Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Tommy at the Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville, TN – June 27, 2018

The Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville, TN
June 27, 2018


Nashville – what happened? Well, to start, this is an unusual setting. A ‘shed’ with a covered stage, but no roof over the seats – we’ve never seen that before. It’s unexpected as you can usually charge more for covered seats AND it sounds better AND there is no risk to the audience from sun or wind or rain – all three of which we had today!

Nashville is undergoing a series of summer storms. Yesterday I was out walking in summer heat and suddenly dark black clouds came over, wind came up, and hail started flying. Then back again. Today they predicted rain right around the time of our soundcheck.

And we were already off-base, as the orchestra here refused to do rehearsals at the stage (the first we’ve seen to insist upon that.) Now we know why! It’s a large concrete stage, but aside from the roof, the sides are fairly open and there is a large opening to the rear – so the rain, wind and sun can certainly get in, all of them enemies of equipment and power and delicate orchestral instruments!

The orchestra met in a room downtown, working with Keith Levenson and Katie Jacoby representing our touring crew for the afternoon. Keith learned that they did not know they were playing with a rock band, they did not want to, and were also unhappy with our use of click tracks for timing, headphones for some, and even our need to space them widely across the stage (to make room for our band.) Not a great start!

 Meanwhile we set up outside on the stage in oppressive heat and humidity – it alternates between heat and wet. We realized this stage had a weird, flat sound, like playing in a field; no richness or warmth. It’s not a wooden stage or an enclosed space – all the things a concert hall ‘gives you’ to enhance a performance. Missing here. (Luckily we use microphones on each instrument, so the PA system can carry the sound out as if the stage were reflecting it to the crowd.) The sonics here might be good if you were a fast, hard metal band, but we’re not . . .

After our band soundcheck, the orchestra did come in. Some of them were quite nice, others seemed to be unhappy. I noticed (first time ever on this tour tour) someone holding out an SPL meter to measure the volume level onstage. It seemed as if they were hoping we’d be too loud – an opportunity to walk away. Maybe not, but what other reason would one have? We were not that loud, the band has toned it down A LOT for this tour. Someone pointed out that the orchestra could walk away if it rained at all – as this stage is not protected fully. So we hoped it wouldn’t.

As luck would have it, the dreaded thunderstorm missed us by just a few miles, and the evening turned beautiful. The full moon was out sometimes between the clouds, and clearly visible from the stage. The lights of the town’s buildings and bridge added to the simple light show our man Jim Mustapha has been doing (We don’t carry a full system of lights with us as The Who do, too expensive. We use local rigs to work with the show for that night . . . )

The orchestra got it together, the band played well, and everyone had a blast. It WAS very hot still, but not terrible. We had a nice visit from two of Cheap Trick, guitarist Rick Nielsen (an old friend of The Who) and son/drummer Daxx Nielsen, who watched from the side of the stage. They are playing on this same stage tomorrow night, hopefully to a better situation.

Everyone guzzled water, and Roger was soaked head to toe. He really worked hard tonight! And the show worked, as I saw the audience loved it, so all the effort was not wasted. But we did NOT have fun, and hope this one remains the low-point; the rest could be smoother sailing . . . ?

Onward!

SET LIST

Overture
It’s a Boy
1921
Amazing Journey
Sparks
Eyesight to the Blind
Christmas
Cousin Kevin
The Acid Queen
Do You Think It’s Alright?
Fiddle About
Pinball Wizard
There’s a Doctor
Go to the Mirror!
Tommy Can You Hear Me?
Smash the Mirror
Underture
I’m Free
Miracle Cure
Sensation
Sally Simpson
Welcome
Tommy’s Holiday Camp
We’re Not Gonna Take It
See Me, Feel Me

Who Are You
Baba O’Riley
Always Heading Home