The Who, along with a massive forty-nine piece orchestra, rocked through a dazzling two hour – twenty-four song show. The dreary/rainy weather made for a wet and surprisingly cold night but the band delivered a show that all fans seemed to be pleased by.
Peter Wolf – The J. Geils Band singer was a delightful opener for the night. He got the crowd going with his exuberant energy and stage presence, not to mention his glistening jacket. His band was tight and concise throughout the seven song set as they delivered impressive guitar solos/jams and transitioned instantly between songs. The set was short-lived but had no shortage of quality rocking. “Love Stinks” induced a natural crowd sing along and bluesy numbers like “(Ain’t Nothin’ But A) Houseparty” and “Must of Got Lost” had people bopping to the groove.
Before The Who took the stage the screens on the left and right side displayed an amazing collection of photos from the band’s history. Seeing photos of the band throughout the years had someone like me in a state of awe just realizing that I was about to witness rock royalty in person.
Roaring applause greeted the lights going dark. It’s hard to explain the feeling you get seeing true rockstars (who influenced music in so many ways) on stage. The orchestra proceeded to seat themselves as Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Zak Starkey and the rest of the band began the show.
The first few numbers were lengthy and mainly instrumental but they were amazing nonetheless because of the sheer amount of skilled musicians on stage delivering alluring sounds throughout “It’s a Boy”, “1921”, “Amazing Journey” and “Sparks”. “Sparks” always holds a special place in my music listening because of its inclusion in “Almost Famous (the movie that can surely be attributed to my love of music and music journalism) – I watch it whenever I get the chance and it still has the same profound impact on me every time I see it.
Pinball Wizard” was met with the first mega sing along of the night, followed shortly after by “Who Are You”. These songs not only sounded fresh and incredible with the band, but they had an extra layer of depth with the orchestra.
Townshend noted how much he was enjoying the orchestra being on this tour as he stated, “For years we kept turning up our amplifiers, but if you want that you can go see Guns N’ Roses.” The orchestra only seemed to add to The Who’s power.
By this point the crowd had already witnessed the finest power moves in rock: Pete Townshend’s windmill (how does he still do it? And how is his rotator cuff still intact?) and Roger Daltrey’s microphone cord twirling. These two moves were worth the price of admission alone. I nerded out each time Daltrey or Townshend did them.
“Eminence Front”, “Imagine a Man” and “Join Together” closes out the first set with the orchestra before Townshend noted that “the orchestra has to take a twenty minute break to do whatever they do. I wish I could take a twenty minute break. Tell you what… I’ll give each of you fifty dollars if I can take a break right now” Townshend quipped.
The band then dove into the classic “Substitute”, before which Daltrey stated, “This song has the best lyrics in rock n roll.. I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth.”
Daltrey’s voice was as strong as ever and Townshend’s incendiary guitar playing was phenomenal. What’s even more impressive if that Zak Starkey’s sporadic and solid drumming and Jon Button’s rhythmic and driving bass playing were able to fill the void left by Keith Moon and John Entwistle’s deaths.
“The Seeker” was played for the first time on this tour and may have been my favorite song of the night.
An acoustic version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by just Townshend and Daltrey was very cool and unique. Townshend interacted with the crowd hysterically before yelling a spirited “Who gives a fuck?”. There’s no doubt that even though Townshend and Daltrey have been at it since 1964, they still enjoy being wild rock n’ rollers.
“Behind Blue Eyes” had some mild string accompaniment and was delivered with soul and passion.
The orchestra returned for a run of songs from Quadrophenia that without a doubt took the audience into another musical dimension. The additional musicians displayed the sheer power of The Who’s rock opera work. “The Real Me”, “5:15” and “Love Reign O’er Me” were without a doubt magical to witness. Daltrey’s powerful vocal in “Love Reign O’er Me” and his percussive yell dominated the soundscape and made for an emotional ending to the show before the band played “Baba O’Riley”.
After “Baba O’Riley ended Daltrey and Townshend took a minute to thank the crowd for all the years of support.
Daltrey – “How lucky I am to be singing these amazing songs written by my friend of what… 60 years now?
Townshend – “The two qualities I admire most in a man are courage and audacity… that just means Roger is a mad fucker.”
The Who’s successful longevity and influence can never be understated. If you get a chance to see these legends, you must. Thank you Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon (and the current members who keep The Who going strong). I will never grow out of air drumming, air-windmilling, or just imitating your style.
…Now excuse me while I geek out and rewatch The Who’s performance of “A Quick One While He’s Away” at the Rolling Stones’ “Rock and Roll Circus” (the best rock and roll performance of all time, in my opinion.)