Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Moving On! Tour: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN, September 6, 2019

Coming together . . .

Minneapolis/St. Paul, the twin cities. St. Paul may be the more beautiful side, from what we’ve seen – although the legendary threads of Minneapolis are known worldwide. No question, there is an awareness due to Prince, but there’s always been an intense music scene here, regardless of where borders are supposedly drawn.

We’re feeling good after our first two shows, and recall of “what to do” has really come back to most everyone. Even the last show – the one with the VERY long soundcheck – had reminded us it can wear everyone out to do too much before the show. It’s not a performance, and everyone is fully aware to save their energy for the real deal. The audience for a soundcheck should expect a working mode, which is different to a show mode.

Another sports arena here – they’re all quite similar, with some changes. Blue seats become yellow seats, or in this case, a much higher roof. That changes the sound, and usually a high ceiling can be good for sound; it’s ideal in many recording studios. Whatever reason, it sounds pretty good here – but not that different.

Our soundcheck rewards the VIPs with some work – five minutes of working on kick drum sounds! And more, such as Roger deciding the room echoes a lot and to reduce the reverb added to his voice at the mixer, at first (tricky, because the sound changes when a big crowd fills the place and “soaks up” some of the echo.)

Tonight, our opening band is quite intense; Reignwolf – a very rocking trio – are back again. We’d had them open for us last tour. It’s a noisy and wild group – with smoke and fuzz sounds and feedback. Pretty heavy. I mention it because it’s the first thing said onstage when The Who come on. “Hey!” yells Mr. Townshend, “After the anarchy of Reignwolf, you are in for precise discipline!” (Roger falls over laughing at the prospect!!!) Then “no guitars being smashed.” and the audience boos loudly. “Well, I could open an auction??” Pete teases the crowd. On with the action. This crowd is the loudest yet, maybe aided by the echoes in the room. Yet Roger signals again to add a bit more reverb back in – sound adjustments happen all the time, even from song to song, so what the band is hearing works best for them. It’s always easier and easier, but it’s never done.

‘Amazing Journey’/’Sparks’ are really strong today, as is ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’. During that song, Roger sings “Hey you smokin’ mother nature . . .” and I saw dozens of fans raise their arms in the air. Umm, be careful, he might really not love that! Maybe they meant “We smoked mother nature outside in the parking lot!” We hope so.

Tommy has great energy all the way though, and it continues throughout the show as it’s kinda cool here; it’s often warm during out shows (the old sweaty Who is still around in this way) but this cooler version feels nice for a change. (I do recall one of THE great modern Who shows was just after the filmed Hyde Park event, when we played a small gig in Paris, over 100 degrees Fahrenheit onstage, and it was amazing!) The end chords of Tommy are monstrous, and the audience responds in kind. Though the floor people have been standing the whole time, most of the sides are now joining in. I even see a beach ball fly into the air – just like and old-school 70s concert!

Pete notes it’s been three years since Prince has passed, and he said his hotel here then had a suite with Prince images in it. Guess what? Same suite this time – and he said the images seemed more peaceful now. Hard to think of this city without thinking of him, such an influence on the world. ‘Eminence Front’ has some nice noodling on the guitar at first, aided by long swimming echoes added, and the audience roars; they have no idea they’re about to hear one of the best live versions. As mentioned in the past, this is one of the coolest orchestral arrangements. Pete is roaring in parts of it, playing with the timing of the lines, and even giving up parts of the verse lyric in order to play some more cool guitar. It’s a great version tonight, one of our highlights, for sure.

Video courtesy of Who fan Shane LeRene

‘Imagine a Man’ is introduced as well, saying that The Who By Numbers album was under-appreciated at the time likely because people wanted another Live at Leeds or Quadrophenia. “I don’t know what it’s about (*says the composer of the piece!) but I love it . . .” Afterwards, he again brings up Reignwolf – he’s actually a fan, and chats with them about various things. One being guitars; Reignwolf had broken a guitar, and Pete said he’s “explained how to glue a neck back together . . .You use glue!” He also made mention of a local musician, “a friend of a friend of a friend” who was in attendance. Pete said they’d not met, but he wanted to give him a shout-out; Ed Ackerson, mentioned by name. Ed is a local musician who was in the band Polara long ago, and oddly enough – I’ve just met him at Abbey Road studios three weeks ago and we’d been emailing recently. This simple announcement was a big shock to me – and Ed and his family in their seats! Small world – and a nice surprise for many in town, I’m sure.

A funny moment comes after ‘Substitute’ – Pete asks Roger “How many times have we played that?” “Two-thousand, one hundred and sixty nine times” Roger quips. Pete indicates it’s well over 1,000 times, for sure, and he’s realized his mind can take off while they’re playing it – as it’s so familiar now.

‘Behind Blue Eyes’ – a new thing! Small, but guitar nerds will enjoy: Pete has a new thing, and old Epiphone electric guitar. It’s a 1960s Epiphone Coronet in cherry finish. Pete had requested a different guitar neck shape to help him articulate the chords, and his technician Simon Law brought it down for him. Tested at soundcheck, it works and it will stay. Sounds good, too. Our old mate Alan Rogan was Mr. Epiphone (he collected them specifically) and this would have put him in heaven – but he’s already there. Hey, Al!

Going into the new song, Pete mentions it has several names, so far. “Ball and Chain!” Roger insists – which is a good name, yes. Pete explains he played on an Elton John record called ‘Ball and Chain’ which had “56 takes, 48 grams of cocaine” were used, and he didn’t make ONE mistake the whole time. Believable.

The show ends well, and smiles are all around. Somehow, it was just smoother and more in-the-pocket than the last two. So we’re headed for a good tour leg, for sure. I didn’t have the great photographer William Snyder along for this show, though, so you’ll be seeing more of my own pics here and there instead. With photos – as well as this blog – I’ll try to avoid showing/saying the same things over and over. The setlist may not change so much because of our orchestra, so I’ll force myself to be creative and find new things to talk about each time, Hang in with us, we’ll keep you on the line for the next 6 weeks to come!


Video courtesy of Who fan Shane LeRene

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
The Seeker
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