The Who: Moving On Review (Sept 18, 2019)

The Who (now in their 70s) performed with an orchestra. They kicked things off with a suite of Tommy songs.

  • Overture/Didn’t Hear It: The first notes of the overture played with a full orchestra had the audience going early. Unfortunately the mix was poor, a common complaint of mine the last few tours. Except for the bass and snare drums, Zak was inaudible. Together with the bass, there was a thudding noise instead of the engine that drives the music and the many dynamics in the songs. The orchestral timing was often subtly off from the rest of the band, removing the sharpness of hitting the notes just so on the beat. And The Who is all about hitting the beats hard.
  • 1921: A wonderful short song that usually doesn’t get their live treatment.
  • Amazing Journey / Sparks
  • Pinball Wizard: Here is the dynamic these days. Simon does the real work on the acoustic guitar. Pete idly strums on the electric. The screens focus on Pete doing not much interesting musically and the crowd goes crazy. It’s amazing how much of the real work is being done by Simon.
  • We’re Not Gonna Take It / Listening to You
  • Who Are You: Ah, now we’re getting warmed up.
  • Eminence Front: Hey, Pete’s awake! The old man is suddenly starting to play that guitar like he means it.
  • Imagine A Man: Much like on Daltrey Sings Townshend, the orchestra makes this song work. A wonderful deep cut.
  • Hero at Ground Zero: One of their two new songs. It’s hard to judge songs by a live performance, but it sounded ordinary. I could swear the chorus used the same backing chords as The Punk Meets the Godfather.

The orchestra left for a while. This was good, the less people on stage, the more the band could let loose.

  • The Kids Are Alright
  • I Can See For Miles
  • You Better You Bet
  • Won’t Get Fooled Again: One of the high points of the night. Pete on acoustic, Roger singing, and nothing else. A modern reprise of Pete’s performance on Secret Policemans Ball. Did you know that together with Bon Jovi, that was the genesis of MTVs: Unplugged. Yep, look it up.

Now the orchestra starts sliding back in.

  • Behind Blue Eyes: Featuring a violin and cello.
  • Ball and Chain: Their other new song, stronger than the first. The verse/chorus is overly simple, but the musical break between verses is quite interesting. On the subway home, I was informed this song is derived from a Pete Townshend solo song, Guantanamo.

On to the Quadrophenia suite (with Orchestra) and closing:

  • The Real Me
  • I’m One: This should always be acoustic. Roger played blues harmonica over it. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did. Now the orchestra and the band are sounding great together.
  • 5:15: Seems sad to have no bass solo.
  • Quadrophenia (the song): Nice to see Simon and Pete trading off the parts with each other. The orchestra is wonderful. Simon rules.
  • Love Reign O’er Me: I have never heard of Loren Gold, but I’m a fan now. He took the piano intro and made it his own. He captured all the melancholy feel of the album but with an extended classical take on it, a few minutes worth. Roger now sings the lyrics correctly (on the album, he reversed the lines, The night is hot as black as ink/I sleep and I lay and I think” which makes far less sense). After the song was over, Pete introduced the band with the piano player as “The gent who played that incredible piano part for two and half hours or so.” This is a song that’s hard to get right. Pearl Jam comes the closest, but somehow misses. Even with Roger unable to hit so many notes with power, all the feel and emotion comes across. With a full orchestra, this was a wonderful closer to the main show. And thanks be to heaven, they didn’t play the ridiculous fake encore game. (Lights go off. Everyone claps. They cheer some more. The band comes back on. Repeat at next venue.) There was a few minutes pause as they talked to the audience for a bit, then launched into the closer.
  • Baba O’Riley: Goddamnit, what a song. I don’t care how old they are, how bad the sound is, that Pete almost falls over while closing the song out or anything negative. This is just the best. The violin player (Katie Jacoby) absolutely destroys it (start at 3:15). That same huge grin on her face was planted on mine the rest of the night. To quote Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, “Marvelous.”

Notable cuts from the setlist: I Can’t Explain (their traditional opener), My Generation, Tea & Theatre.

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