Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits Back! Tour: Schottenstein Center, Columbus, OH, 9 October 2022

“Hello Columbus!” Pete is laughing as he comes out and hails the crowd. Then, “I just realized, it’s been a long time since I wore these trousers . . .  and they seem to have shrunk!”

“I’ve shrunk!” chimes in Roger quickly. Pete continues, “Well, it won’t affect my playing at all.”

That’s a good vibe and a good start to anything. Not even a note has been played and already everyone’s in a good mood. Then Tommy and the big orchestra kick in. I notice that the ‘Overture’ is a great moment for Roger, in particular: He gets to listen and soak up the mood in the space, see and hear the room and all that’s going on. He’s got his double-tambourine accents he plays. They are as much a part of The Who history as the windmill strums, the mic swinging, or instrument smashing. It’s a very showy thing, for sure, and makes a kind of visual punctuation; an exclamation point each time he hits them. Tommy continues and sounds good with only a few unscheduled moments – they save most of those for later in the show.

‘Pinball Wizard’ video courtesy of Leira Henry 


At the end of ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ (which actually has some ‘See Me, Feel Me’ and ‘Listening to You’ in there) Pete hits about 16 windmills. Not expected! And it closely rivals something Mathieu our video director showed me the other day: Pete doing 20 windmill strums in a row during a show this last year. That’s a lot of work and effort, but he’s still doing it. The signature move that lets you know, we’re at a Who concert.

They stop after Tommy to chat. You know, as much as I love hearing ALL of Tommy and ALL of Quadrophenia, that was the part I missed: They didn’t stop to talk between songs. That’s a huge part of any of our shows, and for many, the unexpected joy that lifts the night up. Tonight’s banter is different than the last show or the show before. Maybe some overlap, but not much. Someone in front has a sign. A young girl holding a card that says it’s her first concert! Pete wonders why she didn’t choose Harry Stiles instead! But he thanks her for coming – asks her name and tells the crowd about it. Roger yells “Welcome to the club!!”

That’s not all – I see a crowd of five girls right in the front row, all in their young 20s. So they were born circa 2000, and this is THEIR music, as much as anyone from previous years. This is certainly multi-generational stuff.

Speaking of fans, it was cool to wander the halls before the show, and seeing so many families together, parents and kids of various ages – all wearing Who shirts and having a great time together. That’s rare in many things outside sports, that parents share the same tastes as their kids do. But the kids are alright, they say. In this case, yeah.

Later on, Roger checks in with his bandmate: “He just asked me how my trousers were!” Pete remarks. Obviously not a problem, as Pete had just finished a heavy version of ‘Eminence Front’. The ending was so strong and powerful, he was certainly not holding anything back. Someone named Daphne is calling out from the audience and Pete responds positively – again, the good moods continue.

‘Eminence Front’ video courtesy of Leira Henry 

On ‘Relay’, during the band-only set, it’s not quite taking flight, despite the band jamming around for a bit. It’s saved by Roger who really belts out a couple of high clear “Reelaaaay”s right as it ends. ‘Naked Eye’ and ‘Another Tricky Day” next, as with our last show. ‘Naked Eye’ is better tonight, they’re a little more together, and it starts even slower and more minimal with just Roger on acoustic, thereby making his first words (“Take a little dope . . .”) all the much more powerful. It’s very enjoyable to hear it stripped back this way. After ‘Another Tricky Day’ Rog relates it to these past few years, staying inside, then out, then back in etc. Tricky times these last couple of years, and flying by. Glad we’re back among everyone. It feels pretty normal again out here, fingers crossed.

Pete asks Roger how he is. Pretty terrible is the answer, but Roger points at parts of the stage and indicates maybe it’s better over here or down there . . . “I can’t hear, I can’t really see, but I’m still having fun onstage.” Well, that counts a lot.

It’s been so long since I mentioned the lighting, as it’s now seamlessly a part of the show. Subtle when it changes, but it’s a perfect match to the mood. Today I was showing photos to Jim, one of our in-the-audience lighting team, and asked him what part of the show it was (Roger in white light, backlight, the audience in the dark/blue.) “’Won’t Get Fooled Again’ when Roger is marching!” He knew it right away. Like our show, some lighting cues become classics, too. They enhance and draw your attention to just the right things at the right time. They also help bring the show up and down in energy at the right time, making the show feel intimate or massive from minute to minute.

Oddest moment of the night, when Pete starts playing acoustic alone to begin ‘I’m One’. He can’t hear enough acoustic guitar in the monitor speaker on the floor. He walks to his “shout” microphone; we have these so that the performer can speak to the offstage technicians about the sound – not so the audience can hear (exactly the opposite, so they CAN’T be heard.) Instead, Pete yells so loudly “MORE MORE” that it booms all over the room and everyone laughs uncomfortably! His monitor engineer turns up the guitar and the song goes on. At the end, everyone in the band stops – but Pete goes on, unexpectedly. He sings another verse, made up on the spot; “Sometimes you hear me shot, I don’t mean to be bad. Sometimes I want it to be right for you, and it sounds like total shit . . .” then ends the song using the right words. I guess that explains it!

Getting in tune

A backstage birthday!

‘5:15’ again allows the band to jam, and it’s up and down in dynamic, Pete really pushing back and forth with Zak. As he described to us so well in rehearsal, with John and Keith they really had a three-way game of pushing and following going that brought them often to a great new moment, usually. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but they tried, moment to moment.

Loren does a different kind of intro to ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ tonight. It has more rhythm, a little less darkly romantic. It’s definitely jazzy and a little New Orleans-sounding, which I know Pete loves. Indeed, he did, as he was sort of dancing around while it happened, and mentioned the change and his love of it during the bows later.

‘Baba O’Riley’ video courtesy of Leira Henry 

‘Young Man Blues’ – they did it again, and people did appreciate the motion. It’s better tonight, just like ‘Naked Eye’ – where they are still getting their footing on it. Not quite where it will be, or was long ago, but this is how the live show evolved.

Pete was in a funny, loud, loose vibe all night until the end. When it came time for the bows, he just walked and left. Leaving the rest to do the honours. Ah well, things come and go here.

All in all, pretty cool show. Not as crazy as New York but a better performance in some of the parts that were weaker there. Every night is different!

Onward! . . .


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

Band Only
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
Young Man Blues