The Who at Gwinnet Arena (Georgia) – November 5th 2012
Background: For the first time I ponied up to see The Who up close, with the Signature VIP package. I had never seen them close enough that I watched them consistently instead of the video screen. As part of the package, I had 3rd row, Pete side. Perfect! I brought my 9-year old. It was his first concert ever. My kids have all been raised correctly. By which I mean they have been thoroughly indoctrinated in the glory that is The Who.
• Very professional. They are a working band. They are used to what it takes to put on a show. Roger was annoyed at the piano player for not bringing the correct earplug monitors. Don’t let it happen again mate.
• We were looking for other kids. This was because I still didn’t know if I was a great or terrible Dad for bringing the boy. Naturally the consensus of this thoroughly objective crowd was that I was the coolest Dad in the world. A lot of them had stories to share about when their parents brought them when they were little kids, and how meaningful that was to them. There was only one younger group – a four and three year old pair. The four year old had already seen them six times! She was named Daltrey, and the younger one’s middle name was Towns. They lasted through the Quad performance, but crapped out at the encore.
• There’s Pete! Where, Dad? The hunched-over old guy wearing glasses with the red guitar!
• They soundchecked I am the Sea/Real Me transition, Quadrophenia (to check balances), Cut my Hair, and parts of Bell Boy. The Bell Boy vocals were confusing, lots of parts with no singing (I found out why later). They were getting warmed up now.
• 5:15 – Pete says what if we just go from the solo to something, because by then I’ll be dancing around and waving my arms and singing to the front rows (we all cheer), hard to transition from there. Neat to see the structure being negotiated on the fly.
• Who Are You: Started terrible, but once they got going… the train kept a rolling. Those guys know how to rock.
• Roger and Pete thanked us, and for supporting whatever cause they were supporting this show. Pete came back a few seconds later, he jokingly had been informed that the cause was, in fact, Pete and Roger! But some of it always goes to good causes. Honestly, who cares. I give to charity and I like the Who, but they are two separate things. I would prefer not to think how many starving kids my tickets could have helped.
• I’ve seen them over fifteen times. In my usual social circle, that makes me a fanatic. In this group, it is barely worth mentioning. We talked with a guy who had seen them 94 times and worked a few legs over the years. He reeked of marijuana. Possibly the funniest moment of the night – His wife came over to chat with my kid. She asked him his favorite song. “Um… probably Baba O’Riley”. She didn’t know what that was. The husband had to tell her that it was the teenage wasteland song. He was rolling his eyes, like he was so embarrassed by his dumb wife. Teenage wasteland indeed. Priceless comedy.
• At one point, a stagehand came over and gave my boy a pick from the London Olympics. Wow. It pays to be a cute kid!
• The opener was really good. Vintage Trouble was the name. Heavy electric blues, with a strong dose of funk/soul on top. I had my hand in the air, and believe me I do not do that very often.
The opening act, Vintage Trouble
• They’re old. They do an incredible job with what they got, but it can be sad to see how hard it is to cover up what isn’t there anymore. On the other hand, I doubt I’ll be half the man either of them are at that age.
Pete launches into The Real Me
• They didn’t really get warmed up until The Punk Meets the Godfather. The studio version of that song isn’t so great in my opinion, it’s a stereotype of what haters hate about The Who. But in concert, it works. It just works.
• Aw. I’m One started acoustic, then the whole band came in. Too bad.
• Simon was very good with lead vocals on The Dirty Jobs. In fact, Simon was great throughout. Pete abdicated playing lead guitar for most of the night, he was content to play chords. Pete’s lead playing was not as good as I expected – four years ago on the same stage he blew my mind with his playing on Eminence Front. It wasn’t until near the end of the show that he was warmed up and letting loose at all with lead playing (as opposed to very loud power chords and pre-scripted twiddly diddly arpeggios through chord patterns). Simon filled in admirably.
• They are really good at covering up errors. Pino and Simon and Zak never make mistakes, Pete and Rog did quite a bit. The horns were excellent as well. At one point, Rogers harmonica and ear monitors were malfunctioning. Pete stalled for a bit then turned around and yelled “What the fuck is going on back there?” I loved it. Pete plays better when he’s mad. The two best performances I’ve seen from him were both solo shows that had tech problems. Both times he just abandoned the set list, called off the count and launched into incendiary versions of Magic Bus. (Barry, one of those was that first show we saw together. Great day!)
• They did a remarkable job dubbing in John and Keith. Amazing. John played the bass solo in 5:15, Keith did the vocals in Bell Boy. Each time video of them played on the screen, playing along with the live music. It was absolutely seamless, rookies may not have even realized what was going on. All the more remarkable when you remember how the original Quadrophenia tour was plagued by technical issues, and now something so much harder is done so well. And boy, it’s just very special seeing them perform. I saw John plenty, but I never saw Keith, this is the closest I’ll ever get. Special call out to Zak, who has to set the tempo and play along perfectly.
5:15. I kept waiting for the bass solo to start, and then the camera ran out of memory,
• Roger totally blew a lyric in Sea and Sand. Just missed his cue. No way to cover that one up, he just looked sheepish. No howling. He did a great “LLLOVVEEE” to end “Disc One”, but didn’t even attempt the ending of Love Reign O’er Me or Won’t Get Fooled Again. Hey, what do you want, he’s in his 60s. I was very impressed by what he could do. (Just rewatched some of my video – he did do the last Love Reign O’er Me yell, but it was short and his mouth was too far from the microphone.)
• Aw. Drowned wasn’t acoustic anymore? Sad. One of my favorite parts, and it became ordinary.
• To be fair, Pete messed up a bunch also. Did two more or less bars of certain things, muffed the chords elsewhere. The difference is that Pete is supported by Simon and Pino who cover up his mistakes, he isn’t as visible as Roger. And he’s very good at turning a mistake around. “I meant to do that, here’s a cool string bend or whammy bar dive back to the right note, see I meant to do it all along. I didn’t muff the note, I was picking up the tritone hmmph!”
• In general, Quadrophenia could be vastly improved by shortening songs. Many of them will have (for example) eight bars that are just repeating a motif to lead to the next bit, you could do it easily in two or four. Lots of places you could tighten things up. All that is to say, was The Rock cut short? Hard to tell. If so, good. It drags, and darn it, let’s get to the climax already!!
Love Reign O’er Me. A beautiful capstone to Quadrophenia. You can tell they get off on it every time. They had the bass turned way up, as it should be. This song needs to be felt in the groin.
• Re-reading this I feel like I’m not being positive enough. Overall it was a great performance. No, it was an incredible performance. I just hold them to a ridiculously high standard – failing to meet it is still great. Quadreophenia is the perfect album for this, I always felt like it was a B+ album for what it tried to do – but that B+ was better than every other bands best work ever. A glorious failure.
• (I think) They played Baba O’Riley, Kids are Alright, Behind Blue Eyes, Who Are You, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Tea & Theatre. My boy really liked Kids are Alright. Looking back, it was one of the few times during the show Pete and Rog focused hard on tight vocal harmonies (I’ve Had Enough was another).
Baba O’Riley, opening up the encore. There was a part 2 to this, but my singing was so awful I deleted the whole clip.
Me and my son enjoying Who Are You. I’m distracted because I’m trying rock out while filming.
• During The Kids are Alright, at one point they were each singing a different verse. It was funny watching them each try to adjust back to the other’s vocal and go right past each other. The harmonies were tight enough that it still sounded great.
• It’s fascinating to watch Pete move between a professional doing his job, a bored old man doing a windmill to keep the crowd excited, and actually getting into it and letting loose.
• The mix: Good, not great. Sometimes the bass, second guitar, keyboards, pianos, horns were just too much – the low/middle ranges became a blur. On the other hand, that could have just been because of where I was standing.
• The material. What a catalog. For all my little bitchy complaints, there were dozens and dozens of moments that got me good. The songs themselves are just so powerful. On their worst day I’d rather see The Who than just about any band in the world.
Won’t Get Fooled Again
• Someone has a Pete quote along the lines of, “We’re not what we used to be, but we’re the best fucking Who cover band in the world.” Exactly. Best in the world.