Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Moving On! Tour: Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL, September 22, 2019

We are not far from our last show – not even a three hour drive. In fact, we have virtually the same orchestra here, and so our setup is much-improved. The powers-that-be have decided in advance NOT to rehearse as much with the orchestra; they’ve already played our previous rehearsal and show so not much rehearsal is needed. This now allows us to set up a couple of hours later (needed sleep is accomplished, thanks very much!) and that will not affect the experience of our VIP visitors, who will still see the same stuff this afternoon – as their attendance starts when the band come in alone.

This soundcheck is rather pleasant, too, with various experiments being done on our stage gear given the little bit of extra free time. The band are in a chatty mood and talk amongst themselves with some reaction to the visitors in the VIP seats. These special guests have been escorted in, but are kept about midway back in the seats to keep them from interfering with our work to be done. However, there are always one or two who cannot refrain from yelling something out. Usually, this will be ignored or politely rebuffed. Always, Roger and Pete are sure to acknowledge their support of the charity – Teen Cancer America (our American version of the Teenage Cancer Trust in the UK) which continues to do great work and this portion of our day contributes greatly to the success. If you feel that “maybe I should go see The Who and get close front-section seats, and watch them do a soundcheck, plus some included food and drink, and gift bag” – don’t just consider it a personal indulgence; consider the help it may offer someone else who really needs a better life during a dire time. That’s a win/win situation, no one would mind, and you have generated a lifetime memory for yourself on top of it all. The Who show itself will be magnified by sitting right down in front. Think about it.

We’ve already noticed something nice; it sounds good in here! Not exceptional, as a classical concert hall might be. But this is a typical oval arena space without the nasty echo or boomy sound that can hinder a show. So there is a good start in a few ways, things look positive. We’re also back with the most-experienced hands out-front, with Robert Collins and Tom Kenny back heading the Sound and Light departments. It’s been fine without them, but so good to have them back, another measure of comfort today. Family.

Rog and Pete come onstage to a loud cheer – not a crazed crowd, but a friendly a fairly loud one. Floridians are casual and know how to enjoy their parties. It’s a tanned and healthier-looking crowd than we usually get. Pete exclaims that the band “usually start quieter and then get louder and louder . . .” True, that. It’s never loud during the ‘Overture’, but an impressive sound that kicks in from the first dramatic chords.

Tonight, time flies. I can’t believe how quickly Tommy seems over. The mood is the reason, it’s flowing and quite smoothly. Something about the sound may be helping it, not a lot of long echo, so it’s a tight, controlled sound. I heard Zak say his drums sounded amazing at soundcheck, and Loren says his Hammond organ sounds the best-ever. Odd, as they shouldn’t have ANY difference in sound the way they are captured, so maybe the acoustic “spill” into the PA is not affecting what they hear?

Pete mentions they came ready for the beach with suntan lotion etc, at the ready – no luck. He warned about global warming likely affecting them, giving the example that he had a studio on the River Thames in Londons and they told him the Thames would rise a few millimetres a year as sea levels changed. The river was actually climbing more than 1/4”/year, so he sold the studio! Someone else’s issue to deal with in the future. (You can see this studio online in videos for the 2002 rehearsals, sadly the last times John played with the band). Florida is lowlands everywhere (the highest point in the State is said to be about 22 feet above sea level!)

Now it begins, the first of a lot of hilarity that happens tonight. Pete is introducing the upcoming song and talking about The Who By Numbers album: Except the next song is ‘Eminence Front’! He’s suddenly aware that he’s skipped over one song on the setlist. Roger comes over and gestures about it, and hints “old age.” Pete tries to go on, but the moment is too funny, with Roger standing alongside in support – a senior moment?! “It’s my moment!” Pete realizes and gestures grandly around the space – to the crowd, the orchestra, everyone. These moments are why I suggest everyone filming the shows on their phone start doing so when any song ends; the next moments of chat before the song may never be heard otherwise, and the highlight of the night. These bits are broadly different compared to the night-by-night performances of the songs, which are hopefully the same.

As it goes, ‘Eminence Front’ is terrific, with some extra guitar bombast at the end and machine-gunning moves closing it all out. The song, being written here, definitely fits into the Florida vibe.

The new album is discussed: Pete recalls the preamble to it, when they’d just finished the first South American tour (huge and insanely popular) and just before that, the Desert Trip show. “We blew everybody away at Desert Trip, there’s no question. That’s not a brag, it’s just a statement of fact. We were at the top of our game, we were at the end of a long tour. We were f***ing on fire. You know that happened with us when we did Live Aid and Queen were on fire; we reformed and our legend at Live Aid is not too cool, And I felt that that was the end, after Desert Trip and South America, but I felt one thing would get me back, playing with Rog and being in a band. That would be new material. So I wrote some songs . . .”

‘Hero Ground Zero’, instantly catchy as it is, gets a good reception, though most people are more comfortable sitting down to listen to it. Afterward, Roger starts to introduce our cellist and violinist on the tour and turns, they are gone! Off on their break, Pete points out. “You’ve got the same problem I do, your brain’s gone!” “I don’t disagree with you there, Pete!” Roger agrees, “We’ll do it when they come back, and just do all the other shit first . . . This next song is from, 1965? Oh – my brain’s definitely gone. 1966!” “That’s it!” Pete yells. Rog continues “I always felt this one was perfect for me, ’cause I always felt a substitute singer in this.” Pete laughs “Awwww… Awww. . . .” “Moon was always saying ‘He’s shit, Pete, get rid of ‘im!’ Haha!’Get Bob/Boz, what’s-his-name in . . .” Pete comforts him with “No, no, no. . . . We always loved you. You were just a bit of an asshole.” (laughs) “I know I was, but you all were all assholes; that’s what being young’s about!!” Pete further comments “We tried to turn him into a drug addict, but he wouldn’t have any of it!” And then off into ‘Substitute’ – a little musical interlude from the comedy.

The band-alone segment happens, and the acoustic ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ remains a highlight. Lots of harmonic exploration, new and untried chord progressions. Not that anyone bought tickets to see the RD/PT duo without an orchestra, but that’s one of the night’s many surprises. It also makes the classic song fresh for those two, who have done it over and over again the old way – it can’t change much normally due to Pete’s original backing track of Lowrey organ and EMS synth. This way, it gets some new life, a lot of surprises nightly, and reminds everyone of what’s good about these two now, beyond just “the old days.” I love how the reviewer in the  Ft Lauderdale newspaper said “This is not a nostalgia show . . .” So easy to do that, and yeah, some songs are done as-they-should. But most of this is a further take on the old catalog – we would not be here if it wasn’t.

A great (and again, funny) moment at the end of ‘5:15’ tonight. They tried and tried and tried to get it “off the ground” – to make it fly beyond the basic norm. Zak pounded furiously and Pete windmilled and strummed to a crazed extent, but all the input effort could not magically lift it beyond the basic. They played longer and longer than any version on tour this year, but it just didn’t gel as it should. During the final “why should I care, why should I care?” Pete interrupted himself, laughing and saying “what a f***ing mess!” as it ended.

‘Love Reign O’er Me’ video courtesy of Who fan Raythoven

‘Love Reign O’er Me’ – I’d forgotten to mention that at the last show (and tonight) Roger, who usually goes for the world’s highest OR lowest note to end, has sung a beautifully simple MIDDLE note. And it’s perfect! Really not showing off, he’s already done that in the rest of this major song, and the simplicity of it just makes sense. Relaxing too, after that strong battle with the soaring melodies and range.

After the last note of ‘Baba O’Riley’ has died out, with the crowd still roaring, Pete says “After all this time, one of the things I never thought I would hear, would be Roger Daltrey’s voice getting better, and better, and better. You know, a couple more tours and he’ll be able to sing, properly!”

PS – As promised, we have a little bit of video today, from our touring musicians, Audrey Q Snyder and Katie Jacoby. Katie has just released her EP this week, with vocal and violin work – and Audrey’s had her own album on her site, showing what they both do when not in our present format. Both are major talents, and we asked them to show us a bit of backstage jamming, featuring a piece of ‘Red Guitar’ from Katie’s new EP:

Check out Katie Jacoby’s new EP Katie Jacoby here

And Audrey Q Snyder’s new EP Restless Lady is available here


Tonight’s Set List

With Orchestra
Amazing Journey
Pinball Wizard
We’re Not Gonna Take It
Who Are You
Eminence Front
Imagine a Man
Hero Ground Zero

Band Only
I Can See for Miles
You better You Bet
Won’t Get Fooled Again (acoustic; Roger & Pete only)
Behind Blue Eyes (with violin and cello accompaniment)

With Orchestra
Ball and Chain
The Real Me
I’m One
The Rock
Love Reign O’er Me
Baba O’Riley