The boy and I went to see the Who for the second time last night. The first time he knew some of their stuff but there were a fair number he didn’t know. This time we had the setlist which, of course, they modified. Anyway….
The Who were playing at Boston’s TD Garden with a cast of (seemingly) thousands. Townshend’s brother Simon was there as always on guitar and backing vocals. Moon and Entwistle are long gone of course (almost twenty years since the Ox died believe it or not, and forty-four since Moon passed.)
We had pretty good seats, maybe twenty rows back. Weirdly, not too far behind us was the soundboard and all that stuff. But on either side of that and going back maybe twenty feet was plenty of empty floor space where they could have easily put more chairs. (Essentially, it’s a sports arena and in fact, the Celtics were playing there just a few nights ago.) Puzzling, as there were plenty of people up in the cheap seats.
The setlist for the show was a mix of stuff from Tommy, Quadrophenia, and a random selection of hits. What’s interesting is that they have an orchestra comprised of local musicians and we have more than a few of those in Boston. How was that? Well, for me a mixed bag.
When the Who have done those albums on stage before, they did it with just the four of them and it always sounded great, didn’t need strings or anything. And so I found that when the orchestra was on stage it felt sometimes like I was listening more to “The Orchestrated Who” as opposed to a great rock and roll band.
During those sections, Pete’s guitar volume was lowered to the point where I just couldn’t hear it. All I could see was his fingers moving around the fretboard. (That said, the old windmill is still in good shape as Pete did dozens of them.)
But there were definitely times, like during the Tommy overture when it was nice to have the strings and French horns. And of course, Roger’s dual tambourines:
As to Daltrey, never sounded better. The Who-obsessed among you will recall that some years ago, Daltrey had nodes on his throat which he had removed here at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Daltrey in particular was effusive in his praise for Boston audiences. I agree but we will yell loudly at pretty much anything that comes our way whether it’s a band, the Red Sox, or just for the hell of it. (Oh, and for the people selling merch on the street who were yelling “Hey!” at us as if we were obligated to buy it, fuck you.)
This is the first Who tour that played Cincinnati since that fateful night when eleven fans were crushed to death. Some of the people (probably now in their 50s and 60s) came to the show and there were pictures posted of the people who had died. Must have been a highly emotional thing. And to the point of both that and Daltrey’s pipes, here’s ‘Love Reign O’er Me.” (Daltrey starts at about 4:32 after a piano solo):
I was watching Zep at their last concert at O2 not too long ago and remarking how Page used to wear these elaborate outfits back in the 70s and yet he (and the rest of the guys) just wore street clothes at that event. Townshend last night came on in a flannel shirt and jeans like he was gonna head to the fucking hardware store afterward. Not that I care. I’d do the same thing.
The finale? “Won’t Get Fooled Again?” That’d be a good one. ‘My Generation?” Didn’t even play it. “Baba O’Riley,” which you can bet every third person you meet thinks is named “Teenage Wasteland?” Fuckin’ ay! Check out the violinist at the end. Note for note from the record. I believe she’s the orchestra.
Overall an excellent show and if I had anything I would change it would be less orchestra, and more rock. I’m not expecting Live at Leeds or for Townshend to come sliding across the floor on his 77-year-old knees.
Oh, yeah. Today (May 19) is Pete’s 77th birthday and we (get this!) sang “Happy Birthday” to him. That was the highlight of the night for me because I love the cantankerous old bastard. (Who is getting positively misty-eyed in his “mature” years, thanking us all profusely for venturing out after the last couple of years.)
Was there an opening act you ask? Yes, indeed there was. It was a woman named Amythyst Kiah. She had a four-piece band (three women including herself on guitars and bass) and a guy on drums. A very tight ensemble and a very powerful voice. Listen to this and tell me it doesn’t remind you of Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes. The boy and I were instant fans.