Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia: Rosemont Theater, Rosemont, IL, September 13, 2017

“Out on the street again, and I’m leaping along…”

All our nights are special – and this one notably so. Rosemont is just outside Chicago, and this theater was the site of our last TCA (Teen Cancer America) big benefit with Joe Walsh, Eddie Vedder, Rick Nielsen, and Joan Jett joining The Who band for a night of music. Much money was raised for a fine cause, and everyone seemed to love the musical event.

Classic Quadrophenia… I’m not sure what category we can put this in; It’s not symphony-rock, it’s not traditional classical, nor Broadway/West End theater. It has elements of all these, but doesn’t quite fit into those known categories. Serious music, yes, with a sense of humour sometimes – yes. It seems an appropriate way to treat the Quadrophenia album, with it’s light and shade moments.

Upon entrance to the wide auditorium, there was a specially-prepared merchandise table, as tonight’s big push is for the charity. Special “tonight only” shirts promoted the event and sold briskly. Huge cardboard stand-ups of the special Who Shure microphone were on display there, too. These microphones celebrate 50 years of the legendary Shure SM58 microphone – still the most-known and used voice microphone in the world. Along with The Who’s anniversary (their longest-lasting endorsement tie, as well) a specially-designed graphic was created to make a signature Who microphone. Our own Richard Evans, who helped design this website (and much more – google that name!) created the retro-yet-modern design. At $200, the microphones also were a big success – although I doubt most people thought they’d be spending that much on a single item, but when you see them in person, hold it and know it’s a real, solid metal microphone, it’s very tempting! (I, myself, bought my third one as a gift for a friend here!)

Artists had done custom paintings for the evening, and various posters were available, both signed and not; the backstage are was damn quiet (a nice change) yet was constantly filled with posters and things that needed signing for the charity event. See the options online, as you may also be in the running to win one, with a few simple details followed.

Tonight, the special guest is Eddie Vedder. No doubt, MANY of the fans here came out to support this local hero, and their shirts and voices showed Ed is their man. We don’t mind, as he brings so much help and attention to Roger and Pete’s TCT/TCA charity. Besides, he’s one of the kindest, most-honest and open people you will meet in rock. All of us look forward to seeing him, and new people along – like Alfie Boe – are just discovering what a sincere and supportive guy Ed is.

All singers did their bits as usual – there were various plans afoot to try different things – and it evolved into Ed joining in, or replacing, someone on these arranged pieces. It seemed to fit the scheme and mood to have only Quadrophenia music tonight. Ed, as you may know, is a huge fan of this particular album, and claims it helped him get through some very unpleasant stages in his life, a guiding light that said “it is ok to be who you are” in Pete’s lyrics.

And so it remains – songs like ‘Cut My Hair’ and ‘I’m One’ really hit home again and again each night. We’ve heard the words countless times, most Who fans have. But in a different context, you hear them in a new way. Ed emerged to sing ‘I’m One’ alongside Pete on Gibson guitar (yes, he has a case for it…) Still yet another contrast to Alfie, Billy and Pete’s voices. Ed’s is rough and yet smooth, certainly leaning more toward’s Roger’s emotional delivery that we’re used to. There is some nice video online of ‘I’m One’ that Rachel took tonight, “you’ll all see” that Ed’s version is quite nice.

The aptly-named Chicagoland Pops Orchestra was our symphonic team for the night, as conducted by Robert Ziegler. One big surprise, and also a good one; the choir tonight was quite young. Generally in the 15-year-old range, they are called the Chicago Children’s Choir. They – and their conductor – treated us to some amazing dinnertime moments, as they were just down the hall practicing. I have a little video (above) of the closing moments of ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ rehearsal so you can hear the brilliant layers that are not easily heard during a full orchestral version. Not really children, these young adults brought a massive group of smiles and rhythmic rocking-out onstage during the show. Plus – their singing is stunning.

At the end, a rough-but-fun version of ‘The Real Me’ functioned as our encore, with each singer taking a verse and Alfie (knowing the parts best) guided them all through it. There is also video of this one out there – with the audience singing right along loudly with Alfie’s verse and choruses, and the four guys dancing and having fun all across the stage. It’s very loose and sloppy – it’s these parts of these shows that keeps it from being too serious for a rock audience. The orchestral work is GORGEOUS, and yet we all love that it’s enjoyable and full of smiles each night.

Thanks to the dogged persistence of Mary Beth Carlin, who, organized the event, we raised about a MILLION dollars tonight, to benefit teens in cancer treatment. Thank you all! Mary Beth has astounding skills to find each cent and option to earn the charities’ money; without her, this would not have happened.

Thanks again to William Snyder, who took most of the photos seen here.

Onward . . .  next to L.A., my hometown!

Tonight’s Set List

I Am the Sea
The Real Me
Cut My Hair
The Punk and the Godfather
I’m One
The Dirty Jobs
Helpless Dancer
Is It in My Head?
I’ve Had Enough
Sea and Sand
Bell Boy
Doctor Jimmy
The Rock
Love, Reign O’er Me


The Real Me