Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits Back! Tour: Ball Arena, Denver, CO, 17 October 2022

Denver – the Mile High City, and we are back.

Union Station, Denver

South Platte River and the REI store

We have many fond memories of shows here, partly framed by the memories of this beautiful city. It’s been fresh and clear here – we’ve usually had good weather, and this visit is no different. On our two days off (much needed!) we all explored the town, which is always growing. One example, I used to walk over to the old Union Station, a massive train station built when that was THE way to travel. Denver, being midway across the country, was a significant stop, and the building reflected that. Years ago, I used to peer in the windows and see the empty room, benches and walls mostly, and think about those olden days. Now, it’s completely remodelled, keeping the design and feel of an old building but added cafe’s, restaurants, etc and it’s a busy hub of the city. All around here are fine restaurants, bike shops, and a massive flagship REI store right next to a beautiful river that winds through town.

OK, got it? Now behave yourselves or you’re out!

Inside, this enormous, one of the taller venues we’ll play. The seats slope up steeply, but it makes this a pretty good venue for sight-lines TO the stage, as well as from our perspective back.

An interesting moment happened during rehearsal. We were running through the ‘Overture’ to Tommy. At one point it stopped, and Simon T related that he’d missed a count; much of the show at that point is driven by Simon’s powerful acoustic guitar work. Something Pete had played (which always varies) had led Simon to do something else. The brothers talked it out, and Pete said that he often follows Simon closely there “as we used to do, but when I was 23 and you were eight, following me . . .” Sounds cool, we can only imagine. Pete explains that he’s likely to back up and let Simon lead the section, as he always does, but that he would be improvising. Simon said that was no problem, we all just get distractions now and then, “like thinking of dinner or something.” Too true!

Roger’s mike

Tonight is a big houseful of people! An older crowd, I’d say, but not ‘My Generation’ old, more like ’70s and ’80s kids grown up and coming back again. We always have a mix, but it’s a bell curve – mostly in the middle, with a few old “originals” from the ’60s and a few teenagers or younger each night.

Based on a very familiar logo. Now what could it be?

Mike Campbell’s Dirty Knobs are the opener again, same deal – a crowd favorite. They rock, his Gibson Firebird guitar sounds amazing – and it’s a great beginning to a big night.

Rog and Pete have very casual dress tonight – they look like the cool guys down the block have come over for a BBQ or something. No attitude at all, but not trying to be something they aren’t.

“So – we finally found you!” is Pete’s opening salute. “Only 1,000 miles from f**king anything. But we’re so glad that we did, good to be here.”

From the start, Pete appears to be struggling, but not quite clear what the issue is – a guitar sound, the mix, something onstage. But throughout Tommy, he gets better and better and things relax completely. At ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ the crowd are gesturing in the air, just like the kids in the 1975 Tommy film. (As an aside, I once saw a lecture from director Ken Russell at the Director’s Guild in Hollywood about the film. It was, like Ken himself, the most INSANE interview I’ve ever seen: “How did you like working with Pete?” Ken; “Who’s Pete??” “Pete Townshend!” Ken, “Oh him, yeah I met him.” And things like “What happened to the little boy that played Tommy?” “Dead.” If ANYONE can find a copy of this interview, please share it and we’ll all be much happier! I’m still searching for it).

At the end of ‘Listening To You’ the music slows greatly – one good way to build up a peak. It’s more than usual tonight. Then Roger extends his “and you and you and you and you” to indicate almost everyone in the room, and then the final sustained chord crashes (directed by Pete) are extra powerful – it’s a big, big finish and the crowd are really awake and into the moment. Going rather well, tonight.

At the break before ‘Eminence Front’, Pete again takes a little time to noodle on the guitar. It’s brief but cool, and we wish there were more of this. Pete smiles and nods to start the backing track. And it’s a stormer, as he’s really working those guitars well tonight.

Pete always introduces ‘Ball and Chain’ as the only new song, and the making of the WHO album that came out before this tour. He mentions they haven’t continually made records like some “legacy bands. I I think that means ‘dead people’?” And says that AC/DC have done 318,000 albums! “That’s one a day – and they’re all f**king great! I taught that guy in the short trousers how to play the f’**king guitar!!”

A Loren-eye view of the audience

In the band set they play ‘The Real Me’ which, as I recall, is a cover of a song by Pearl Jam or WASP? Hmm, maybe! ‘The Seeker’ is next, and afterward Roger and Pete discuss the “new feel” it has been given. It doesn’t work with a swing, Pete insists. “Maybe we should do it again??” Everyone cheers, but they were joking, but such things have happened before! They also have a new feel for ‘Naked Eye’, and mention that it works well this way. Roger’s mention of Live At Leeds brings a big crowd response – they know what people like.

Orchestral bass – our new man, Randy Landau

. . . and electric bass, Jon Button

‘I’m One’ sounds beautiful tonight, with the soft piano chords, Simon Townshend doing volume swells like waves on his guitar, and Roger floating in and out on harmonica above it all. A nice moment and very different from the rest of the show. ‘5:15’ tries to catch fire, and doesn’t really, BUT there is an amazing moment where Pete hits some stinging high notes on the guitar. Simon Law, Pete’s guitar man, tells me “He’s blows Gilmour out of the water!” Agreed – Dave G is great, but like many, very predictably great. Pete is Unpredictable and growing as a musician right in front of our eyes and ears.

‘Love Reign O’er me’ – always such a stunner and massive highlight. And you KNOW it’s a challenge to sing – who else could pull this off as the next-to-last song in a long set, well over two hours!? I remember when it used to be in the middle of the set, not featured – or even not at all in the show for a while. Unthinkable now.

Zak Starkey and Jon B

Video courtesy of Joe Turner

Does anyone film the band intro’s before ‘Baba O’Riley’? If not, you should because it’s often hilarious as it was tonight. You can look online, but I doubt anyone filmed it – (Brian, yes, they did, see above!) – I keep reminding everyone, many of The Best Bits will happen between the songs!



With Orchestra
Amazing Journey
Pinball Wizard
We’re Not Gonna Take It
Who Are You
Eminence Front
Ball and Chain

Band Only
You Better You Bet
The Seeker
Naked Eye
Another Tricky Day
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Behind Blue Eyes

With Orchestra
The Real Me
I’m One
The Rock
Love, Reign O’er Me
Baba O’Riley