Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Tour Rehearsal 2: London, England, March 21-24, 2017

“Do you think it’s alright . . . ”

“We’ve moved. Last week, small hole – this week, huge cavernous immense space!

We’re on an undisclosed lot in a massive warehouse room; space enough to set up everything as-needed, and to prepare more video and sound cues for the coming Tommy show.

Some of the eagle-eyed may have noticed the word acoustic drop from the banners and adverts to do with this weeks TCT Benefit shows. All the way through practicing and rehearsal, Pete and Roger had worked on acoustic versions of the legendary song set. However, as the week moved forward, they kept finding ways in which the stripped version was not enough or somehow inadequate.

As we’d mentioned before, various things were tried for each song, even restructuring the order of the tracks to be played. Different singers tested for each song, or sometimes verse-by-verse. And over time, the acoustic side kept losing out. There is indeed less busy-ness overall, and it sounds a lot more like 1969 than it does the 1975, 1989 or Broadway Tommy editions. It’s not full of guest-singers, synthesizers, or tons of percussion and horns. It’s mainly electric and acoustic guitars, The Who singing, and some powerful drums and bass (both more reminiscent of their forebears than not . . .)

In other words – if you can get in – you’ll enjoy it. It’s a new version of an old piece that has long stood the test of time. You will recognise it and yet have some surprises. And they are quite excited to be playing it again. Rehearsals have been fun and have kept the entire crew tapping and singing along. (there’s been a film crew in, too, and they are shooting at the show: Let’s see where that ends up eventually!)


Alan Rogan is Pete’s longtime guitar tech. He’s been ordered not to lift heavy things (including guitar) so he’s brought in Anna, who has worked with us in the UK before. Anna is ace guitar tech for Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, who happens to be a big Pete Townshend fan himself! So she’s working with us for these shows, a rather attractive blonde will be bringing Pete his guitars for a bit. Poor geezer.

As far as I can tell, this is the first time The Real Who has played Tommy in about 28 years!? Also, I believe this is Zak’s first time playing Tommy live? He’s on fire, really adding some spirited things in to drive the show. PLUS he has a new record out as SSHH – which will be featured on sale to support the TCT!

Yes, for those not fortunate enough to ride the roller coaster that a Who rehearsal can be, it varies from quiet functional versions of the music, to full-bore loud energized playing. Pete does windmills and moves about just like any normal show – that’s when we know it’s
good. It’s good, already.

The sound effect of the mirror smash (from the original album) are not quite cool enough for today. They will be used, with some additional trickery (also from Who history) to make it even cooler; if you’re there to hear, you may spot it…?

Also for trainspotters: We’ve come up with a new thing. The Who have often done great cover versions, such as Young Man Blues and Eyesight to the Blind. We’ve made up a playlist of these to run between support acts and our set. If you’re in a Who crowd in 2017, listen for it – you may hear some raw early versions of songs that became Who tracks . . .

COOL THING: Shure Microphones and The Who go waaaaaay back together. Their classic SM58 is the perpetually great vocal microphone. Built like a tank, and sounds excellent –any Who vocal you’ve heard onstage has come through one! In honour of the 50th Anniversary of this great microphone, they’ve done a VERY limited-edition run of microphones. The first was a set for Paul McCartney, with just ten signed. These ran on auction this last week.

The Who’s very own art director, Richard Evans created an amazing color graphic for The Who edition. Roger and Pete both signed ten of these for auction, which will benefit Teenage Cancer efforts. The specially signed microphones go up on eBay April 6th! (Make a note on your calendar!) I believe the rest of The Who microphones will go on sale around the same time – watch for them as there were relatively few made! (We are told the McCartney camp were asking about getting Who microphones, as they are so brilliant-looking!) Go Shure!

Tommy can we hear you? . . . We’ll see him tomorrow!


PS – look for a photo online of Rush’s Geddy Lee playing John Entwistle’s favourite old Fender bass (called Frankenstein as it was made from parts of many other basses.) It’s the main bass used for Tommy, Live at Leeds, Woodstock, Who’s Next – and more. Geddy’s a huge fan of The Ox, and he had a chance to visit the bass and play it –a monstrously good sound!

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