Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Roger Daltrey: Rock Legends Cruise VIII, 27 February-1 March 20120

Independance of the Seas ~Rock Legends Cruise VIII

As we did last year, the Roger Daltrey team convened to put together three shows headlining the Rock Legends Cruise. Our crew is the Who team, minus a few, and the band is current members of The Who band (Simon Townshend, Loren Gold, Jon Button, Katie Jacoby) plus previous members Frank Simes and Scott Devours.

Last year was a good experience – not always fun – but a great chance to show hundreds of people how good Rog and the band are live. These shows are like a rock festival – many bands across several stages, everyone playing a slightly shorter or different show. Much of the audience will not be core fans (yet) and so we want to win over those who don’t know all the songs.

Everyone is slightly more prepared this year, but I must admit (as this is the Backstage Blog) these shows are extremely hard on the crew. For one, almost all the equipment is hired-out/rented; so these are not our own amps, guitars, drums, etc. and (though most of them are fine) some truly need repair or work just to function as we expect. Also, since we normally set up across a two- or three-hour window – here we have about 30 minutes between bands, typically, and so it’s an insanely tight window to get the last band off and set up our own equipment in such a short interval. Luckily, our team is GREAT . . .

Literally – when I’m thinking of going on tour, I don’t think of the band or songs; I’m really thinking of who’s on the crew and what we will get to do together. Laughs, complaints, fun time – the Who crew are simply a team of great people – hardworking and talented. I know all bands say their crew is the best; we don’t ever claim that – but this group is THE crew you’d want to spend weeks on the road alongside, I’ll give us that.

We spent two days rehearsing: The first day is mainly intense setup by the crew, all new rental gear AND a first-time setup, there’s lots to do. But, after many rabbits are pulled from technical hats, it did come together. Then band came in and ran through many songs they knew, followed by a second set of songs on the second day – 34 songs in total!

New stuff: ‘She Rocked My World’ is rehearsed, from the new album, but it didn’t make the shows – maybe just a little too new and too mellow for this outing? ‘Ball and Chain’ will be worked on (sans orchestra!) and we love hearing Simon’s excellent ‘Break The News’ song live – stuck in our heads for days; it’s one of the gems on the new album. The weekend concept is to rotate songs around while playing the three cruise shows. To encourage return-customers and also to include some lesser-known tracks.

Rehearsal days are done, then we head to the boat – where people and equipment are being loaded. We have a show as soon as the boat starts moving. There’s not much room on or off stage, but it all comes together in time; our only indoor show of the run is in this Royal Theater tonight. The band and Roger are in fine form – not as tight and polished as a normal tour brings, but a truly good show. Roger’s friend Berndt Bodal is sitting in on bass just for ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ – the final song. We’re told Sebastian Bach (also on the cruise) was at the show and was ranting and raving to all his audience about how GREAT it was. We will take the compliment. One down – two to go!

The next day is an off day! Each band only does three shows, across the four days, so our single day-off is early and we do enjoy it. The crew and band wander the decks, eating and drinking now and then, but the situation makes it easy to pop in and out of any show that’s happening. This is a great way to see what’s good. I received rave reviews of Wet Willie, and heard the polished/perfected sounds of Don Felder (former of Eagles.) I saw old English hard-rock band UFO, and they were superb! Sebastian Bach was loud and more metal than most – and a sign of the overall entertainment edging slightly younger now, which makes sense. Nancy Wilson of Heart was second on the bill, with her band Roadcase Royale, a strong set of different players doing Heart songs, originals, and some cool covers. A group of the top L.A. Session musicians formed their own supergroup, called The Immediate Family. And the surprise of the cruise – a band called Larkin Poe.

Larkin Poe are two sisters, one sings and plays guitar, the other plays lap-steel slide guitar (standing up) and sings backup. They have a drummer and bassist to fill out the band, and their music and stage performances are incredible. We kept dragging people from the band, crew, and other bands to go see them – everyone thought the same thing. If you like rock music with a rootsy flavor, and a touch of the real blues, they might really surprise you. Even without the classic hit songs most of these bands had – they entertained us as much as anyone.

Day three was our next show, but normally, the boat spends the first half of the day in dock in Mexico. Shopping and drinking and food are on the plan – plus some sun and sandy beaches. But not today!! We’re warned the sea is too choppy and it’s unsafe to disembark today . . .Argh. It’s so tempting as you can see it just right over there – beckoning us off for the fun bits. But not to be . . .

Roger’s second show is today; up on the deck, the pool deck. You’re surrounded by windows on all sides, so it’s nice to feel some ocean atmosphere. And that helps to cut down the wind – a bit, but it’s still gusting strong, partly from the boat pushing ahead and also the natural wind itself. Similar to last year – when we had one deck show – we’re being pushed and shoved every which way by the gusts. The band come out and soldier on, despite the heavy blasts of air. The ship crew drop the overhead canopy several meters so that it forms a lower roof over the band. Helpful, but it does block the view to the big screen behind, which normally shows closeups of the players onstage. True to form, they play better than the first show – and this is how it goes on tour – everyone starts to reconnect to the parts and the newest setlist – and it gets more comfortable and powerful. Outside, we have room for more people, so these outdoor shows are considered the main stage of the cruise. Somehow, we make it through, just slightly over our allotted time – and no one seems to mind. It’s a strong setlist – lots of hits brought in to please a more general crowd… and they love it!

Show three is on the final day. Again it’s on the pool deck. But today it’s maybe twice as strong a wind. Seriously, we have incredible difficulty getting our gear to stay onstage! Tambourines start blowing across the stage on their own, like little noisy tumbleweeds! I even had to tape down cables that normally just lie flat – they were catching the wind and starting to fly out! Roger was in a good mood, though; he’s been brilliantly happy all week, and it continues today. His voice is as strong – or stronger – than the last tour. He loves being onstage, and tells the stories, sings the songs – everyone loves it. However, it’s a special day of days today! Roger’s birthday!! There were preparations made (he wasn’t hiding it, quite the opposite) as many in the audience held up signs and letters to proclaim their well-wishes on his big celebration day! Roger was, as usual, joking about being old.

Yet the real thrill came toward the end of the set, when Katie Jacoby came out, with Sebastian Bach holding a chocolate-frosted birthday cake! (No candles, they wouldn’t last a moment in this wind!) “Cakes and The Who are very dangerous . . .” Roger begins to caution, was never a good idea, always a wild outcome. Then Sebastian yells into his radio microphone “How many people want to sing Happy Birthday to Roger Daltrey!?!?” Then leads right into the famous birthday song. Roger grabs the cake out of Katie’s hands and proceeds to launch the cake right into Sebastian’s face! It’s a MESS; dripping all down his face and shirt, cake muck all over the stage – a real surprise. Roger mentioned it was good Moonie wasn’t still around “or we’d all have cake all over us!” Sebastian took it well – despite being 6’5, he could cause trouble – and said “If it was anyone else but Roger Daltrey it would be a different story!” I handed him a few towels, and he said he’d head back to shower and clean up while we finished the show. 

It was fairly hilarious, a classic old joke, but it worked. And being the gentleman, Roger found a way to reach Sebastian and his wife and invited them out to a special dinner that night! Evidently a big Daltrey fan, Sebastian Bach was in heaven. (So we MAY be seeing him on future TCT/TCA benefit shows, then!?)

All in all, it was . . . um, rough! That’s just the crew perspective, but I saw the bands all straining through that blasting wind. After such incredible stress, the shows we did came out fine – or great! So we’ll take that encouragement when it comes, and it’s all about the show; if the punters in the seats are having a great time, it IS a great time. However, give me an arena or theater anytime, give us our own gear, and the audience of real WHO fans – that’s when the real magic happens! We might even see you soon at a place like that?

Onward.

YouTube video courtesy of Karans999

SET LIST 27 FEBRUARY

Overture
Amazing Journey
Pinball Wizard
Another Tricky Day
Who Are You
The Seeker
Substitute
Join Together
Getting in Tune
Behind Blue Eyes
Giving It All Away
Squeeze Box
Break the News
Ball and Chain
Young Man Blues
Baba O’Riley
Won’t Get Fooled Again

SET LIST 29 FEBRUARY

Overture
Amazing Journey
Pinball Wizard
Another Tricky Day
The Real Me
Who Are You
The Seeker
Substitute
Join Together
Getting in Tune
Squeeze Box
You Better You Bet
Going Mobile
Tattoo
Ball and Chain
Young Man Blues
Baba O’Riley
Won’t Get Fooled Again

SET LIST 1 MARCH

Overture
Amazing Journey
Pinball Wizard
Who Are You
The Kids Are Alright
I Can See for Miles
Days of Light
The Seeker
Join Together
My Generation
Squeeze Box
Bargain
Going Mobile
Ball and Chain
Young Man Blues
Baba O’Riley
I Got Stripes / Folsom Prison Blues / There You Go / Train of Love / Ring of Fire
Without Your Love