Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

The Who Hits Back! Tour: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON, 2 October 2022

Ah Toronto! We’ve been here many, many times – and it’s always special. Some of the best memories I have of tours were shows in this great city.

I don’t know why, but I learned early on in my Who work that they often ended – or began – tours here. I don’t think there is ‘A Reason’, it just happens. And Pete even mentioned that fact tonight, and that they’d once managed to do three tours in a row that ended here. Might as well  go in/out on a high note.

We’re hoping for that tonight, as starting up a tour leg is often a rough spot. We expect the night could have some issues – rustiness in the playing, in the memory, or even simple technical operations or settings that were once rote; now forgotten. I notice, though, that everyone went into this in a very forgiving mood – toward themselves and others, so there wasn’t as much pressure. Pete even said it might not be great, but as long as we just get through, it will be what we need to begin.

As I was so busy, a fine local photographer we met at rehearsal offered his photos of the show tonight. Thanks much to David McDonald Photography for tonight’s great photos.

Roger was in a fine mood, we’ve seen him laughing and joking a lot this week. He’d spent his summer working – doing a well-received UK tour with a few of our team and others from the UK making up his new band. Simon Townshend was along, of course, holding things together as he does. He knows the music and the situation – literally in his blood. And our own Katie Jacoby was on the tour with her skilled violin work.

More summer jobs: our keyboard man Loren Gold was helping out the legendary group Chicago. He was able to fit their summer tour (with the Brian Wilson band) in between our legs. Loren’s a talented guy, with big roots in the pop/rock world  so he fit right into Chicago’s various styles. Our cellist Audrey Snyder continued her work in the traveling orchestra for the musical Hamilton, quite a popular gig! She’s able to handle so many styles and improv, so she’s always an asset to whatever team she is asked to join.

The Scotiabank Arena here is quite familiar, and this seems the warmest time I think we’ve ever played here. A nearly-packed oval of seats and bodies surrounded us in this huge place. Most bands would be intimidated just a little, but obviously The Who are quite used to this – just another day at work.

I’d heard that comedian/commentator Trevor Noah was just here for two nights before us – and had major sound problems. But our man Robert Collins mixing the show had done this room before, and handled it so well; no sound issues for us! Onstage and off, this is seriously sounding great tonight.

The show begins fairly casually – the band saunter on, the crowd goes crazy when Rog and Pete enter. Roger yells “You’re free!!” and then “Ah – faces!!” welcoming everyone into the space. The ‘Overture’ to Tommy launches us right into the show – and the orchestral Who tour is now back on the road!

As the band set is started, ‘The Seeker’ is up next, what a classic. But before we start, Pete related the story of his old American friend Tom Wright; they went to art school together in the UK, and later Tom toured the USA with them and more. Pete wrote the song with Tom around as they explored the Florida swamps. Funny how most of us think of them as very “English” songs but I know of quite a few that were written in the USA and elsewhere (‘Eminence Front’, ‘Sheraton Gibson’ of course, etc.) R.I.P. Tom – you are missed, but thought of (and mentioned) often in our world. If you don’t know of him yet, google his name and you’ll find his footprints all over the great early years of The Who.

Tom Wright 1944-2022

Pete mentioned an article that said they were bold as they’d let The Clash open for them back in the 80s! Pete had already been an early club-days supporter of the band, and had them open one of the biggest tours of the year. We also saw a newspaper mentioning their previous “Farewell Tour” –seemingly always a hot topic that they dared go beyond that tour: Unlike most bands, they DID go away for quite a few years, then joined in again. As I often tell people, saying “farewell” to your friends doesn’t mean you’ll never see them again! It means you wish them good things on their way forward.

For ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, they brought out the newest member of our touring band, bassist Randy Landau. Yes, Jon Button is still our electric bassist, but Randy is among the string players, on acoustic or “double bass” as it’s called. He’s part of the orchestra mainly, but now is added for each night’s performance of ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ with Katie and Audrey. Roger and Pete are actually very generous with credits and attention, more than most music legends. They go out of their way to include people, to promote their fellow musicians, to praise their work. Yes, they have an ego which (when healthy) knows that you are good and aware of your good qualities. But they’re not full of themselves as so many rockstars (and wanna-be stars) often are. Just today our local crew were talking about how friendly Stevie Wonder and McCartney were to all of them, as hired hands, but several young up-and-coming stars were quite snobbish and rude. Not our guys!

‘The Real Me’ starts the Quadrophenia set, as usual. And I’m noticing – as I had done several times this week – that Roger is in incredible form. He’s just belting it like it was recorded yesterday. He’s been laughing and joking all week. Yes, he was able to tour on his own these last few months, but with The Who he has SO many great players surrounding him and supporting, it takes off so much pressure: It’s not all about him as much. Again, no big ego, so he’s happy to share the stage with this A-team of players.

Like most on our team tonight, we were all trying just to get through the show, to remember things and do them at the right times. As it happened, we had a pretty damn fine show! I heard people yelling things from the crowd – we couldn’t tell what, but something angered Pete and he yelled back “Are you from the Stone Age?” or something like that. Then, confusing myself and others, he said “Yeah, we’re going to play ‘Magic Bus’ now . . .” although we were supposed to go into ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. I think he was joking . . . but I was unsure: If we do start the backing track to ‘WGFA’, it will be VERY obvious and hard to stop! So I waited a few seconds. Pete nods again and I realize he IS joking and we will run ‘WGFA’ instead – the crowd will certainly forget all about ‘Magic Bus’ in that moment . . . and they do.

The Quadrophenia set is especially strong. I see the low strings (cello and bass) rocking out as they play ‘5:15’. It’s always good to see the hired players feeling and enjoying the music even in just their first time around. Pete’s lyrics on ‘5:15’ are so descriptive and unique, it certainly lent itself to a movie. Tonight that song goes on and on and on as the orchestra drops out midway, the band are free to improvise as they used to, and it’s always hit or miss, but usually very cool. When we hit ‘The Rock’ Pete – who looks very fit and cool all in black tonight – unleashes an incredible barrage of dissonant notes and feedback. He’s pushing the boundaries we usually don’t hear in rock, but more in free jazz and experimental music; Jimi Hendrix on his best days also did this toward the end.

All photos © David McDonald Photography

All in all, a very busy and focused night for all of us, especially the band. Familiar yet strange. But without question, this was a really GOOD show. Not at all the minimal “let’s just get through it” result we intended – it sure was good to be here and have this happen as well as it did. A fine start!

OK, evidently we are back. 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
The Seeker
You Better You Bet
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​