Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Moving On! Tour: Bristow, VA, May 11, 2019

Jiffy Lube Live, Bristow, VA

Hello Jiffy Lube Live!

In Rush drummer Neal Peart’s fine book, Roadshow: A Landscape With Drums, he writes about the daily details of being on tour. It’s a great read for any rock music fan, but especially for any of us who have done this for a living. One caveat – he refuses to name any corporate-sponsored venues specifically: Instead, he says “We are at Major-Bank Arena tonight” or “We are playing Fast Food Chain Amphitheater” tomorrow. Kind of funny, but part of his resistance is to the name change: The Royal Albert Hall, Madison Square Garden, The Hollywood Bowl – these have a history associated with their name that would be lost if it shifted to this year’s high bidder. But the Jiffy Lube Live venue is an odd choice, and doesn’t rock as it should. And the change part – I can’t recall if we’ve ever played here before, as it doesn’t ring a bell.

Still, Bristow, Virginia (not far from Washington DC) is not a bad place to rock! This is a “shed” – common touring parlance for a covered outdoor bowl. The un-covered section is a lawn far back – and tonight with wind and rain – it was not the most-comfortable experience – but you get what you pay for, and we’re sure people were prepared for this weather. Roger himself seemed pleased by this change,“It’s nice to be out in the fresh air!” Good for a singer, for sure.

Once settled in, photo-show over, we had a glorious opening by Peter Wolf and band. Peter, showman extreme of J. Geils Band for years, always brings full energy, resembling more of a white James Brown than not. The songs are great – including a few old hits – and his band are perfect for him; recommended anytime you can see him.

With that truly “warming up” the crowd, The Who emerge and the show starts as normal. Yes, it’s tighter than the previous two (a good direction for us!) as much time was spent in rehearsal getting a few rough spots hammered out. I always look forward to the breaks in the music though – as Rog and Pete talking is certainly as good as any music they play. It may seem simple to them to talk normally, but it’s never disappointing. They are funny, emotional, often brutally honest – and these moments are unique to each night. You may have heard ‘Who Are You’ one hundred times in concert, but the chatter onstage will always be new and fresh – and often a highlight you’ll remember forever; I remember the talk between songs at my own first Who shows decades ago better than I recall the music – and the music was great.

Tonight, Roger comments on Pete’s bright-red scarf worn on the first few numbers, until he warms up. It’s not a small affair, as it wraps around his neck and shoulders sort of Lawrence of Arabia style; this is a substantial scarf! Roger jokes about it sometimes getting in the way by remembering his own wardrobe malfunction; “I had the same problem at Monterey (Pop Festival, 1967) when I wore a bedspread! . . . I gave it away” but Pete says “I thought you looked very lovely,” to good laughter.

Our learning curve from each show brings us more and more closer to an ideal sound for all. It’s caused a few wild moments onstage already, where one portion pulls ahead of the others, then someone reigns it back into place. At least it’s not boring – we are ALL on our toes all night. I’ve never seen the band do this much preparation and rehearsal to get things right. It’s hard to remember when they used to refuse doing ANY soundcheck! It’s now seemingly critical each day, and well worth coming in hours early to sort it out.

There is a change in the onstage sound over these years though: I remember years ago (2004?) at Madison Square Garden. The side-stage monitor/roadie section was right onstage, not far from the amps and drums. It sounded great, loud, booming, and the sound of the vocals was AS loud, coming from all the monitor speakers. But, this caused issues; feedback, drums coming into the vocal microphones, leakage from one to another. Now it’s much more controlled, so it actually sounds better out-front. An orchestral show would have been impossible then. But when I film something onstage for you; the sound is somewhat distant and not too clear; you must realize that it sounds this way as there aren’t so many loud sounds interacting onstage. For today’s blog, there are two video segments of ‘Who Are You’: the orchestra-only rehearsal of the guitar and piano solo-sections; it’s great to show you some of these behind-the-scenes details that hide subtly under a show song. A tasteful arrangement does not always play, and often there is not a lot happening – it supports like a film score. Other times it blasts out – also like a film score can do.

Then there is a video clip from the same song onstage as the band played tonight; it’s not so clear as you normally would hear it. Pete’s amps are loud where he stands, the vocals are LOUD in Roger’s ears, the keyboards are in Loren’s ears, etc. but not so many loud amps or monitors are playing back for the stage. Anyway, it’s an interesting comparison; someday we may all bring our own earbuds to a show and get a live stream of our own perfect stereo sound through our ear-phones!

‘The Seeker’ joins the 2019 tour for the first time tonight. Not a hit, but absolutely one of the best Who tracks live: Also longtime soundman Bob Pridden’s favorite Who song ever. It opens with an accidental double-length intro, but it’s just more of a good thing, and the rest pounds away without incident.

We’ve got a good sound going onstage tonight with almost no echo, it’s very tight and dry. Unfortunately, I’m sort of trapped by our situation and not able to run out into the crowd for a few good photos from their point of view. No matter, you’ll see enough from coming shows. This “wild adventure with an orchestra” as Pete called it, has been returning some strong results, and continues to improve.

Pete has issues during ‘5:15’, and the end of it practically falls apart. He mentions it’s because he tried a different guitar, as he’s always experimenting. He comments that sometimes you try something and “it flies” and goes really well, but other times it falls flat and nothing is enjoyable. So it was for this guitar choice; in trying to make it better, he chose a different type of guitar pickup, and it didn’t work the way he’d hoped. He’s not one to hide the issue; better to bring it out and explain, then move on. The honesty of this band is certainly one of the hallmarks. It’s not as “show-business” as with other groups.

Speaking of guitars, the acoustic numbers are really strong now and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ has some incredible rhythmic stuff happening; hearing old classic songs is great, but the excitement of a new moment that has all those qualities of greatness can bring a new kind of pleasure, the real experience of a truly live show.

At the end, during the thanks, Pete thanked Roger for having the idea of the orchestral tour. Pete said he always admired two main traits in people; “courage and audacity” – which he says Roger has over and over, in other words, “he’s a mad f***er!!” he explained!

Thanks to all Virginians and DC-based fans, this was a louder singalong crowd than we’ve had yet, and that really makes it fun. They knew the words to most everything and have set us up nicely for this next one . . . kind of a big deal show.


Tonight’s Set List

With Orchestra
It’s a Boy
Amazing Journey
Pinball Wizard
We’re Not Gonna Take It
Who Are You
Eminence Front
Imagine a Man
Join Together

Without Orchestra
The Seeker (tour debut)
Won’t Get Fooled Again (acoustic)
Behind Blue Eyes (with orchestra string section accompaniment)
Tea & Theatre (Roger and Pete only)

With Orchestra
The Real Me
I’m One
The Punk and the Godfather
The Rock
Love, Reign O’er Me
Baba O’Riley