometer of “how things are going” as any! And things were going well . . .

The upcoming show in the Coachella desert (the show which has no official name, yet) was mentioned for the first time. Pete said he’d been hoping he’d be the youngest one there, younger than Neil, Mick or Dylan, Macca or Waters, even Daltrey! But then, he sadly realized Ronnie Wood would be the one headliner younger “. . . and he’s having twins!” Yes, indeed. Congrats to old friends Ronnie and Sally Wood, the two Ronettes are coming very soon.

Onward . . .

Tonight’s Set List

Who Are You
The Seeker
The Kids Are Alright
I Can See for Miles
My Generation
Pictures Of Lily
Squeeze Box
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

1 thought on “The Who Hits 50! Tour: MTS Centre, Winnipeg, MB, May 4, 2016”

  1. Jimmy Cooper says:

    Wow, these stage blogs are excellent!!! Thank you to the author: a good salting of historical artifacts mingling with a recounting of insider-view stage moments. I thought the Vancouver show last night was really superb; felt Pete was in finer form than when I saw him in Vancouver in ’80, and Seattle in ’82. Pete’s energy and guitar playing was inspired, and he did such a good job carrying a lot of the vocal work. What a trip it was to see them 34 years later–not nostalgic, just a pretty cool affirmation that as life marches on through the twists and turns, good things do remain. May love reign o’er all.

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