Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits 50! Tour: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, New Orleans, LA, April 25, 2015

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Technically, The Who are not “jazz” but have shown their roots in R&B music of the 1960s. We do often have enough unplanned notes to consider it Who-jazz during any given concert. As Michael Kaye of the road crew says, “The show is really ‘Who Ever Is On Tour Fest’! ” as they also have Elton John and Jimmy Buffet headlining, for example. Not jazz at all.


Usually, festivals are “no one’s best concert” as bands have no soundcheck, and never their own lights or PA system. The audience is a weird mix of your own faithful and whoever wanders in to see you play. Usually this results in a so-so performance and response. In this case, continuing the magic of this tour, it was a great show.

Not to say it was easy. This was a rough one. The crew loaded in most of the equipment late the night before, but were not allowed to make noise and were cut off long before completion due to curfews. All of which required an early morning return at dawn to complete the set up. We’d seen hard rain and wind the day before, so we moved our equipment back on the stage to leave room for other bands but covered everything in plastic to prevent coming rain damage. Only a few hours later, huge rains and wind darkened the sky, forcing one band to cancel mid-show. The extreme wind caused us to reinforce and rework the rain protection. The front of stage was fully soaked, with cables in an inch of standing water toward the front of the stage. Local hands swept water away as it was discussed whether to stop the shows or not; yet, as it was predicted, the rain would abate before The Who set, we were promised.

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2 storm (1)
2 storm (2)

Eventually it did stop, and when the band came out, it was dry enough to continue. While The Who normally refuse to play festival seating (unassigned seats) since the tragedy in Cincinnatti, a true festival has no other option. As a benefit though, the first-come basis means that those unable to afford the best seats at a normal venue can camp out and be front row. A nice egalitarian way to make sure the True Who Fans are down front. In this case, it makes for great feedback to Pete and Roger, as they see so many people singing along from the start. By ‘The Seeker’, second song in the set, it was clear that there was an army of Who fans at this JazzFest!

3 Show (1) 3 Show (2) 3 Show (3)

The show itself was rather uneventful, in a positive way. The set was shorted due to stage times (about an hour and 45 minutes, compared to two+ hours usually). After a few mis-starts, Pete realized he had a different setlist on his iPad that he’d been emailed vs. the paper list taped to the stage in front of him. After explaining the whole premise of the next song, which was NOT on the setlist, he consciously ventured into unplanned territory, playing and singing a verse and a half of ‘Pictures of Lily’ nearly all by ‘imself.


The show went fantastically well overall, with the band forgiving the onstage set-up sans soundcheck. The New Orleans audience is full of dancing people, more than usual, and the sides of the stage had installed bleachers, so each side was packed with a hundred or so guests also rocking out. Pete spent a large portion of the show playing back facing Zak, who’s been on a welcome return since his brief break last tour. Pete was struggling to keep up with the energized drummer – even at one point cautioning him to calm down so he could work together with him; the two were certainly pushing forward the whole show. Roger was in a great spirit from the get-go, laughing that he loves the fresh air of festivals. Tomorrow’s Jazz Fest headliner, Jimmy Buffet, watched the show from right alongside Pete’s amplifiers.


It was all worth it in the end, although I’ve not seen the crew more tired and worn in several years. Looking forward to normalcy in wonderful Austin.

PS: The night before The Who show, some of us went to see Government Mule playing the Saenger Theater on their 20th Anniversary Tour. Right before their mid-set intermission, The Mule, accompanied by The Soul Rebels, launched into a cover of ‘Eminence Front’ in honor of The Who, with a full octet of horns playing along. To the end of the long piece, the band left the stage, with leader Warren Haynes singing through a megaphone, while the horns played improvised counterpoint lines back and forth. They did the song just for that night, an incredible cover in honor of The Who’s performance upcoming.


[Backstage Blog editor comments: Brian, we’ve found a video of Government Mule with the Soul Rebels from this night at the Saenger Theater performing ‘Eminence Front’.  Enjoy!]

YouTube video courtesy of Relix

Tonight’s Set List

I Can’t Explain
The Seeker
Who Are You
Squeeze Box
I Can See For Miles
Pictures of Lily (Part)
My Generation
Magic Bus
Behind Blue Eyes
Join Together
You Better You Bet
I’m One
Love, Reign O’er Me
Eminence Front
Amazing Journey
Pinball Wizard
See Me, Feel Me
Baba O’Riley
Won’t Get Fooled Again




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