Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Tommy at the Fraze Pavilion, Kettering, OH – July 2, 2018

Tommy at the Fraze Pavilion, Kettering, OH – July 2, 2018

(This is my last blog post for this tour: I’m leaving to prepare some lectures inside Abbey Road Studios in August, and someone will be filling in for me onstage while the tour wraps up.)

Tonight, a new amphitheater – and again it was HOT. Fraze Pavilion – named after the local man who once invented the pop-top beverage can! This place is smaller, about 4,000 seats, and in a residential Ohio suburb of Dayton called Kettering. Once again, we see an unusual stage, solid concrete and a set of seats that’s outside, but uncovered. So the heat and rain can really affect things – and we have both. Lucky! We’re set up and the orchestra joins us, the Dayton Philharmonic. They’re a good mix of young and old, and a few of them tell me that there are birds that live overhead on the stage (we know – we heard them all day!) Sometimes, the birds are known to drop small white presents onto their valuable instruments onstage . . .

This time of summer, the sky stays light through most of our show. Toward the end we saw a lovely pastel sunset. This Dayton audience is quieter than normal, and certainly a sit-down crowd. They seem happy but calm, and not that crazy . . . until the end. The powerful closing of Tommy (familiar but with a few new changes) always gets people excited and up out of their chairs. Then the encores hit, and Roger mentions a young girl Eva (in the front row wearing ear protection, good!) is having her birthday. He gets the entire crowd to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to little Eva, and jokes he will do it for anyone else having a birthday tonight! His guitar tech Clive hands her a Roger Daltrey guitar pick as a souvenir. Violinist Katie Jacoby again charms the crowd as usual, although some kind of technical glitch interrupts her great playing for part of it. Simon, Frank, Jon, Loren and Scott have all been troopers, playing as well as anyone could in this oppressive heat wave.

Then Roger tells a lot of stories – tonight mentioning how one night a young Keith Moon came onto their bandstand and played with them for the very first time. He says that playing together for the first time “was like someone put a key into a powerful engine, and it just started up” – a great image for the beginning of something hugely significant. Following a more long chat (we judge the mood of the show by how long the talking segments can go) Rog and Loren and Jon end with a beautiful quiet closing song. He plays ‘Always Heading Home’ – a quiet song most people did not expect to hear. But after the stories and openness he shows everyone, he’s showing a very intimate and honest side in that song, and it’s an amazing emotional finish one would not expect at a ‘big rock show’. What you see IS what you get. His famous charm you know from interviews is still the same. His sound onstage is probably better than the old days when he was fighting just to be heard. His voice is stunning right now, it’s actually improved over the recent years. And having fun like this is part of the formula!

I’ll keep it short on the show and give you a quick summary of where we are in general.

I am so energized by watching Roger on this tour: as this is Backstage Blog post #136 (!!) This blog really only started recently, so I’ve been watching him many hundreds of times beyond this. Smashing tambourines on ‘Sparks’ over and over, working the crowd more and more each year. In 2015, on our Who Hits 50! Tour, the setlist was great: The show covered a wide cross section of The Who eras and was paced nicely to give instrumental and vocal breaks. Quieter songs, funny songs, some anthems. With Tommy or Quad there is no time to stop and talk – so the pacing is much harder. I’m told our two ‘principals’ (as the lead artists are sometimes called in the music business) had a GREAT time in 2015-17 and actually enjoyed the tour more than almost any they’ve ever done. This combination of songs and pacing was healthy and fun.

This Tommy orchestral tour has been fascinating to see evolve. At first, I was really thinking it could go belly-up at some point, as it is SO much more complicated than our normal shows. Imagine the difference between having six people onstage or having nearly 50, each with a channel (or more) of sound, schedules, feeding, and literally just placing them so they can see and be seen. I was worried, there was so much that might go wrong.

Our first week of rehearsal did allow it to come together, but it seemed so difficult. And Keith Levenson had one of the hardest jobs; to teach each orchestra all the music in a single quick rehearsal and get them through it (while connecting them to the band) just a couple of hours later during the show.

Roger’s really showing his personal side. He is the open and friendly side of The Who, not too cool for anything, he’s clearly able to have a laugh as your friend and be serious in the same minute. He’s very talkative (once Tommy is done) and revealing a lot about himself, the band tonight, The Who history, and what it’s like at his point in life. This has become the unexpected highlight. People come for our Tommy 2018 version and they love it. Then they get to hear some big numbers, which makes them even happier. As always, Roger talks – such a set of great moments and stories.

We’ve gathered a few more items for the Teen Cancer America auctions in the coming months: Setlists, smashed tambourines, drumheads, etc – all signed. Sign up on the TCA site teencanceramerica.org  so you’ll know when they come up.

Thanks to all of you who came to see this tour – you know how good it is – and we look forward to more. Whatever it may be . . .

Onward!

Video by Tommy Topper

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