Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits Back! Tour: Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA, 1 November 2022

“Rock show, at the Hollywood Bowl . . . ” 

This venue was important enough to make the Paul McCartney song. It’s a legend, and for good reasons. It’s pretty massive – nearly 18,000 seats available, and we usually fill it to capacity on three shows, when permitted. But this time the schedule (theirs or ours, I’m not sure) won’t allow more than one night.

We’ve been here before many times, three stunning shows to end the last tour, with the orchestral set and all, so it’s a return to a familiar place and likely a familiar crowd.

We shall never forget the first-ever Who show without John Entwistle was here. A difficult night for Pino Palladino, thrown into the deep end with only two rehearsals. And even more difficult for Roger and Pete, such a huge change forever. The measure of a person is how they can never be replaced: I still think John is the most ORIGINAL bassist of all time. There are bass greats (Jaco, Larry Graham, John Paul Jones, Squire, McCartney) but not are as unique as John. (That was also my first day onstage with The Who, 20 years ago.)

We have some relief today, crew-wise: We’ve had a real day off (Hallowe’en) which some used for recovery and others for merriment. Today is a work day, but not too bad. We have the same orchestra that appeared in Anaheim, so we don’t need to rehearse them. And the PA is permanently-installed here at the Bowl, so our sound guys have a lot less work. They have a Union Local stagehands crew here, very experienced people in most cases, and they make our setup even easier than usual. We’re still outside here, and sun is coming and going between clouds. We’re told rain is on the way, but likely closer to midnight.

Video courtesy of Grunzy Channel

This is our last show with the Dirty Knobs opening – it’s been a good run with them. And this is THEIR hometown, so ought to be quite a few people coming to see them. Mike Campbell is doing soundcheck to an empty Bowl and breaks into playing and singing Boris The Spider – with an almost perfect vocal imitation of The Ox! Later on in their set – he does it again for the real crowd. Not the whole thing, just a bit – but people love it! Always nice to hear that one pop up.

The setting is wonderful, the Hollywood Hills, and a cool but sunny day with sparse clouds. The gentle arc as the seats flow upward, it makes every person visible to the stage. Looking up from the stage, it doesn’t appear that huge, but if you try to walk to the top (some of our band did!) then it’s quite a long run and you really can scale the enormity of this place from there. Because of the setting, there is no room echo or reverb, which has been a problem at some shows.

It’s nearly 18,000 seats, so probably the biggest venue we play (aside from outdoor festivals.) And there is pressure in such an industry town. We’ve seen many major musical and film/TV celebrities here tonight. Peers in some ways, but also people very experienced in music and performance; still they all seem pleased. It was nice that Beck came down with his brother and sister; his father is David Campbell who did the orchestrations for us.

Video courtesy of Grunzy Channel 

Our show starts off as usual, a bit of chill in the air, but not bad. The Tommy ‘Overture’ is strong, a very good sign. This is a powerful orchestra, and they’re the same people from Anaheim, so they’re even better today. Experience counts! Plus they are great players. Pete mentions that it’s easy to find great musicians of this sort in LA, he said maybe the best in the world (London, Moscow, and NY may be comparable of course). Possibly because they work so much, with the film business here. Let’s not forget, the beautiful shell-shaped stage here was designed as an acoustic space FOR orchestral music. It enhances what you hear, regardless of the PA System.

Speaking of, the house sound system is the only option here, so everyone uses it. That saves us hours of setup time, and even the shell over the stage has installed LED lights, so some of what we brought will be enhanced by their in-house lighting. It’s a beautiful look, always stunning to be here. Pete does admit onstage that he loves the place.

There is a strict policy about photos and filming here: too many people try to use this beautiful stage scene as the backdrop to a music video or concert film, and the Union regulations prevent that – unless someone wants to pay in the six-figure range to film as well as play. So I’m not allowed to shoot photos onstage here, even during rehearsals (our video crew has to get special wristbands so they can run our cameras that show on the big screens overhead.) Luckily, we have some useful shots from offstage and the audience perspective to see.

Kezlowe Button’s work of art up on the jumbotron screens

And today, our great friend and bassist Jon Button has brought his family along, his wife and son who have seen quite a few shows already. But his young son has done a cool cartoon rendering of Pete and Roger onstage, so our video people have broadcast it onto the big screens before the show; very impressive to see your original artwork appear on such huge screens, I bet!

Tommy – Jon Button’s bass solo rocks tonight, good when your family and friends are around! And we had ‘Pinball Wizard’ go RIGHT for the first time on the tour – a sign of the magic night we’re having.

Roger tells the crowd that they had a stagehand set off some smoke bombs the first time they ever played here – and he was arrested and taken away . . . Probably worth it, though!

Video courtesy of Grunzy Channel 

At ‘Eminence Front’, Pete puts sunglasses back on, even though it’s nighttime now. “I didn’t want you to see my pupils diluted” he jokes. But the joke turns around as people begin to yell and remind him “diluted” is not the word he wants. “It’s dilated” someone finally yells.

Roger mentions it’s “a perfect night” and then suggests that it’s perfect to do the next song here (under these stars overhead) “everything you smoke now is legal; it’s too easy.” And then the next song , Naked Eye.

Then it’s about time for the band-only set. “The orchestra are going to take a break” Pete confirms. “They have a long day, they start rehearsing, they run through the whole show. Then they go to the bar, get drunk and forget it all!” He looks around and around, seeing them all scrambling here and there, but still not gone? “They’re taking some f’***ing time, GET OFF THE STAGE!!” He yells. “They’ve got a lot of luggage, Pete” Roger suggests helpfully. “DON’T F**K WITH ME!!” Pete growls, in a sort of funny voice. A great moment that recalls the harsher-but-funny earlier days of The Who.

Video courtesy of Grunzy Channel 

During ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, Pete hits a series of what must be the best windmill strums he’s done on this tour. Just like the old days.

I think one of the things that makes a Who show so, well . . . interesting, is that they are so casual and informal about it all. They saunter onstage slowly, taking time and no big “showbiz” entrance. We will often have a dead-silent pause between songs, while no one talks or sings for nearly a minute or more. They really bring a very different approach, more casual and somehow personal. They have crew people and staff walking around and across the stage during a show, to drop off a guitar or a tea or cross the stage to check on something from the other side. And it happens so casually, no one running here and there in a rush. It’s a good approach. This band doesn’t care so much about looks or perfection; it’s all a factor, but they know the meat of the show is not flashy stuff but the substance of music and personality that they do have. You’ve seen the cover of the Who Are You LP, a perfect example. They are “warts and all” – allowing the behind-scenes to be visible and normal, because they know it’s still really good when you see behind the curtain . . .

Video courtesy of Grunzy Channel

Pete introduces the Quadrophenia set as his  “second successful rock opera.” Keep in mind what makes an opera different from a musical; in opera no words are spoken, all are sung. Revolutionary to do so in 1968 while he created Tommy (After ‘A Quick One’ which he calls a mini-opera.) Quadrophenia told a similar life-story of a different time and place. And it remains Pete’s favorite Who album.

This was definitely one of those rare magic nights; the band were extra-steady and strong, the orchestra better than our usual – a multitude of things just clicked. The stories between were longer and more spirited, the singing and guitar solos were far above average tonight. It could have gone sideways at any moment, but this is just one of those nights where things clicked, audience and band both spurring each other on. Speaking of the crowd – although LA is reputedly jaded and harder to please than most, this crowd were REALLY into it. Singing along and standing for much of it. That feedback that is often discussed between the band and audience; the circle feeds itself for better and better moments to happen. I wish we could release a show from here, sound and visual. But the Unions of orchestra musicians and stage hands mean we would have to pay in the six-figure range just to allow that. Not worth it, but a nice thought. (We do record every show for archival reasons, but not for release. You never know when something historical might happen . . .)

Video from up in Section D courtesy of Grunzy Channel and shot in HQ 4K Ultra HD

It’s unusual for me to use this word, but we can really see the greatness of The Who today. They brought those qualities which have always been present; the many world-class parts of a multi-faceted band. Roger’s voice and style of delivery, Pete’s humor and adventurous wild guitar work – it’s here in pretty pure form. Yes, we do see it each night, but tonight is the one that reinforces why they are still worth seeing. Not just a nostalgia for something they did long ago; they are doing it well NOW. They certainly did our finest show of this tour tonight. That was a challenge for this city and crowd, but even more of a win when it happens like this.

Coming next is Las Vegas, always and interesting experience, and different to all others. Here we go.

Onward! . . .


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