Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits Back! Tour: SAP Center at San Jose, San Jose, CA, 24 October 2022

It’s San Jose, and it’s been a while.

I remember Roger’s show here more than 10 years ago. And the last official Who gig was in 2006, on a day I was away in London, so I won’t recall it. But it’s been off-the-path for the recent tours, and tonight’s SAP Center audience may have a different perspective than some places we’ve played more often.

San Jose is roughly in the middle of California, just south of San Francisco Bay, in the heart of what’s called Silicon Valley. So there are quite a few people within driving distance. Yet it’s a Monday night and we don’t expect a large turnout (some of our crowd will be going to nearby Sacramento, as well.) The upper sections of this show will not be sold; it will fill up the rest of the room nicely instead of spreading everyone out.

Dirty Knobs opening again, seems like a good match-up every night. We’re getting along well with their guys.

And our rehearsal goes well, but one piece – the Tommy ‘Overture’ – gets stopped to discuss a possible change of tempo:

What is the tempo there, what should it be? Haven’t we done fine with this every night? Is it like the record or not? Do we want to be like the record version? Does it feel ok if we slow it down from what we’ve always done – and what else is affected?

This is how things go sometimes; there is no clear answer and so much to discuss. It’s even hard to communicate with people that are so spread out, although most people wear personal in-ear monitors to hear. It’s a challenge to change anything, so it’s a bold move to suggest one. People get used to “how things are” as correct, but a change may help. Yet with the momentum brought along by a large rock band PLUS a symphony orchestra, you’d have to commit to any notable changes.

“We definitely played San Jose before, but it was a f***ing long time ago!” Pete is aware. Tommy rolls forward and works well, this orchestra sounds good. At the end Pete relates that “That’s all the Tommy we can play tonight. Roger toured before and played the whole thing. The Tommy story was never that serious for me, but a lot of you got a lot out of it. But when you listen to the whole thing, the music really carries it . . .”

He explained further that they used to put it in the middle, with basic band stuff before and after it. But they played the Tommy set very seriously and completed it. So, he said, it feels weird to BEGIN with it and then it feels like they have to another beginning and end in the middle. Yet it IS such a strong opening, familiar and yet new, and it builds nicely and reminds is of all those great melodies to come.

He and Roger are talking about things like the weather and fires we knew from Portland, Seattle, Vancouver areas. The damage to Portland, in particular, hit close to home. Pete said they’d felt the issue before, long ago playing in Hull (a struggling fishing town in the UK.) He and Roger felt that the audience was so poor that they couldn’t take any money away. So they left without being paid. “It didn’t help any!” Roger chimes in – “It’s still a s***hole!” Perhaps, but what a nice gesture and memory.

‘Eminence Front’ – always popular as a radio and MTV live video, so many people love it. Pete says cryptically; “I have something to say about this next song. But I’m not gonna say it.” Hmm? Then he said “Because as soon as I sing it, you’ll all guess.” Aha – he’s referring to a rough voice. He doesn’t sound quite so ill, just rough and stuffy. This tour leg, there have been no signs of Covid around, but almost every one of us has had a mild cold that lasts a few days. All testing negative, luckily, but maybe Pete has what the rest of us have dealt with recently.

Video courtesy of Brian Miller Concerts 

The orchestra leaves, and Pete says that many may not have had much experience to go hear symphonic music in-person aside from this: He encouraged trying it and seeing what may happen. ‘You Better You Bet’ goes really well; this seems like that age group everywhere. Radio hits that everyone in the nation heard, just pre-MTV.

“Mondays are always tricky!” Roger jokes about the smaller turnout tonight. Nobody minds and it’s actually quite intimate and fun. No moods floating around tonight. ‘Another Tricky Day’ from 1981, a period Roger called “down”, but with an ending that moves and changes each night, those little explorations of rhythm and groove.

‘Wont’ Get Fooled’ Again gets everyone on their feet. It’s quite possibly the most anthemic rock anthem, and it used to be a perfect show-closer when it sat in that slot. But amazingly, it works well here right in the middle slot – when the show can use a boost of adrenaline and familiarity; everyone knows it. ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ is somewhat interesting. Roger’s introduced Randy Landau several times now, but points out his acoustic upright bass has five strings. “I’m glad John never discovered the five-string, or we would have even been more deaf!!”

Video courtesy of Brian Miller Concerts 

During the song, Pete’s acoustic guitar makes a big note of feedback. He knows what’s happening; they’d spent some of soundcheck re-positioning the microphone that lives inside the guitar body, and it’s too sensitive now. Pete instinctively jumps up and out of the chair, moving away from the speaker while still playing. He ends the song standing, since the guitar remains normal there.

Quadrophenia sounds great: theoretically, our digital (computer-controlled) consoles give you “the same mix” as last show, unless you purposely change something. But acoustics and other factors make each day sound different to the others. Pete mentioned that at the end of each show he goes back to the hotel and wonders, “Did the orchestra rock? Yeah, f***ing DID they rock!!” he decided about tonight’s group. I thought the same, although my mix was louder strings than I’ve ever heard before – maybe that’s what he’s hearing too. Other people may hear different balances, and that affects how you feel about the show.

One of Loren Gold’s best piano intros happened tonight, a beautiful thing. It’s interesting to hear him mix flavors. His pieces are not just simple happy or sad music. They have that mixture of notes and tones that makes things a complex blend of wistful or melancholy, some good combination of feelings. I hope he writes them all down and makes a record or TV show themes or something! At the bows and band intro tonight, Loren is from the nearby Bay Area and has his local red jersey on, #8 and “GOLD” on the back. Something for the hometown fans.

And at the end, Pete thanks their incredible crew. He mentions that we go through a lot and they rarely hear a negative word. “Maybe we should start to think about paying them?” he notes! Excellent idea.

So this was maybe the second smallest show of this tour leg, we’ll see if that’s true – and what could be smaller? But it was a fun one, no major screwups or damage, no lives lost – and lots of loud music. Good!

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