Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Roger Daltrey performs Tommy: Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA , June 10, 2018

The Filene Center at Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA
June 10, 2018

We’ve done it again, two shows now completed – and with fine results.

The previous show we had about a week to set up. Some days were hard, planning and working out the new situations. Other days, we were staying in place and letting the musicians work out their parts. However, this was our first “must do it ALL in one day” setup – the real challenge. We started earlier than usual, because we not only deal with our rock band, there is setup and rehearsal for an entire orchestra.

As it happens, the planning from the first show (and things like special cables or lighting needs) were already somewhat in place for this one. We also had a helpful crew of locals, professional union stagehands who have done it all before. It was all needed, as we barely got it off the ground in time.

Once set up, we do an orchestral rehearsal, and are given a short fixed time for that (their Union regulates things quite tightly.) They get a short break, during which we bring in the band, who start doing their normal soundcheck. With that worked out, the orchestra re-joins us for a combined final rehearsal, running through the last pieces they did not get to before, but this time with the band and Roger. This seems adequate – but note that this orchestra then has played each piece in our show exactly ONCE only – and then they will do the concert. It’s not perfect, but they can all sight-read the sheet music, and if they follow instructions and guidance from Keith Levenson, our conductor, they will sound alright.

These arrangements were done specifically for this show by David Campbell. David was with us for the first show, working through the parts with Keith and the orchestra in Bethel. He’s an obvious choice, having worked with many top artists in pop and rock (Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Tori Amos, Jackson Browne, Elton, Linda Ronstadt, KISS) – a different style than classical composition. I can’t describe the arrangements to you, but find some videos online (or better yet, come see the show yourself!) and you’ll hear what was done.

It’s interesting to hear Tommy in this new light: it brings out the rhythm for sure, and that sets out the the melodies (which are SO strong) in comparison. The darker pieces (especially the Entwistle songs) are REALLY dark and evil-sounding with low brass and strings. Tommy seems well-suited for orchestral percussion, but we still have the rock backbeat of Scott Devours’ drumming all the way through; the best of both worlds, really.

A few songs follow Tommy. These were arranged years ago for Roger by Michael Kamen (R.I.P.) and have a contrasting feel to them; Michael did very prominent work in the 80s and 90s with Metallica and other big rock groups; this was his specialty. The last song closes the show with no orchestra and very few musicians, on a quiet and personal note from Roger. (You may remember ‘Tea and Theatre’ closing the Endless Wire shows in ’06 and ’07 – it’s a lot like that. Not the big banging noise of a usual Who ending, but a different and intimate finale that works just as well.)



It’s a Boy
Amazing Journey
Eyesight to the Blind
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
I’m Free
Miracle Cure
Sally Simpson
Tommy’s Holiday Camp
We’re Not Gonna Take It
See Me, Feel Me

Who Are You
Baba O’Riley
Always Heading Home