Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Back To The Who Tour: Unipol Arena, Bologna, Italy, September 17, 2016

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Ah – back into Italy! We were here about nine years ago, a memorable show with huge downpours and Pete finishing the show on his own in an old Roman amphitheater! Yet any past Italy shows were quite memorable: Incredible audiences, with a wholly different spirit and response than the others in the world.

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We’ve had two days off, a rarity, but everyone came back with full health and energy as a result (especially following that awful heat of the last shows). Sadly no air conditioning here, but it’s lucky that the outside temperature is not so fierce, and we’ll survive without the torture of the last shows.

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It’s a cool-looking arena (Italy has style) with beautiful spiral staircases (good for photos!) and sound-panels hanging from the roof to improve the sound – almost no venues do this simple thing! (I knew from walking in, while the long chains were hanging to place the rigging, this would be a great place to shoot photos during the show.)

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Pete and Roger had a serious talk in the sound-check this afternoon. Pete had asked Roger what he felt about these “festival seating” (standing, no chairs) shows that we’ve been experiencing in Europe. “It’s just how they do it here” Roger explained. He pointed out that about 10 people back from the stage, the pushing and crushing was not present; it was only the few layers right down-front. Pete expressed his deep concern that if someone in front fell, they might not be able to get up or even be extracted – possibly quite dangerous. Since 1979, the band has had strong issues with crowd action and danger, for the strongest reasons: It can never happen again. Roger did point out a key concept – that the Cleveland tragedy had happened outside the building; they’ve never had a serious issue inside a show from people on the floor. Pete seemed unsure, but the logic seemed reasonable, and venues are more aware of safety than ever.

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Worries aside, this was a show to attend – simply a monster of a show! The band played incredibly well (given The Who’s lack of perfection, that always leads to greater highs) and the audience was more than enthused. Pete does often joke about the age of the crowds and I realize that many of this crowd literally have never seen this band in person before!

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There was a total change-of-view tonight from the stage: instead of the usual faces of our devoted few followers and various older fans watching, this was a sea of beautiful Italian faces, mostly 20 to 40 in age. They were fun, singing and dancing, with none of the roughness you might get from drunk or boisterous crowds in the UK and USA. So we had the best of the best; total fanatics all around, with none of the drawbacks. But they were indeed wild – and a lot of them were head-banging to the music throughout. One thing we didn’t have last time that appeared here: hundreds and hundreds of mobile phones out filming!

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Pete and Roger tried their few words of Italian – and the crowd loved the given attention and effort. Many do speak English here, but not everyone. Right before ‘My Generation’ Pete told the crowd to pay attention. He tried a phrase in Italian that didn’t seem to go over so well – and he explained he was trying to say “Let’s go crazy!!” which they did when the song started!

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Our screens before were translated into Italian perfectly –  by our highly-creative video man Giani Fabricio. There was even a custom slide as a reminder of those recently affected by the Italian earthquake. The slide received loud spontaneous applause when it was shown before the concert (and later as it appeared when “Join Together” was played, very appropriate.)

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‘The Rock’ has a very involved and moving video set; it’s not related to the Quadrophenia story in any way: Roger and the video content team have made a loose storyline of world action and politics. As the song progresses, the video get darker (9/11, Tiananmen Square, military forces) and brightens to scenes of humans helping humans at the end. Right in the middle, there is a double-clap section the band always do, and this time the audience joined en-masse; it looked very much like the ‘Radio Ga Ga’ audience moment Queen had at Live Aid, very impressive!

Following right after this, Roger stormed through ‘Love Reign O’er Me’. Check it out here:

Pete did some stage pogo-ing during ‘Baba O’Riley’ always a sign of a great mood. Proven yet again when he did a knee-slide during ‘Wont’ Get Fooled Again’. Indeed, just after the show, he yelled (in Italian) “Bologna, we LOOOVE YOU!” When the band introductions happened, everyone started chanting “PI-NO, PI-NO, PI-NO!” happy to see an Italian (Welsh) man in their favorite band! Zak also, as usual, received a roar when his name is mentioned. Well done, everyone! This was a great night!

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Onward . . .

Tonight’s Set List

I Can’t Explain
The Seeker
Who Are You
The Kids Are Alright
I Can See For Miles
My Generation
Behind Blue Eyes
Join Together
You Better You Bet
I’m One
The Rock
Love, Reign O’er Me
Eminence Front
Amazing Journey
The Acid Queen
Pinball Wizard
See Me, Feel Me
Baba O’Riley
Won’t Get Fooled Again

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