Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Roger Daltrey: Rock Legends Cruise VII, February 14, 16 & 17, 2019

Independence Of The Seas, Miami, Florida

Hello all – it’s been a while. Only a few months, but it seems a long time, doesn’t it?

We’re back to it, the reunion of the crew and band family, everyone more than familiar with each other through many years of work together. It always feels VERY good to see each other and fall back into our common territory. Each one knows what to do, and we’re pretty good at doing things quickly and efficiently. I’m always amazed by how much system and equipment our audio guys can set up in just a few hours – when almost none of it is prepared, as we’re not yet on-tour. These guy are real professionals, period.

This short run, the Rock Legends Cruise VII – is only three shows on the ship: two indoors and one outside. We are using mostly rental equipment; instruments, microphones, sound system – most of it is not our own stuff! And rental gear always has problems; we have guitars show up with one pickup not working, two of two hi-hat cymbal stands each have the same problem, things missing from the original request list and, due to circumstances, we have to make-do rather than just “get another sent out.” And so the local guitar shops get a visit as we patch and replace things, trying to make our own ship sail. We can do it, it’s just extra work, and then it’s fine and feels like the normal day at work.

The band arrives the first day after six hours of setup on our part. Everyone starts sort of quietly, as we’re still a bit unsure after the long break. Roger breaks the ice by mentioning a Caribbean/reggae version of ‘I Can See For Miles’ and the band, on command, drops right into that version. (Don’t worry, it was a joke, but a good one, and this band are really good at nailing any style on cue.) Still, they are unsure about every note to play in so many songs (easy things to remember when you’re on tour playing something dozens of times) or even which songs we will play: No one knows yet – and so part of this rehearsal is to design the shows’ setlists.

I count 46 songs we either played or discussed in the last two days. You’ve seen and heard most of them on Roger’s previous shows, although he did mention one Who song he’s never played live (though we did not learn it, yet!) It’s a grab-bag of many options. You’ll have to wait and see – as will we – because each setlist will be finalised on the night. Of course, many songs will always be in the set, as this cruise is going to be for a more general rock audience who will want to hear the big favourites. We know it, Roger knows it, and yet there will be some serious surprises. It helps keep everyone on their toes.

Without question, I must tell you Roger is sounding GREAT. Not good, but GREAT. All the crew and band were noticing – and we should be used to him by now. He’d done so well this last summer on the Tommy orchestral tour, and Pete told me he’d seen Roger on YouTube and was quite blown away at his singing voice! (Which of you has posted YouTube videos that Pete Townshend is now watching from home?!) It’s true – Rog has actually improved in recent years. He’s in good shape, physically, and loving “being anywhere” after his rough health scares a while back. He sounds stronger than almost any singer in Their Generation, and he’s said that he just wants the band, the crew, the audience To Have Fun, that’s all that matters.

Credit to the band for dealing with somewhat tricky gear and adapting to what we have to use. Credit to the crew for doing likewise in unusual hours. Yet, as a result we will have solid and entertaining shows this weekend – and maybe even get to see some of the other bands. Hope so!

Roger’s heading out for these shows, Pete and the others have been vlogging scenes from the studio in London. But many of you will mainly be wondering about the coming Who Orchestral tour: It’s being planned day-by-day already, with some things falling into place, and other completely unknown. I can tell you some things now; If you’ve already seen The Who one hundred times in your life, you will not have seen this show before. Imagine a NEW Who show, instead of one you might predict. Instrumentation and band members may change, lighting and video may change, stage setups may change. It’s not going to lose what the band always does well (those songs, that power) but there are quite a few changes and ideas happening that may surprise you. We are breaking out of the mould that has been present since about the year 2000. Staging will be different, the look and feel will be different than ever before. While you might think the orchestra is taking things to a complex and mighty sound (it will!) Roger also wants the show to have a “return to the start” smaller feeling, too. A challenge to do that, but they have been working to make it happen. We will see all of what we loved in the past, and probably some stunning moments of newness; many moments where you’ll say “I have never seen that before” at your many Who shows. Of course, this lends itself well to Tommy and Quadrophenia material, but how will it work with other bits? Some tantalising ideas are being thrown about, and I (for one) would gladly pay and sit in the back to hear even two or three of these unexpected ideas come to fruition. As you, I LOVE the classic Who stuff, it’s always great, but the new possibilities are both scary and fun; this is why Pete and Roger have agreed to tour again, to move beyond what we know is comfortable and safe into something that could be much more emotional and powerful.

Most significantly, we have a major show coming up at Wembley Stadium in north London. The facility there has changed over the years, but you might have seen this massive stadium in other bands’ big video events of recent years. Our own show will be similarly special – a real “one-off” event that we could not do elsewhere. Hopefully, many of you will find it a worthwhile event – and a great memorable summertime trip to the UK for outsiders. If you were EVER going to take a Who-cation holiday to see England, this would be your year (hint…) Come see the best of The Who’s London: Shepherds Bush, the Goldhawk Social Club, White City, the Ealing Club, Big Ben, scooter shops, rock and mod clothing stores in Carnaby Street and Camden Market. Maybe there will be one of the great fan-meet-ups at local pubs, something truly best-experienced in England. Try some real eel pie and look for a bell-boy on a 5:15 train down to Brighton, where you can see all those great Quad film locations; the pier, the beach, the shops. Back up to Ramport Studios, Shepperton Film Studios, the Royal Albert Hall, maybe a train trip up to Leeds University refectory? Then – go to an enormous stadium and see your favourite band on one of the greatest nights in their career. It will be huge.

Onward; see you on the sea!

DAY 1: 14 FEBRUARY 2019

Pinball Wizard
Who Are You
Another Tricky Day
I Can See for Miles
The Punk and the Godfather
Behind Blue Eyes
Giving It All Away
Squeeze Box
Days of Light
Join Together
The Real Me
Going Mobile
Without Your Love
Baba O’Riley
Young Man Blues

DAY 2: 16 FEBRUARY 2019

YouTube video courtesy of Greg Perry

DAY 3: 17 FEBRUARY 2019

Thanks to No Ya Biz for the YouTube video.