Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Moving On! Tour: MSG, New York, NY, May 13, 2019 Part II

Madison Square Garden, NYC

Part Two:

Pete welcomes everyone to “the first of 35 shows . . .wait, the first of ONE show” – the change I’d mentioned in the last post; fewer shows happen now, so each one is more important than ever. This is THE crowd to see the Moving On! Tour in NYC, and it is a memorable night for all.

The crowd are still noisy and yelling, and Pete interrupts: “No shouting – it’s a f*ing OPERA!” (reminding us all of the attitude when the album first came out) and the people just love it. The show begins with the Tommy set. Though the crowd is in the palm of this band’s hand, but they’re certainly cautious about what is happening with the new situation. Tommy has long roots here – and it’s always a welcome set of tunes; as Pete says – it has had so many incarnations over the years.

The orchestra is good here; we don’t have specific “named” orchestras on this tour – they are contracted individuals, rather than a specific symphony organization hired. Still, in NY players are pretty damn good, and the Tommy section shows us this is a set of good players . . .

In the ending section of the ‘Overture’, there is a dual-guitar section, lifted directly from the record, and scored with some intense strings: During our rehearsals, Pete mentioned it’s odd to hear this tour (or the many Broadway production groups before) duplicate exactly something he improvized back in the studio. It’s just not his way – Roger leans more toward “doing the record” exactly, and Pete often wants things to change and evolve. (Pete even mentioned that he hadn’t listened to the original Tommy album in a long, long time; “You should,” said Simon “It’s really good!!”) Tonight, Simon leads the dueling-Townshend guitar moment, mainly as Pete backs off and allows him to stand out there. Pete remarked to the crowd later how good Simon is on that part (he’s had Roger’s tours to prepare and really goes after the rhythmic part with gusto of confident experience.) It’s cool to see the two brothers “go at it” anytime; they’re usually staying out of each other’s territories on purpose, but this and ‘The Rock’ guitar duels showcase their overlapping styles nicely.

Roger really has been delivering; we noticed it during his Tommy orchestral run in the summer, but these songs (done so long ago when he was young) are still right in his range, original keys and with full energy – astonishing singing.

The break to “hit songs” happens as ‘Who Are You’ enters, certainly one of THE pieces you’d always hear in this room; it was features at both the 9-11 and Hurricane Sandy events. It always stomps and swings, catchy and yet complex – one of the greatest of great Who tracks, especially tonight. The audience is now fully present and into the moment, they have been won over. ‘Eminence Front’, as usual, brings one of the freshest moments, and it seems SO appropriate tonight, the city that has so much jazz and urban music history – it is the most soulful of our current songs, and the groove is rivalled only by ‘Join Together’ a little while later.

Great to see Katie Jacoby, our touring violinist/concertmaster playing in front of her hometown. It’s always great to have friends and family see someone they love doing such a great event. Audrey Q Snider, our cellist, also had a group of fans/friends around, taking photos and pleased to see her doing so well. Their addition to ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ in the set is meaningful, just not an addition to the normal song, it really brings out some darker side of it, and leaves the ending hanging on a tantalizing edge.

This audience loves Quadrophenia; when it is announced, there is a strong roar. It is explained that the long six-night run here in 1996 was a rebirth of the band, doing an expanded sized-group for Quadrophenia (the version with the film clips and voiceover referencing the film.) Even those who don’t know the album respond to the better-known pieces.

‘I’m One’ struggles to start – it halts just after the guitar intro when Pete asks anyone for the opening lyric. Roger and nearly everyone in the audience yell out “Every year is the same . . .” but it’s a mess of noise and Pete is unclear on what they all said at first, then explains “I have never been very good at memorizing words . . . This is not old age.” Roger laughs and proclaims “He’s deafer than I AM!?” Pretty funny. People often ask me “how is their hearing?” after all the very public talk of tinnitus etc in past years. You know what? It’s ok. Not great, but it was really the silent member who could not hear at all – John E. who was basically lip-reading all the time, and playing at insane volumes. The Quiet One indeed!

During ‘The Punk and the Godfather’ it’s fun to hear the crowd yell the “OK!” at just the right spot. They know this music, that shared thing that unites an audience.

‘5:15’ catches fire tonight, although it struggled at nearly every show before; this time the band cuts loose and we finally get some great guitar improvization – really great moments. Loren Gold plays a beautiful solo piano into to ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, before Roger brings down the house with his powerful version – now a nightly event.

After ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, Pete introduces the band. As drummers tend not to be shy, Zak is wearing some custom outfit made of bright, cartoony children’s images, hard to describe but you can see it in the pics. Roger says it looks like Zak just got out of bed. Pete says something not repeatable here, but hilarious, and the crowd erupts with laughter.

After a strong ‘Baba O’Riley’, with the whole room flashing green, everyone is clapping and ecstatic it’s over, it’s done, it’s great. Then Roger stops and berates someone for smoking pot in the audience. (It was actually two different people, from what we found.) For years, this has happened, and it’s a never-ending problem – he tries to put up with it, but it doesn’t always work. We understand this is part of someone’s enjoyment for their expensive night-out, same as someone else wants a few beers to enjoy a show. But it really has an effect. We can tell onstage when it happens – the smell and the smoke is apparent – and there have been some people we’ve ejected for doing it, as smoking of any kind is still illegal in public places. Sadly, it brought down Roger’s evening, although Pete chimed in loudly that he thought Roger sounded great (he did), and the audience cheered along in agreement. This piece of the show got reported over and over in the media, so hopefully everyone has the message now – if you’re in the audience and see someone near you smoking pot, you have our permission to let them know – you don’t want your show stopped, tell them – Do It Outside!

Today’s photos are a mix of mine and William Snyder’s.

Onward . . .

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
I Can See for Miles (tour debut)
Won’t Get Fooled Again (acoustic, Roger and Pete only)
Behind Blue Eyes
Tea & Theatre (acoustic, 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