Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Moving On! Tour: Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls, OH, September 10, 2019

“Soundcheck for the Deaf” – A video clip today, several days in the making: This is from our recent show in Toronto. We wanted to expose you to what the VIP ticket buyers’ soundcheck experience is really like. Besides having down-front seats and our mini-museum experience, you get to watch us work, which is often really fun. It’s certainly different, a non-performance approach to test out the sound of each room and adjust for it. The band is casual, relaxed and loose; there are jokes, questions, instrumental noodling, and discussion of what songs will be in the show tonight. You’ve seen enough video of the songs here or in-person, so we’re showing you the working side of things.

You’ll see Roger guide the band and crew through some key points; balances of their voices, the band playing to the original keyboard tracks, equipment tests, and some instrumental noodling. The crew and photographer wander freely in and out. Our camera is positioned to the side of the stage, so it doesn’t capture the truer sound in the middle (better drum and guitar sounds there) but it functions enough for what we want to show here. Enjoy . . .

And now on with today’s Backstage Blog . . . here we are in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio at the beautiful Blossom Music Center.

Above: Our limo drivers enjoying the late summer weather

What a gorgeous place for a concert! Especially in this weather, which turns out to be a balmy Summer eve.

Cuyahoga Falls is a woodsy area in Ohio, between Akron and Cleveland. Both cities have a significant amount of rock credibility, and this venue shares an audience from those towns and any neighboring areas. Plus our usual cadre of traveling Who fans who go to almost any show they can attend – anywhere in the world!

“Such a beautiful building, and place to see a concert. Enjoy the outdoors” Pete hailed the audience as they came on. We’d spent the day setting up and getting used to this – a bit of a challenge as the sculpted wood and concrete structures here are tighter than most spaces we play. We just barely fit it all in, and without much room to move in doing so. At least it fits; the orchestra riser platforms are just inches from the wooden walls.

During soundcheck today, the VIPs hear Pete announce a warning; he was not turned up fully but felt his sound was already bouncing back a lot – an echo from the wooden roof above. Our soundman (for two shows) is Chopper (aka Chris Morrison) who is handling the mix desk while our main man Robert Collins is away. Chopper replied that it’s like a giant acoustic horn, as it was likely built to amplify the sound of a symphony or less-electric ensemble than ours. The small VIP group boo’ed – they wanted Pete to turn up (of course) but he’s aware of the results that would cause. Luckily, as soundcheck went on, it turns out the bounce is not so bad – and soon bodies would fill the seats and soak up much of the reflected sound, so . . . maybe?

As it turns out – it’s an ideal sound. With the bodies in, the sound is clear and present. And this space is just a bit smaller in all ways than the previous “shed” so it feels more intimate than most venues. I noticed also something about the light and color onstage, it seemed more vivid, too – and realized the lamps are hanging from trusses (metal beams above) that are lower then usual, as this place is like a tiny Hollywood Bowl. So there was no room to go higher; we don’t even have room to hang our motorized curtain system that changes shape and location throughout the show. It IS more intimate, and things seem more intense. Maybe this will be worth the struggle to “put ten pounds of stuff into this five pound box” as they say?

Pete has changed one thing today, he’d been using one single amp (Fender VibroKing) on the ground, sometimes adding in a second placed next to it. Today he’d taken away the second amp to add another cabinet of 12” speakers tied to the first, for a little more bass and ooomph without adding much volume. It seemed to work, as this is more like his usual tour setup – a ‘stacked’ VibroKing sitting on top of the cabinet. The effect may not be so audible to the audience, but it’s part of the constant tweaking that is done through our tours – small changes to make things better for the player, for the others onstage, or the crowd.

Tonight Pete also has a better acoustic guitar sound, after working out new settings with his monitor guy, Trevor Waite. They’re both pleased as Trevor’s come up with a significant improvement that will be kept and continued. Always tweaking for a better show . . .

A nice moment happened in the Tommy set tonight, maybe due to the acoustic, or likely because the crowd was enthralled; the moment the medley hit Roger’s iconic “See Me, Feel Me . . .” line, we heard an audible “ooooh!” from hundreds of mouths. They loved that transition, and we did too. I noticed our orchestra smiling as Pete conducts the ending of this segment, the timing of the final chords is guided by his BIG guitar motions. This orchestra probably has done many rock/pop shows, but it’s almost always guided by the proper conductor (as is ours) until these few moments where PT takes the wheel and decides how it will all end. It’s amusing and powerful at the same time – seeing the orchestral players respond well to these big rock moves – they are a fun bunch. I see them nodding and rocking out to some of the better known songs (‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘Who Are You’, ‘Baba’.) I was in England last Summer on the day Roger played his orchestral Tommy here, but it was a low point in that tour, I’m told. That orchestra was a really disagreeable set, with hundreds of “can’t do this” rules and regulations that made doing the show near-impossible. By special request, our team had organized a new orchestra to be assembled, and this group is the result – a happier, better-playing, and positive group. We’re always respectful of their incredible instrumental prowess and qualifications, but holding a show hostage to fit your unusual wants was a bad move; we’re so pleased tonight’s people were the opposite!

As it was warm (almost too much) Roger told everyone it was around 58 degrees at the last show, and this broad change of temps was a little rough; “too much for an old person like me!” Pete said “It just goes to show how old we are; we talk about the weather! . . . and how it affects me arthritis.” We do love how they’re always joking about their ages, it’s a sign of actual security, as they are STILL the great band despite those numbers. A joke went around earlier today, too; someone said “We’re going to be seeing the upper 70s and lower 80s tonight,” to which came a reply “Yeah, enough about the audience, what’s the temperature!?”

Audrey Q Snyder and Katie Jacoby

Regardless of age – Roger’s in fine voice tonight, and Pete’s hopping and skipping all over the stage, sure signs of a better-than-average Who night, always. Pete announces the next song with a comment on streaming; they’re honored to know that ‘Baba O’Riley’ has received over 500 million streams so far. “Nothing like Ariana Grande numbers of five BILLION!” he mentions. But then again, the surprise was that this next song has 200 millions streams already, too – ‘Eminence Front’. “You must like it!?” he notes before powering into it. They do. Afterward Pete mentions that songwriting is “what I’m best at, what I do. I’m a sort of flashy guitar player, but not a virtuoso.” One of those great songs is coming up, from The Who By Numbers: ‘Imagine a Man’. The opening bears some scrutiny – it’s sort of a trance-like duet between Katie Jacoby’s violin and Andrey Q Snyder’s cello, while Loren Gold backs them up with a rich sustained chord pad. It almost has a Middle-Eastern flavor, and in my opinion, is one of those unexpected moments that one barely appreciates before it’s over. Pay attention if you come see us, it’s such a nice bit. Speaking of cello, our section of four includes three women, a rarity, and the bass section (almost always male, for some reason) has two out of three women. It’s a great change. It’s quite common to find female violinists and violas, but it seems the bigger/deeper strings are shifting to a more balanced composition, too, now.

Starting into ‘Hero Ground Zero’ after ‘Imagine a Man’, Pete notes most of the audience is sitting. He suggests they stay seated (the opposite of the other night!) as they might listen more carefully and “give it a chance, new songs are tricky.”

‘You Better You Bet’ was back in the set, and this crowd went mad! No one expected it, but it was an anthem to them, and turned into one of those highlights for everyone. I suspect it might return again, with a welcome like that! ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ – the acoustic version, or as Roger called it, the “where the f*** are we version!” It did meander a bit here and there, but it seemed no one minded. Zak has bee on fire for these shows, playing as well as he ever has. Maybe being energized by running his own record label, or working in Jamaica and South America during his time off? No idea, but something’s working and he’s pulling hard to make every show great. It shows. He looks extra cool tonight in a black satin jacket, contrasting with his bright yellow hair – at least until it gets too hot to wear the extra layer.

Billy Nicholls in fine voice as always

The Quadrophenia set is welcome but not as intensely as some other places – you just never know what each crowd will be into. ‘The Rock’, however, sounds SO good here with the acoustic space emphasizing the orchestral parts. This is one piece where there is never a question; as great as the original record is, the 2019 version of this song is better. It’s just stunning, and leads us into ‘Love Reign O’er Me’. Loren’s Gold’s unique piano intro elicits strong praise from Pete later, as it is gorgeous. And Roger absolutely kills on the song following – every night’s highlight. It’s funny as he ends such a serious, powerful performance with a smile and a shrug, as if saying “did I just do that?!” You did!

Rog and Pete discuss the setup being tricky here, but the front of the stage actually has a bit more room – “dancing room” they joked at soundcheck, and Roger’s making great use of the open space. Pete had sat at dinner with one of our crew and learned of his 5.00am start time! Special mention of the crew was nice, from both Rog and Pete, and they discussed briefly the long hours we need to get ready for the orchestra rehearsals each day. “5.00am! I’m just going to bed!” Pete joked. “But afterward, they sleep on the bus.” True. “I was on a bus, once” Pete jokes. “With Keith Moon and Roger Daltrey . . . I swore I’d never do that again!” This reminds me of a sidebar, a really good Who history you may not know:

Pete and I were once discussing the famous Rock and Roll Circus idea (which eventually became a concert film.) Originally Ronnie Lane had learned of traveling circuses in the 1800s who rode from town to town on train cars. There was a big loop of track where the train could pull off into a big circle, one car would drop open to create a stage, and the inner area of the circle would become the audience area. The old tracks were still in existence, and the thought was to have The Who, the Stones, Small Faces etc travel together as a rolling festival. The issue became speed – the trains could not travel very fast, and it would take days to move from city to city. At their final meeting about it, Pete talked to Mick Jagger about it, saying “I’d have to live for weeks on a train with my Keith (Moon) and you live with your Keith (Richards.) Mick stood up and shook his hand, “We’re done.”

Our great Katie Jacoby wraps up the end of ‘Baba O’Riley’ with style and class, and then the night is complete, our strongest show yet. Pete states that Roger is “at the peak of his powers” and this crowd agrees with a huge roar. So strong. No major issues, a gorgeous space and weather, one couldn’t ask for much more in an evening of music. The shows are all over two hours, and absolutely nobody onstage is “phoning it in” – this is a real show with people trying their best with full attention and care given to what is done, and always trying to make it better and better. We hope you get to see it!


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
Your 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