Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits Back! Tour: Dolby Live, Las Vegas, NV, 5 November 2022

Well, that was interesting. Last night’s show went fine – from the audience perspective, it was probably great fun. Even the onstage complaints about sound issues made it real – and different to most shows you might see from others.

And wonder of wonders, we’re doing another “back to back” tonight. Rare, and yet we’ve seen a few recently. But this is good for the crew, as we didn’t have to tear down/load out last night. We just switched off the gear and walked away . . . Conversely, we didn’t have to set up today – it was already here and tested with a full show! So we’ve essentially saved a day’s worth of work – and the crew are quite grateful.

A shame about last night’s sound problems. As I mentioned, the rear wall is curved, and a painted surface, almost shiny. It’s amazing they haven’t run into this problem constantly, as it’s a big flaw in the acoustic design of the space. In the audience, as I said, it sounds just great. But all they would need to do would be to put absorptive curtains on the rear wall, or some kind of diffusers (things to bounce the sound away from the stage. This is why the Hollywood Bowl and the Royal Albert Hall have big “balls” around the stage, especially above. In this case, we’d need them on the back wall, but it would take far too long to do!

So – and interesting thing happens as a result. Pete comes in early and asks for a soundcheck; originally, since we’d had two+ hours onstage here last night, it wouldn’t be needed to check the sound at all. But Pete’s worried about that echo, and he has an idea. He gets the band to play, and singles out Zak to play him some bits, solo. When he plays the snare drum, Pete is actually hearing the echo LOUDER than the onstage sound. So it throws off his timing. Today, he works with our guys and the house engineer. Pete has the monitor engineer bring in the snare sound, as usual, then compares it to the wall echo. The wall echo is louder and brighter. Pete has him raise some things up in volume, but Pete also has a theory: He asks the monitor engineer, what frequencies are boosted and how much. He wants, at first, to MATCH what is coming back from the wall echo. Then he asks to raise the frequency/pitch of the echo the drummer uses. So the snare drum he hears onstage is brighter and more-present. THEN, there is the repeat, but it’s darker, so less prominent now; a nice psychoacoustic trick as it sounds like a normal delay/echo like one would in a racquetball court. Smart guy – solved the problem in a few minutes’ work. I’ve heard (and it makes sense) that MGM was pulling to get The Who to do a longer residency here. Currently it’s Aerosmith, another classic band that everyone knows. But the hope was to charm and dazzle the band, and entice them with good money and an easy stay (no loading in and out) for a few week’s entertainment here. But this sound problem didn’t leave us with a good feeling, but it IS fixable, and very easily. As far as Las Vegas goes – Pete said they always had a bad/weird feeling about it, especially since John passed away here. But recently, he feels, good energy is coming here, healthy things happening – and it IS getting nicer, cleaner, more upscale. Who knows?

The Wild Things band are back – or still here. They do another fine set and win over this crowd. I’m sure a few people will have heard of them, especially Who fans, but most coming here are just people “in Vegas” for a night out. It’s a good chance to grab a new audience when a band opens up for us – for anyone.

The show tonight is . . . the show: Same setlist as the last shows. No surprises at all. It was good, consistent. Sometimes the setlist changes, and there was one alternate song kicked around as an idea (as a “substitute”!) but then rejected. It’s just EASY to do the same set again, when you know it works and each piece flows beautifully into the next one; we know when it doesn’t work, but over the years these things have shaped themselves into forms that work. We won’t end a show with ‘Pinball Wizard’, as great as it is, because ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ are exceptional there. Or something acoustic like ‘Tea and Theatre’ as they did long ago. ‘Who Are You’ works better up-front, as does ‘I Can’t Explain’ (which we haven’t seen at all recently!) We begin with Tommy because it is SO familiar and a perfect introduction to the orchestra. ‘Overture’ from Tommy? Done, great! We’re rolling. If nothing else, Rog and Pete are pretty expert at something nobody discusses – the flow and shape of a setlist.

Video courtesy of Joe Hughes

The show ends with many verbal thanks – and especially nice that Pete and Roger extend gratitude towards the road crew tonight. Pete often mentions the orchestra have “a long day” but some of our riggers and production team probably do six to eight hours more than the orchestra each day – that’s a full shift more. No one usually sees them, it’s a cold and quiet morning when they come in, just around dawn, and a dark and quiet night when they leave and ALL the building people are gone but the cleaners; not even security guards are left. These people WORK and cannot be thanked enough.

Pete mentions specifically our tour/production manager: Roy Lamb. Of course, The Who are managed by Bill Curbishley and Robert Rosenberg, a great team. But how to get in/out, what curtains to rent, how many trucks? What hotels for which days/hours are needed, what passes are used to get access to the stars’ dressing rooms: Roy does all that and much more. Hundreds of details every single day. His day is the longest, first in and last out, and he’s always fair and reasonable. Literally one of the coolest guys I’ve met on the road. (Kind of a quiet legend; he’s not very self-promoting, but he’s done it all since 1970. Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin/Page/Plant, Madonna, Bryan Adams, etc etc. So when emergencies arrive – he’s seen it all and no big deal.)

Pete mentions Roy is winning an award this year – Lifetime Achievement Award from some industry group (I won’t mention as he’s really NOT wanting the attention. But we’re proud of him, many other legends in the business started with or under him, and have gone on to do well.) Congrats, Roy; he threatens retirement every single year – this time it’s post-Roger’s Rock Legends Cruise early next year?! Will it happen? He’s earned it.

Speaking of careers, we have three new people to our family. Marissa Kinally – just starting her life on the road in tour accounting, trained by our wizard Dave Fortune. And also you may have met Elliot Simon and Ali Cesare, who take care of our VIP Guests every single day. These three are younger than many of us by a decade or two, but have proven themselves to be as tough and flexible as any of us need to be. It’s not always easy here, but we LOVED having them along on our tour, they start as “outsiders” for only a few hours until we can make them laugh and loosen up to our Who way of doing things. Then it was game-on and they were part of our big family, now and forever. They made us smile and laugh every day. Our group is 36 people, all different attitudes, ages, looks, backgrounds – and we ALL get along. If only the world could be like this microcosm; it would be healthier! We look forward to their long success and getting invited to their own shows when I’m old and retired!

Sadly, just heard news that one of Roger’s oldest mates, Harry Alberts, has just passed away. Our condolences to his daughter Lindsay and his girlfriend Michelle, and all who knew him along the way. The Who world is a bit smaller without him . . .

Harry Alberts and his partner Michelle on The Who Hits Back! tour

And SO – is this the end of The Who? I remember wondering about that at the last shows when the Hollywood Bowl gigs finished the last leg, earlier in 2022. Nope. That was not The End. It might come someday, without a lot of fanfare. I wondered tonight – is it? But there is something coming soon; just a duo gig with Rog and Pete together – that’s The Who for sure, and 100% wishing I could see that!

Then more beyond – there is talk. Nothing concrete, but both Pete and Roger have expressed optimism for more – and that’s what counts. IF they will, we will, and you will. So why not? 2023 is not far away, and there are offers on the table; but there always are. Money to be made, for sure, but also experiences – audiences around the world, exciting locales, hotels, food, travel – and great music.

Video courtesy of Joe Hughes 

Will there be an orchestra? Almost certainly. Roger and Pete have found THIS is the new injection they needed to keep excited. Most artists don’t have the ego you might think; they don’t want it ALL to be about them – they love to include other talents that (in Zak’s words) “kick them in the ass” nightly. Yeah, we all love 1970 Live At Leeds Who – wasn’t it great? But anyone who’s seen them in the years before or after knows there is a LOT more to enjoy, and that crazy band of 1969/72/77 is no longer here, but the songs, the voice, the guitar – still here – and pretty f’***ing great! And now with power chords and stunning strings from the orchestra to push them – they like it. If it gets them happy, makes them want to do ‘Who Are You’ one more time – let’s do it.

The fabulous Emily Marshall on keys!

Speaking of, we have been working with Katie and Audrey as our traveling strings, plus badass player/conductor Emily Marshall on keys! And every day, they make us laugh and smile, and we have such respect – they are certainly the three best musicians in the band now, they can play far beyond what normal rock musicians can do. They only get to play “their stuff” a little bit each night, but that’s the format – all our people can do other stuff, but we’re here to serve a Who show. I can’t imagine touring without them now, they have become ingrained in our world, too. I shouldn’t even have to point it out (here I go) but their female energy is welcome and balancing; the old-boys ways that used to be rock tours are gone and it’s better now. Yin/yang, day/night, soft/loud, male/female – these are the balances that make things healthy. It’s really been good, and who expected this years ago. (Chyna Gordon on vocals in ’89 and the great percussionist Jody Linscott [’89 and ’96/97] brought some of that good energy before to Who stages. Jody is still along on our solo gigs and wherever we can get her.) We can’t forget new addition Randy Landau on double bass each night, welcomed since Day One specifically by Pete, who always is empathetic to new people (some who might be a little intimidated) and also Pete has HUGE respect for the talent and dedication of orchestral musicians.

So now – we wish for what we call Roger’s Luck (BE LUCKY!) as we move forward. Take care of yourselves, so you can come see whatever Who there is coming next. Who’s Next – good idea!



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