Concert Review – The Who Hits Back!

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.

 

25 thoughts on “Concert Review – The Who Hits Back!

  1. The Who was the first band I was ever “into”, when I watched their first Farewell concert in 1982. It was televised, I was 8, and it began the trajectory of my life.

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  2. The Who were the first band that I fell in love with. It was 1982, and their “final concert” was at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. I was 8 years old and they broadcast it on television, and it was too much for my little brain.

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    1. Your comments somehow wound up in my overeager spam filter. Retrieved ’em both as you had some good stuff in both. Thanks for the video.

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  3. Thanks for the review. I totally agree overall, especially about not bringing forward the sound of Pete’s guitar. You could barely hear it with all the violins.

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    1. The thing is I was siting practically right in front of the soundboard. Those guys could hear it as I did. It would be an easy matter to turn Pete’s guitar up a little bit just to cut through. I know he has hearing problems but I imagine there’s a way to keep his monitor low and have the sound blasting out into the audience.

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  4. This is super cool, Jim. I’m glad you guys had a great time. It’s impressive how Roger can still hit high notes like in “Love Reign O’er Me” and “Baba O’Riley.” He’s just amazing. And, man. How about Pete still windmilling like a mad man – that’s true rock & roll to me!

    I didn’t realize The Who did still tour with local symphony orchestras. When I saw them last time in May 2019 at Madison Square Garden, they did the same thing. I only found out about the orchestra after I had gotten my ticket, which is kind of crazy.

    Admittedly, I was concerned the band would get drowned out by the orchestra, so I kind of lowered my expectations prior to the show. Overall, I have to say it was much better than I thought. Some of their tunes sounded dynamite with the orchestra, especially songs from “Quadrophenia”, which is very symphonic.

    Also, they did play a short middle set without the orchestra. Did they do that as well last night?

    Anyway, when I saw The Who are back on the road, I was tempted to get another ticket. But I’ve seen them three times, plus I now have four concerts in June, two of which are scheduled back-to-back. At some point, you just have to realize you cannot see everybody you dig.

    I definitely don’t want any more concerts in June. Perhaps later in the year. And it would have to be somebody I really want to see!

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    1. Yes, they did “Seeker,” “You Better You Bet,” “Relay,” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Sounded great although the appeal of “Seeker” is lost on me. (As is “Join Together.” I wish they’d instead done “Magic Bus,” and “I Can See For Miles.” Or even “Young Man Blues.” But, i quibble. They rocked out more there than elsewhere. As mentioned, it was truly a highlight to sing “Happy Birthday” to Pete.

      I somehow managed to sign up for too many concerts as well. But as my son said, after being cooped up for two years we’re all ready to get down.

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      1. That’s cool, I love “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “You Better You Bet”.

        I just pulled up my concert review of that 2019 show. During that gig the middle section featured “Substitute”, “I Can See For Miles”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Tea & Theatre”. That last tune is from their 2006 album “Endless Wire”.

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        1. I like yours better. Actually come to think of it, they did do an acoustic “Eyes” with violins and such. “Relay” was an odd choice. BTW you can find the whole show online if you’re so inclined. Not Boston necessarily.

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        2. Thanks for the reminder, Jim. Admittedly, I was so excited to read about The Who that I kind of skipped over her. That particular tune sounds cool and makes me want to hear more.

          At my last Who show, they had New York singer-songwriter Leslie Mendelson open for them.

          Based on a first glance at Kaih’s Wikipedia page, while she got a Grammy nomination for “Black Myself” for Best Roots Song (which definitely is an accomplishment), it doesn’t look like she has exactly had smashing success to date. I think the same is true for Mendelson.

          Assuming Roger and Pete are involved in picking opening acts for their shows, I like the fact they provide a platform for such artists to have their music heard.

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        3. Yeah, like the Stones, apparently they rotate bands in. Really nice of the guys to give newcomers a break like that.. Nick and I were immediately both taken by the groove the band laid down and her terrific singing. She has a great presence and the audience seemed to enjoy her. The only guy in the band is the drummer and the rest are all women. If I had one quibble it would be that she started off with one too many slow tunes. As to her career, yeah sometimes they break out, other times it’s the last you ever hear of them.

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    1. Yeah, if it wasn’t for dear old dad, there is no chance he’d be able to afford to see them. I am going to be seriously out of pocket on tix this year. But after two years of COVID, it’s nice to get out of the house.

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      1. I can believe that. Prices are crazy for shows. Luckily the two I’ve been to this year were smaller venues and cheap. My next one is not until July and it is for my wife. She wanted to go see Loverboy and they are opening for REO Speedwagon and Styx. I’ve never seen any of them so it should be fun.

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  5. Good stuff. I watched Pete do ‘Quad’ with the London Symphony Orchestra’. He has a vocalist Id never heard of (I think a classically trained fella) all I kept thinking was i wish Rogers was doing it. Billy Idol and the actor who played Jimmy in the movie were also guests. Long way to say Pete and the orchestra worked great together. Good way to shake off the dust, seeing the ‘Two”.

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