Talking 'bout my Generation
People try to put us down
Everytime we come to t-t-town
Okay, first and foremost, I better say that I was going in with a bias. In my world, it was Pete Townshend and some other guys on stage. But I’ll tell you, that Dolltree guy is pretty good, they should keep him.
I’ve heard quite a bit of criticism of how it wouldn’t be the same without Entwistle or Moon. Frankly, you work with what you’ve got to work with and the Daltry / Townshend combination was exceptionally backed by Pino Palladino on bass and Zak Starkey on drums. Wow, Starkey nailed it. Amazingly nailed it. (If you don’t know, Starkey is Ringo Starr’s eldest whom played with Oasis, which is where he hit on my personal radar. May he be blessed with many, many children, the world needs a few more drummers.) Bundrick is still there, and got a deafening ovation when introduced and still sounded great tickling the ivories. His flourishes simply make some of The Who’s songs work to me - for instance, I consider Bundrick essential to Baba O’Reilly.
Special note to my lady-love for spotting that Pete suddenly put on a toque during the show. In one of those wonderful “Hey, I learned something new!” moments, Simon Townshend was introduced as their rhythm guitarist. When Pete introduced him as “…my brother…” I was thinking “brotherhood-of-man” or “one-of-my-boys”. Nope, brother as in “another one of Mom and Dad’s kids”
Together, The Who was, in every sense, the guitar-infested, power-chorded, electrified, England’s Loudest Band some 30 years later that I was expecting. This is the first time they’ve been to Calgary since the year I was BORN. Truly my first chance to see them and worth every moment. Pete spoke about playing at the Stampede, where they had the stage set up “over the dung” and he could really smell it. (Of course, he said he couldn’t remember anything about the show then.) Yeah, Daltry and Townshend are in their 60’s and showing it. And they still put the Saddledome on it’s ear.
For reference, my Lady-love got seats on the floor - Row 19 standing areas 3 and 4. No one sat where we were the whole show. We were at the first row after the first break in front of the stage on Townshend’s side. A fabulous view - when Daltry was projected onto the screen beside him, he was about twice as large as he was visible on stage. I didn’t waste a lot of time looking at the screens at all.
Townshend was amazing - most of the show I spent watching his windmilling, strumming, non-guitar smashing greatness. (They played a clip of him smashing a guitar in the background, so technically I get to say I saw him smash a guitar onstage live.) He looks like a dignified proper chap, rips off “We’re fucking happy to be here” attitude, and fires off a phlegmmy goober just before blasting out a riff of magnificent excellence.
Daltry absolutely blew me away. Sure, he doesn’t carry the voice he once had - I won’t deny the facts. I got the feeling he needed a couple of songs to get up to speed and started to run out of steam near the end. He’s still a thousand times more than your average Rock and/or Roll singer today. He’s looking great for 60-something, and sounds like he well and truly belongs on the stage still. And very well could for another 20 years. He spun the microphone like an obscene weapon, as if to demonstrate that all the windmilling was not going to be sequestered by Townshend alone.
Musically, it’s bloody hard for a “Classic Rock” band to come out and not waste two hours stepping through a collection of semi-mouldy stale cheeze of songs you’ve heard a thousand times before.
This was NOT such an occasion. I’m ecstatic with the set list.
Townshend pointed out they were playing “eight..nine…ten…eleven…TWELVE new songs tonight.“ Mostly I just knew there were songs I don’t recall hearing. And it was two hours of music that was undeniably music that was The Who and nothing else. If I didn’t know a song, it had the edge, the drive, the introspection, the bliss of The Who over their entire career. Everything felt well and truly in place - from “We got a Hit!” to “Pinball Wizard.”
We’re not in 1972 anymore. But The Who has moved beyond 1972 and brought a close approximation to 2006 and made it all feel right. We’re not in our teenage angst any more, but we sure as hell remember what it was like.
Production wise, that was a rock show that was truly about respecting the music by putting it front and center. The band on stage, backdrops displaying themed movie clips or still images (animated when necessary, thank you very much), and a light show to be green with envy over. Lots and lots of lights. Splash the crowd and flood the stage lights. Movers and shakers and truss warmers. No choreography, no chorus line, just a bunch of guys up there going crazy sometimes, playing their hearts out, and having one hell of a good time making the music that the crowd was having one hell of a good time listening to. Yeah.
And don’t worry about your eardrums, either. I don’t know my line arrays well at all, but they had a good one (if a little weather-beaten), and the sound was fabulous. Well-mixed, the highs sparkled, the lows thumped and “England’s Loudest Band” was very listenable, indeed.
Definitively one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. If you get a chance to see The Who, go see The Who.