Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits Back! Tour: Backyard Concert: The Magic Returns, 29 October 2022

This is the Teen Cancer America benefit. We always do something when in this area, schedule permitting. It started years ago on a Daltrey solo tour, and has grown and grown. It’s a charity/benefit – so far from a “normal” concert or even audience. They are seeking donors, so the everything is oriented toward drawing in and involving people with money to contribute; after all, this is a GREAT cause.

Roger and Pete are incredibly proud of their work with this concept, raising money to make wings of hospitals that are not for young children – or really old people. The kind of cool space that a teen or young adult can be among their own, with musical instruments, video games, good books, etc. It’s a brilliant idea and has spawned dozens and dozens of such wards in North America and the UK.

We are hosted in Pacific Palisades, a coastal town just up the hills above Malibu and closer to the Pacific Ocean than Beverly Hills. So this is prime real estate and this is a private event on a huge property. Fitting, as we need to squeeze in 1,000 paid guests (I don’t know the admission price, but it’s thousands per person.) Plus the workers and artists, TCA representatives, etc.

There is endless good food – one of the ways to draw in the big donors. Things to see, and then the music will be coming when the sun goes down.

In the past, the crew has seen this show as a nightmare, logistically. It’s a very long day, nothing is normal, and the band usually want THE WHOLE STAGE SETUP brought along. Brought onto a tiny stage – tough on its own BUT with three other major acts! In the past we’ve had Foo Fighters, Pink, Robert Plant, etc. so it’s pretty serious. Smartly, they decided to make this night a special acoustic set for The Who, based around just Rog and Pete. Whew – we can send on 2/3 of our crew to Phoenix for a full day off, and some will remain here to make the show run; lights, sound, guitars. Still not easy, but a minimal show.

On the bill tonight, we start with Billy Idol. An old friend of The Who since Generation X emerged, and all the way through to today. He’s a lovely guy, always smiling and welcome. Guess what! ? He sings PERFECTLY – his voice has not aged one tiny bit. It’s unbelievable, because as everyone ages, so does the voice and it’s muscles. But Bill still has it – find some recent concerts and check it out. He was also smarter – and chose to do a duo acoustic set with Steve Stephens on guitar. They did the big hits, and a couple for fun – and everyone loved it. You’ll see the only photos I could get (even with my access pass, it was so crowded that any photos were limited tonight.)

Next up – John Fogerty. I know this must have been a Roger Daltrey choice: Rog has told me that Creedence Clearwater Revival were his favorite band at Woodstock. It’s that rhythmic, tough, rocking sound that Roger loves. John shows up looking good, plays his vintage ’60s Rickenbacker guitar, and plays all the songs you know. His band look cool, they look very circa ’69, so they fit right in.

Next up, and it’s a big one, Green Day! A big crowdpleaser, and certainly full of the energy you’d expect from them. They have a long set, almost 16 songs, and a full band – with three guitarists, bass, drums and keyboards. All of us were behind the stage – the only place we could watch – and were amazed by the drumming of Tre Cool; he’s FAR better than anyone realizes when mixed normally. We heard the “drums loud” version of the band when listening from behind – wow. Unexpectedly (and not on their setlist) they start to play . . .

Video courtesy of Green Day Brasil Play! 

‘A Quick One While He’s Away’!?! Wow. Normally I might not enjoy someone trying to pull this off, but they have the energy. I talked to them afterward and they said it was something they’d tried before on the side, and just sort of remembered it on acoustic guitar backstage before the show. Points for effort AND execution! A nice move. There is a LOT of gear – someone counted over 100 guitars and basses on the small stage tonight (only five of the from The Who); that’s a lot for something like this.

Next up . . . The Who.

If you’ve paid attention, we never play back-to-back shows. Most major acts don’t; it’s hardest on singers and dancers, but also on crews. In our case, it’s a luxury we can afford, to work every other day. Yet today is a short show, so not considered fully back-to-back maybe, but it’s a lot of unusual and unexpected work for everyone. The Who setlist is planned in advance and we have five songs, plus a surprise or two.

Roger and Pete are the core, but they’ve added Simon on guitar and vocals, plus Billy Nicholls and Loren Gold on backing vocals just to fill it out. Such a short set, but it’s got the usual chatter of both fun and serious nature tonight. Sadly, where we were standing, we couldn’t hear what was said, but it reached the audience, the reason to be there.

‘Pinball Wizard’ – AND they played it right! We haven’t had that happen quite yet on the tour. Interesting, maybe as it has less parts or is not tied to the click track that the orchestra follows? Who knows, we’ve tried it so many ways. ‘The Kids Are Alright’ – nice to hear some more ’60s songs back in the set. People love those pop singles. And it sounds great this way. ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ – our good friends of the string section were with us but not playing – again, more simple and we are SO grateful. The crowd knows this one well. ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ – in the reduced form, no keyboards, no backing tape, no drums solos – it’s very much like the version Pete and Rog played on the earlier leg of this tour. Sounds great that way, too.

Simon Townshend and Eddie Vedder and a quick rehearsal

Roger, Loren, Eddie, Simon and Billy rehearsing ‘The Seeker’ back at their hotel in Los Angeles 

Finally, ‘The Seeker’ – with special guest; Eddie Vedder. He has come down specifically for this, and rehearsed quickly backstage with Simon T for this moment. It’s a big cheer and wonderful way to close the show. Rocking even on acoustic guitars. Afterward, Ed is presented a special award for helping us so much with this charity; it’s not the first time he’s spent time and money helping out. He gave a nice speech (it seemed!) that was moving and heartfelt. It all wrapped up just after 11.00pm – missing the “must stop” curfew of 11.00pm. But the police probably know what this event is, the caliber of people attending, and an acoustic performance is not THAT loud. (Other neighbors were having parties, too.)

Eddie with Simon Davies of Teen Cancer America

Meanwhile auctions happened all night. Signed sports jerseys, dinner with Hans Zimmer, Who memorabilia and such. Many signed guitars. You’ll see some of this in the photos and also our guest Eddie Vedder with Simon Davies, head of Teen Cancer America.

It’s a simple show, so not as much to report beyond the difference of the audience and performers. We started to load out – made more difficult by ALL the bands trying to get out the one driveway, just as all the vendors, security, guests, etc are all trying to exit. It’s mayhem, but not out of control, just busy. We finally end the long day (some of our crew spent 15 hours there) and head uphill to our bus.

Remember how I said we’d sent 2/3 of our crew to Phoenix for their day off? Well this is the remaining bus (of three that we use) to take the 12 of us onward to Phoenix for the morning load-in. It’s about six hours away, and we’re leaving close to 1.00am. We should be there in time to wash up and start working . . . another “back to back” show for some of us!

A few minutes down the freeway, the bus pulls over on the freeway. Something major is wrong. I get out with the driver and it’s just pouring coolant all over the ground, a major leak and we can’t find it. The driver limps the bus to the next offramp in LA and pulls into a parking lot. We shut off and try to figure out what to do at 1.00am: we MUST be in Phoenix in a few hours. There’s no time to get another bus, and even a tow truck won’t be around for a huge bus – and no one to fix it at this time!

These are the times when tour managers show their stuff. Ours is Roy Lamb, a veteran of things like the Floyd and Zeppelin and the Stones, Madonna and more. He starts to formulate a plan. We’ll stay here in the parking lot until just after dawn, then take several Ubers to the airport and get early flights out. If all goes well, we should be just a little bit later than we’d hoped.

A few hours of sleep is possible, but not much, and not what we expected. Now we head to the airport and get checked in, security, waiting, seating, flying – it all takes a few hours. We land and Uber over to the venue, just in time to see they are struggling, too! I’ll stop here with the sage – because this belongs on the next blog for Phoenix. So mark your places, hold that thought, and we’ll see you tomorrow with the Phoenix update (and more unbelievable nonsense!)




BILLY IDOL with Steve Stevens
White Wedding
Catch My Fall
Bitter Taste

No information so far on John’s setlist

American Idiot
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Welcome to Paradise
Rock and Roll All Nite
Brain Stew
When I Come Around
Wake Me Up When September Ends
A Quick One While He’s Away
Jesus of Suburbia
Good Riddance (The Time Of Your Life)

Pinball Wizard
Behind Blue Eyes
The Kids Are Alright
Won’t Get Fooled Again
The Seeker (with Eddie Vedder)