Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Tommy at the Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL – June 25, 2018

The Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, Chicago, IL

June 25, 2018

“…be one of us.”

Back in Highland Park for the Ravinia Festival, Show Two.

It was a beautiful, exquisite day off in sunny and warm Chicago! Some went golfing, a few to museums, some shopping. Eating and drinking, of course. Food in Chicago is always exceptional everywhere; hot dogs nearby, the famous UNO and DUE pizza joints (some of our band and crew went to our favorite place for pizza, Piece; where one can also see guitars from Cheap Trick!)

Feeling nicely rested, we came back, and it was all still set up from the show before – saving us six to eight hours of work! Wonderful.

And so – there is not so much to report as the show is the same and the venue is the same I reported last time. So I thought I’d spin a few tales of lesser-known things.

We have an interesting mirror-crash for ‘Smash the Mirror’. The original was a plate of glass broken at the studio. When we did Tommy at the Royal Albert Hall, Pete said he didn’t like the cheap sound of their home-made effect. He and John (The Ox) had done it specifically for the album in ’68. But it sounds kinda weak today, although Roger says “They were good at breaking things!” I suggested adding in the synthesized version that Pete did for the ’75 film, when Rog falls into the pool with ‘mirrors’ of mylar shards. The ’75 sound was layered on top of the old one, giving a good mix of authentic and sparkling. That same issue happened for this tour, and we fixed it the same way as well – if you listen closely, you’ll hear it.

Katie Jacoby continues to light up the stage for the violin ending to ‘Baba’. Roger recalled that it was Moon’s idea to add the violin at the end, and it was a good one. “He had a lot of BAD ideas, too!” we are told.

Speaking of Keiths – our own is conductor Keith Levenson, guiding the orchestra, band, AND Roger through the show. Yes, everyone has parts, but the timing and energy is controlled by the conductor. I’ve asked him to weigh in here and tell us of his long history with Roger.

“In 1994, Roger did Daltrey Sings Townshend at Carnegie Hall then decided to tour that. One of the arrangers wasn’t interested in the tour, so he called me. John was still alive so he was part of the show. The first show was at Red Rocks, so first the rehearsal was also in Denver. We spent the summer – it was also a ‘shed’ tour like this.”

“It was winter of ’95, I conned Roger into playing The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz at Avery Fisher Hall! Jackson Browne was the Scarecrow, Nathan Lane was the Lion, Natalie Cole was the Good Witch and Debra Winger was the Bad Witch! The Boys Choir of Harlem were the Munchkins. Ry Cooder played on it, David Sanborn played with the New York Philharmonic. We rehearsed the thing literally in three days. And it was filmed for PBS and TNT.”

“A few months or a year after that, we both got involved in the British Rock Symphony. We did a number of different tours, with different orchestras and singers. We did one in the US, that was just Roger. We did 12 castles in Europe, then we added Alice Cooper, Gary Brooker and Thelma Houston. Then we did one in Australia, where we had Roger, Peter Frampton, Alice, Paul Rodgers, Gary Brooker, Billy Thorpe, and Jimmy Barnes and they all did three to four songs apiece. I think maybe that was the last BRS tour that involved Roger, but I kept on afterward, including with Simon (Townshend.) That project lasted a long time.

I asked him, “Given that that was 20 years back . . . it seems Roger’s actually improved in some ways?”

“Control. I think he’s singing fantastic – it’s like a mature Roger. But the keys of the songs are all the same. Contrary to popular belief, nothing has been lowered! (Changing the key of a song down a few notes is a trick many singers use to sing a song easier.) I don’t know whether he’s had to retrain himself or whether he’s just gotten over the issues and just sings differently. I think it’s actually a much warmer tone now. And he’s not afraid to use his baritone. Sometimes when he’s doing a character – he’ll sometimes use a bass/baritone, because he’s got a bigger range than he ever did. I’m shocked at how good this show is . . .”

Agreed! You need to come see it. If not now, MAYBE it will happen again. There is talk it could happen . . .

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