Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Teenage Cancer Trust shows 2024: Rehearsals 15,16,17 March

“It’s deja-vu all over again . . .” a now-famous quote from the American baseball coach Yogi Berra. Very apropos for this situation.

This week, the big Who family is back in action, at least for a little while. Only two shows to do, but a few rehearsals before. This is how we start. So we have the better part of a week in London for us. It’s so nice to see everyone again! We truly are a family, and a funny one at that. Laugh all day, most days. As before, we all meet and catch up. It seems both a short time and a long time since the Sandringham Estate show where we last ended. That’s about half a year back – not so long – but really that is, in our world.

Once again, we’re in a big huge space, another empty production stage, suitable for filming, rehearsing, staging, etc. Not a very attractive environment, but The Who have always been more about the nuts and bolts, just getting it done, substance over style.

On the first of four days here, we are pulling out the old gear, stored away in most cases, although a few of the musicians (even Pete) have done other shows in-between. We’re all trying to remember, “How did I hook this up?” when it used to be a normal thing, a rote daily ritual back when we were on-tour. Now it seems like a weird memory. Luckily, most things work, almost nothing needs a repair. There are a few issues, but nothing major, so it feels good. The crew have done their job building a Who stage on this soundstage. Time to rest and get ready for tomorrow with the band.

From here, we have two days with just the band, no orchestra. Most things are smooth sailing to rehearse, as smooth as a group can do having been many months away. It’s familiar and functional, but not amazing . . . yet. Still, there is always a spark when The Who in any form have played, so it’s exciting to hear it be real again, at least. ‘My Generation’ is an interesting one – it’s something they were running through before Roger came in one day, and nearly half an hour was spent on it. Pete was the issue, letting us know that he’s done a different live version almost all his life – nearly 60 years – so it’s very hard to change it to the earlier version that was done on the single. It seems he’s not the only one, or the confusion is a little more widespread. It’s not simple with all the transitions. Pete told us he originally recorded it with a capo, snapping the capo off the guitar neck when he came to the next key change.

I like this newly-arranged setlist that someone has put together for these two special Teenage Cancer Trust shows. [It was Billy, apparently. Ed].  Not a bunch of obscure songs, but a real change-up of the previous one that seemed to go on the same sequence for years. It will be fresh, a nice change, and good to see and hear how this lineup of classic Who tunes feels, especially in the smaller venue (the Royal Albert Hall). The tickets sold out immediately, of course. Who wouldn’t want to see this!

Once these two band rehearsals are done, then we get the orchestra in alone for one day, just to work out their parts. They don’t need it much –these are mainly the same Heart Of England group we’d taken on our last jaunts around the UK, seasoned professionals.

After this – well, “who knows” – but not the Who knows. I’ll discuss it after the second show, tell you a bit more about the future. It’s on all our minds here, as well, as we all “feel out” the situation and what it bodes for the future – or not!

PS – I sometimes start these blogs with a lyric from the band’s big catalogue. Today I was looking for something appropriate, and ran across ‘The Dirty Jobs’: “I am the man who looks after the pigs”!! Hmm . . .