Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Moving On! Tour: Tinley Park, Il, May 21, 2019

Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, Tinley Park, IL

We are outside of Chicago, a suburb called Tinley Park – which is about an hour to the south. Even during the show tonight, Pete was asking the crowd if they considered this area “Chicago” still? NO, was the answer of most, it’s far enough away.

Let’s call this show The Crew Crusher.

Today is COLD. Not brutally so, but enough that it affects your work, your speed, your freedom. It’s a factor, and our long day begins that way, just dealing with another outdoor shed and this weather. We can see the lawn area above has large sections of pure mud; no grass left at all. Workers are covering the mud with straw, hoping to give a usable area to those who bought the $20 tickets to this section. However, the Windy City got its name for a reason, and soon we get added winds, which last on/off through the rest of the night. The wind/chill factor, they call it . . .

We did our normal stuff, all day and night, but at some points it was taking its toll. Even our rolls of gaffer tape were more difficult to peel and stick, as the roll was so stiffened. The orchestra was local (and maybe even Cubs fans) so they handled it well and dressed warmly but even they are not happy about it – it really does affect instruments and fingers alike.

The band comes in for their own soundcheck and immediately feel it too. Pete admitted a pretty strong sore throat, so he’s trying to take it easy, but is in good spirits despite the trouble. Roger, too, is affected by the cold, and after a brief run-through he leaves for the warm inside situation, saving the real energy for the show tonight. The orchestra returns for a run-through with the band, and our VIP ticket holders come in for their own part of the prep. Without Roger, conductor Keith Levenson makes up by leading everyone through the Tommy ‘Overture’ and ‘The Rock’ – significant large chucks of the show tonight. Pete added in a few hilarious jokes to boost the spirits of the attendees in the audience: I will not repeat them here; for paying customers only! We can see the cold is affecting his playing already – hard to get those fingers loose. The rest of the band joke about changing their names, from Billy to Chilly Nicholls, and Loren Gold to Loren Cold. Today this is just the topic at hand; cold and wind.

The front edge of the stage was catching all the breezes swirling through the area, and I’m told by some of our guys out-front among the more-exposed audience area that it was “brutally rough” there at times.

Certainly, it’s not the coldest we’ve ever had, but these days are much longer than normal tour days, and the drain of energy during any cold is dramatic over time. Luckily, a big audience and some lights helped the matter a little.

Pete told them all about Roger’s new album, from the orchestral tour of Tommy last year, and how good it was etc. but cautioned “But I’m not on it!” “I couldn’t afford you!” joked Roger . . . The live Tommy Orchestral album comes out in June. Speaking of albums, Pete mentioned brother Simon T has written a great new song, and he’s pleased to announce it will be a part of the coming Who album. Congrats to Simon, who has already written quite a few fine songs on his own albums!

‘Who Are You’ featured a cool experimental solo tonight. Despite the cold hands, it seemed a new way to go, more exploratory than usual. And ‘Eminence Front’, just after, caused quite a roar from the crowd when the track started. The version that followed is one of the best surprises of this tour, a very cool and powerful each night. Tonight, Pete stopped singing the verses, instead playing more guitar solos. It’s different and it worked, no doubt also saving his sore throat for later singing. Any guitar work is welcome, I’m sure no one minded.

Pete has always been complimentary to the orchestra each night. He is well-aware of the differences between classical music training and self-schooled rock musicians; generally the well-trained musicians start at a rather young age and spend many more hours studying their craft. What might be considered an excellent musician in rock is maybe mid-level in the classical world, as their standard is so high. I’m sure his compliments have several layers; it shows a rock and roll audience the caliber of the backup players here tonight. It also gives the orchestra credit for backing up what some of them MAY consider more simple music, with different values. We know they are some orchestral members who are already big Who fans – yet some are not. I’ve seen a few bemused by the antics onstage, flying microphones and guitar moves that they did not expect – this is surprisingly new to them and totally different to the way they’ve been taught to perform.

At one point, Roger went from his onstage outfit to putting on a filled down-type winter coat. Even with their stage moves and the warm(er) crowd, it didn’t warm anybody up, except maybe Zak. Roger said “How can you people live here – it’s freezing, and it’s nearly June!?” Pete laughed at the situation and said it seemed like Roger was blaming them for the weather – not so. But then Pete joked that the blame was to go instead to Live Nation; “the dirty, filthy, thieving, bastards! They can’t even get the weather right!” To their credit – I’m told the promoters gave the exposed wet-lawn seat people an option to upgrade to any open seats in the covered area for $10 – very fair.

I don’t know that the audience knows about Live Nation, our tour promoter, despite the company being around for decades now. Even some legendary successful promoters of the past (Bill Graham Productions or GoldenVoice) may not be common names to the public. The promoter of the tour is a necessary structure and finance group that put on the tour. They chose the dates and venue, payments to the band and ticket prices, sometimes even merchandise or the food at the venue and parking; it all depends. They pay for the advertising and publicity. And today we are at Live Nation’s own property, so they are the brunt of the joke.

That Live Nation money is paying for all the nice hotel rooms and flights – and take-home money when it’s over, etc. etc. The audience pays what they will, buy a few trinkets or shirts, get some drinks and food – everyone wins and goes away happy.

Our own touring cellist, Audrey Q Snyder, is happily on-board and doing well with us, as part of the extended road family. Pete announced that she’s actually from the North Chicago area and this gets a great round of applause from the proud locals. She’s sharing the focus with violinist/concertmaster (leader of the orchestral musicians) Katie Jacoby. Everyone on our tour pulls their weight, usually doing whatever needs doing – but to rationalize carrying our own orchestral musicians along, we also have these two handling all the sheet music each day, arranging and preparing a folder for each chair in the orchestra – the scores are divided in two halves of the show, and in proper sequence. They are officially tour “librarians” therefore – but as Pete said one night “Do they LOOK like librarians?” No . . . much cooler.

During the acoustic duo on ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, the simple “do ya?” turned into a set of these, a back and forth between Rog and Pete – one of those pleasant ‘never before’ moments we get now and then. And finally, ‘5:15’ was back in fine form, the first time it has really taken flight since Madison Square Garden. There are some cool experimental guitar sounds, like a train or whale, new additions to the classic Who guitar effects over the years. Luckily, it was the song I chose to film onstage tonight, so you can see a version of it here. (Note: the microphone picks up only the sound at that point on the stage, which can be quite unusual. I have some ideas to use this to our advantage very soon, though!)

‘Drowned’ was a Pete acoustic solo again tonight, despite the throat problems, and he did very well. This had a nice unexpected guitar intro – just some messing around that always sounds good and adds newness to the already-full setlist. In the old days, the way they used to evolve ‘My Generation’ beyond a three-minute pop single was one of the things that made this band legendary. The more you hear Who concerts, the more you’ll see certain pieces evolve – those moments are as gold as the big famous hits, to an attentive listener – you may be hearing something super-special that may only occur once. They don’t plan these things, they just happen, and a good moment is remembered – but different – on the next night. I’m pleased to report that those who gave this tour a chance are quite pleased with their evening. It’s got enough of the old to be familiar and fun, and enough of the new to wake you up and make you pay close attention. Both are important this year – it also works the same way for the band and crew; newness and freshness keeps things alive, and the known good parts are still around, making us recall the good fun we’ve had over the decades.

The night ended, a struggle but with success. These days are tough enough already, but the constant cold and extra-long days were really a burden today. This Crew Crusher event will not be forgotten for some time – one of those days that just never seems to end, and each part of it is an uphill battle. Congrats to our fine team of behind-the-scenes workers – it is said that we don’t complain too much: True, we just complain enough!

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
The Kids Are Alright
The Seeker
Won’t Get Fooled Again (acoustic)
Behind Blue Eyes (with orchestra string section accompaniment)
Tea & Theatre (Roger & 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