Review by Suzanne Coker
Brief But Sweet
These short, focused, "call me lightnin" trips are confusing in a whole different way than a multishow loop; what makes them possible also makes them nearly unbearable.
Drove six hours up, half an hour after arrival was meeting up for sound check and a full evening of show and postshow; few hours sleep, brunch and brief tour of the city with an old friend, six hours back and before I even know I'm gone, I'm back again. Did the trip even really happen?
Must have, 'cause I have these new thoughts, these memories.
Soundcheck and dinner good, pleasant, and memorable mostly for one outstanding fact: ZAK'S BACK! Scott did an outstanding job filling in and I appreciate all he brought to the mix, but as far as overall sound goes, there's no comparison. Zak looked a little pale, and I'm not certain exactly what was involved with that "large carrot up the ass" or with having it taken back out again, but it was good to see him and he brought the thunder.
I have trouble rating and comparing entire shows; there are so many subjective factors, we each have our favorites. Overall, this was a very fine one. There were the usual challenges with Roger's ear monitors and a microphone that kept cutting out. Watching the tech change out his monitors, cord and all, it occured to me how many women might like to have that job...but Roger might enjoy that too much!
From what I could see, Pete didn't appear to be having any trouble with his hand. The tour takes its toll, but they soldier on.
Pete was actually a bit on fire, and I could appreciate him even better from my new favorite spot, right between him and Roger. Best of both worlds. There was an unofficial upgrade involved, and I should say here that every one of those I've ever enjoyed has been by invitation and/or consent, if not actual encouragement, of those already in front. Last night a particularly nice and cute couple, Mike and Andi, were very generous with their space, above and beyond anything I would expect. Thanks, ya'll!
In general, the area up front was a happy, loving place last night, and the guys reciprocated; Roger tossed a couple of water bottles into the crowd and a cute young girl next to me ended up with one. Her expression was priceless and for the rest of the show she clutched that half-full Dasani like it was the Holy Grail. Too adorable for envy.
The show didn't have the precision of some, but lots of heart and attitude. Noticed this most during Helpless Dancer; the tension that clicked just right in Glendale didn't quite happen here, but Roger sang it with a righteous fury that worked just as well. Love Reign O'er Me started out tender, prayerful, then became a cry from the streets with just a hint of temper tantrum, then an all-out storm.
Through several shows now, Pete's been developing a verbal riff in Drowned, something like: "You (points out across the audience to include everyone) are the ocean...I am a rain drop...let me drown...lay me down in the river...(builds in intensity)...bring on the rain...bring on the pain...bring on the FUCKING HURRICANE!" Maybe it started out as a Sandy reference, but it's grown into much, much more. This time he personalized it for Louisville, saying the Ohio River, then "let me flow into the Mississippi...on down to the Gulf of Mexico," before the hurricane. A lot of people didn't catch the Ohio part, but that's the local river, only a block or two from the venue; it does indeed flow into the Mississippi, and is a force to be reckoned with on its own.
Speaking of Drowned, I could finally hear Roger's harmonica on it last night! Sounded good, too, working as a part of the band, very beautifully. Came through clearer on Baba O'Riley as well, even though I couldn't help remembering this bit of stage banter from Glendale. Pete: Seems that ending is getting shorter and shorter. I can remember when it seemed to go on forever. Roger: Yeah, a LOT of things used to go on much longer!
Lots of fun little moments tonight, banter and otherwise. At one point, something struck Roger as funny while he was off-spotlight; I happened to glance over and saw nothing but his smile, glowing in the blue-dark. Cheshire Rog! Pete made a comment at the end of soundcheck that he'd be back on stage later, "with [his] teeth in." And the great exchange before Tea and Theatre where Roger said "But I WANT to be a fucking folk singer! I want to do four hours of Johnny Cash." Pete's reply: "I would do four hours of string quartets." Roger: "And I would get a good night's sleep."
Then the song itself, with Roger masterfully bringing it down soft and close and tender, then cutting into an abrupt roar. Seen him do this so many times, and it still works.
Speaking of what still works: there's been some discussion about prerecording and even lip synching. While my ear/eye coordination isn't sharp enough to let me really judge this, there are a couple places where Roger makes no attempt to pretend he's singing; one makes sense to me, one puzzles me a bit and raises some questions. The one that makes sense is right at the beginning: I Am the Sea is completely replayed. Roger doesn't start singing until the first line of The Real Me, and IMO that's effective and even appropriate. I don't expect live seagulls or surf (!) and in this context, his recorded voice is one of the sound effects that starts the piece, recalling the album rather than performing a song from it. It probably also lets him get settled in on stage and start with a sharp attack, which is all to the good.
Maybe a similar case could be made for the more puzzling bit during The Punk and The Godfather, where the long, climbing line that starts "I'm the guy in the sky" is all replay, though the following, musically identical line starting with "I'm the new president" doesn't seem to be. Or maybe both are, but he's actually been making a show of not lip-synching the first; on several nights I've seen, he's looked around in mock confusion, as if to say, wait, who's that singing? Then he turns to watch the screen with its image of his younger self. This sets up a dialog between Then and Now, which is nice, and I can see why he'd pass up those lines out of anything in the show. They're hideously hard to sing at full volume and in one breath, which is what it takes to get it right. Try it yourself at home. It's not like stretching to nail one high note; more like carrying a piano uphill. In the rain.
Any replayed material raises issues of honesty and authenticity. Roger sidesteps this to some extent by pointedly not lip-synching, and I admire his courage both in doing what he has to do to complete the show and in being upfront about it. No point stumbling over the same damn curb every night, blowing confidence and risking the rest of the performance; may as well just accept a little help there and get on with things. But that can create a slippery slope, in an audience's mind, if not in actual practice. Once you know he's not singing that line, a person can't help but wonder where else he might using a little help; for some listeners every difficult passage, every high note is soon under scrutiny and an especially skeptical listener might begin to find the performance disturbing instead of brave.
Not me, though. When it comes to The Who I'm willingly and openly on the gullible side. If the Emperor isn't wearing any clothes, then by god he's got one really fantastic ass.
None of this even comes close to ruining the show for me, but it does raise a concern several fans voiced when we heard the guys were touring Quad. It's just so fucking hard to sing, and bringing it night after night has got to be beyond challenging. Every tour takes its toll; I hope this one concludes safely for all and picks up after the break with any issues well resolved.
All that said, when Roger's comfortably in the middle of his range, his voice is clearer and stronger than it's been in years, truly a joy to hear. Noticed this especially last night during Baba O'Riley. Great version, right up until the end, which was...shall we say, abrupt? Lots of laughing fingerpointing, the blame flying all around the stage and finally landing on Bobby Pridden. Pete saying it's hard to jump and land at just the right time--at least, now it is.
After the show, went to a huge and hugely crowded but very convenient hotel bar to hang out, visit, and hash over the show. At one point conversation turned to Pete's clothes and Roger's hair. The consensus: natty, as if for sailing and, sadly, a bit....matronly. One person suggested he return to the cropped and dyed 'do from 2006, but my personal preference would be to grow it out even a touch more and let it do its thing, just don't style it so much. I like the gray. I like my own gray. I'm just that kind of girl. I also was in quiet disbelief that I was even talking about this, but that's aftershow for you.
Made the potential big mistake of contacting an ex who now lives in Louisville; we caught up a couple years ago at my friends' in Tennessee, so I had some idea what I was summoning and it turned out okay. He was at the show, too, so we had a starting point; after a good meal we took a walk along the river. I'd forgotten how much fun he is to talk with; always good when an old partner becomes a new friend, when memories serve as introduction instead of roadblock.
That visit as well as conversation before and after the show reminded me of something about memory. It can trap you and torture you with what could have been; it can also comfort you and help you on the road ahead. It's always a bit bittersweet, but so much depends on which part of that term you focus on.
Review by Tim Ballou
Had an amazing experience at Louisville. Not sure how much of it was the show, or the events surrounding, but it will definitely go down as a very, very special Who experience for me. It's the city I was born in, and the location of my very first Who show in 1982.
Attended the VIP, soundcheck and all, with a Kentucky friend I've known since I was 6 years old. Another two old friends were at the show too, but didn't invest in the VIP. I've jumped some walls and unravelled some codes with those guys, and it was thrilling to be back in Kentucky with them (from my current Los Angeles home) and in a nice new Louisville arena, which was very nearly full.
I was surprised to see what I think may have been a couple hundred VIPs at the soundcheck and party. Didn't think the Louisville market would trigger so much interest. Before we were ushered in to the soundcheck, we could hear someone practicing the drums only for a few minutes. When we got in, I was pleased to see Zak behind the kit again, and looking in great shape to me. The rest of the band starts coming on stage. Not a lot of banter as they ran through The Rock, Real Me, I'm One, and Who Are You. Roger discussed some mic levels, said a quick hello and waved to us. Pete said something to the band about his acoustic, then said he had some noodling to do but didn't need the band. As we were walking out he said ... "I'll see you later..." and ... "I'll have my teeth in then."
Very nice dinner. It's the KFC Yum Center, so me and my friend were half-expecting fried chicken. It was mor along the lines of nice wedding reception fare, with beer and wine.
The show was the tightest of the three I have seen. And, sitting in the 7th row, it was my best view by far. Roger had some sound issues, an earpiece being replaced by a tech mid-song at one point. No pot smoking outbursts, but he did get really pissed and missed some vocals while having some earpiece issues during WGFA.
Pete introduced the band, forgetting one of the keyboard players' names. Wasn't sure if he was kidding, but he did eventually say it. He welcome Zak back after "having a carrot removed from his ass." He thanked everyone profusely for showing up in such large numbers during such a tough financial time.
On the final air jump and last note of Baba, Pete completely missed the timing of the landing, out of synch with the band. Very funny reaction. The band and the tech guys reacted with surprise and laughter. Pete made light of it, saying something about how hard that was to do at his age, and saying during the next song he was going to act like he was a teenager. (He didn't do anything outrageous during the next song.)
During DROWNED, Pete added in a reference to the Ohio River, along with the hurricane line. Louisville sits on the Ohio, as does the Yum Center where they played. And Roger later thanked "Louisville." Little things maybe, but I really appreciated them.
Standard closing set list. Lots of audience energy. I haven't actually attended a concert in Kentucky in decades, much less a Who show. I noticed the audience, to my surprise, looked just like the Who fans I see everywhere else. Some media attention and other conversation here and there about the band not being in the state for 30 years. I, for one, was proud to see the passion and interest for their return. When I bought this ticket back in July, I felt pretty strongly that this would very likely be my last Who show ever and that it would be a great bookend to the first one I saw in 82. But now I just don't know. I've heard Roger scream "thank God I ain't old" three times in the last month. I'm starting to believe he really believes that.
Tim Ballou (still in Kentucky and thanking God he ain't old too)