Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, CA, October 6, 2016

Back in action!


We’re all in California, a week+ certainly based around the coming shows for Desert Trip. That two-weekend festival certainly is the reason for coming here, but first we have a show to do.

Santa Barbara Bowl is nestled in the hills above the Pacific Ocean (you can see a bit of it off in the distance) among hundreds of affluent homes. The audience tends to be older, wealthier, and less rowdy than the usual Who crowd. Still, most of us have worked here before, or seen shows here – almost always a positive experience!

Although the place is a fraction of the size of our usual arena shows, it’s a great-sized intimate bowl. The seats slope up almost immediately and continue rising to the very back; this gives performers a great view of thousands of faces, whereas a normal show has a flat floor that goes back forever.

Pete, Roger and the band have had a nice break, and this show lets us “warm up” (not really necessary, but helpful) before Desert Trip. Normally, a group is not allowed to book a show “in the vicinity” of another pre-existing show, but once a performance sells out, promoters don’t usually care as another show won’t affect their sales at all. So we’ve placed the show here, just pre-Desert.

As this is a “first” show (new tour leg in another country) we have to do set-up before the show. This is new sound gear, rented in the USA, new lighting rig and screens. So cable looms and adjustments take longer than the usual day-after-day tour loading. 3:00am was the start time for some, and everyone followed with early hours. Even the band came in early for soundcheck, partly as the show was an early one. Credit to Jim Mustapha, a lighting director, who had to adjust the lighting rig without being indoors – and in broad daylight. His “focus” puts the right lights on the right people later that night, and it’s tricky to aim it all right without being indoors or in the dark.

Pete and Roger came out with good energy, but the audience was calm and stable. “F*ing MORE . . . MORE!” Pete yelled to encourage their noise, which worked. Then the music started.

‘I Can’t Explain’ started the show, long a classic opening song, but we’d been doing ‘Who Are You’ for so long, it seems fresh again. Soon after, Pete mentioned this was not Coachella (site of the coming Desert Trip.) He said that it could be a bunch of old people playing favorites to show young people “how wonderful it used to be”. He mentioned the survivors of those days would be there, and joked the rest “took drugs and died!” Then dedicated the next piece to those who died. ‘Who Are You’.

During ‘You Better You Bet’ Roger took a tumble as he crossed Pete’s side of the stage, not seeing (and tripping) over a black microphone stand. He stayed down longer than needed, to bring out the humour in the situation, and then popped up to finish the song. Afterward, Pete asked what had happened, and then Roger pointed out the area and joked “Wot’s that doin’ there!?” Pete mentioned it was a rubber mat (used there to cover cables) that was intended to prevent you from tripping and falling. At least they have a sense of humour about things others might consider dangerous or unsettling.

‘5:15’ was welcome and well-received, but it went off the track a little, and the band really seamlessly restored it; a horrible “train-wreck” largely averted by the quick-thinking musicians. Lack of perfection, but it’s cool to see how well they can handle a curve thrown at them.


Pete started ‘The Acid Queen’ roughly, then apologized “’scuze me, ’cause I just knocked the sh*t out of the guitar!” and proceeded to start two more times before it came out alright. During the song, I noticed a piece of new Who gear we received today – clearly visible on the big screen. It’s subtle, so I don’t think anyone else would notice it, but I’ll save mentioning it until the manufacturer and the band announce what it really is – something cool with an historical context.

This show was – as always – a good one. I noticed a lot more mistakes than usual, but the expected high points that make it all worth it. This leads me to mention that The Who will likely be the sloppiest, wildest, most energized and least-controlled of all the groups at the coming Desert Trip. If you’re reading this, it’s likely you enjoy that sort of thing – plus some great songs, which ALL the bands will have. But this type of festival coming up is something the band excels at, although the other performers all have similar experience and legendary status to the audience.

These bands may have pyrotechnics, cool staging, surprise guests, all kinds of “wow” effects to win over the audience. We will only have our hologram army of Keith Moons and a giant flying John Entwistle drone robot that shoots flames from its eyes.

Or maybe just some intense performance, an honest chat with some humour (will anyone else even mention their ages?) and some unique-to-the-night improvisation that shows how damn good this band is on this tour.

Onward. . . .

Tonight’s Set list

I Can’t Explain
The Seeker
Who Are You
The Kids Are Alright
I Can See For Miles
My Generation
Behind Blue Eyes
Join Together
You Better You Bet
I’m One
The Rock
Love, Reign O’er Me
Eminence Front
Amazing Journey
The Acid Queen
Pinball Wizard
See Me, Feel Me
Baba O’Riley
Won’t Get Fooled Again



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