Review by Tim Herrlinger
A while back I made a suggestion that The Who should allow their most faithful fans to attend the soundcheck at their local venue. With special VIP ticketing, this opportunity has become a reality.
Approximately 100 of us were able to witness some of the behind-the-scenes activities that go into preparations for a concert performance. At Oakland, California, this particular soundcheck was serious business. The open microphone discussions seemed rather formal with Pete complaining about differences between his two stage monitors and Roger saying that the sound was bouncing off the high ceiling. Yes, Oracle Arena is not a proper music venue and Roger, while smiling at the attendees, said something like “I hope this is a good basketball arena because it’s a shitty concert hall.” The band ran through a handful of songs with multiple restarts to work out technical details. Pete didn't recognize us with a disparaging but affectionate adjective this time (as in reprobates, scumbags, etc.) - just a “Thanks for coming.” I left the concert prelude thinking that the entire crew are professionals who sincerely care about putting on the best show possible.
Vintage Trouble was impressive and they're a great warm-up act. Be sure to arrive in time to see their energy and talent.
The Who’s performance was very straight forward and wonderfully complete. I was skeptical of having 10 musicians on stage for this version of Quadrophenia, but the combination of visual renderings on three overhead panels and the full range of instruments delivering a live, entire rendition of The Who’s masterpiece works exceptionally well.
The venue looked sold out and people were on their feet for nearly the entire concert. Pete seemed like he was in a really good mood and smiled often. Roger had a little bit of trouble with his voice during Dr. Jimmy and later asked the crowd to refrain from smoking pot. He said his throat closes up from the smoke and he asked fans to eat their pot instead of smoking it. “It will last longer that way.” There were no changes this night from what has become a traditional set list.
As always, Sue and I truly enjoy seeing members of the Who fanbase that have become close friends over the years. Every tour we add new acquaintances that share in our madness. The “Relayers” community continues to be the heart and soul of those who understand the visceral importance of the music, lyrics, and live performances of The Who.
Review by DG Devin
I had doubts, let's not pretend I didn't. Even though my wife and I had seen Roger do a solid job on his recent Tommy tour, I didn't know if his voice was up to the task of performing Quad. The man isn't getting any younger and his vocal cords have had an eventful life, so there were doubts....
I can report that for the most part Roger is still up to the job, the whole band is up to the job, they still perform with passion and fire and leave a packed arena giddy with delight at the end of the show.
Perhaps this was an especially hardcore crowd, Quad serving as a filter to screen out more of what my wife calls the "tourists", those less dedicated fans who haven't named their dogs, cats and children after members of The Who. Maybe, I saw a lot of very old tee-shirts on some rather old fans (look at all those old geezers, they must be in their fifties and sixties..., oh, wait). I was delighted to see a custom "vanity" license plate, "MAX RNB"--now that's a serious Who fan. So *perhaps* this audience would have responded with rabid enthusiasm whether it was a good show or not. But it was a good show, they didn't phone it in, they aren't just going through the motions, those men clearly still enjoy being onstage and draw energy from an audience that would be dancing on the chairs if not for security staff and fear of a fall that might require a hip replacement. Any fears anyone has that what is left of The Who will deliver a low-voltage nostalgia show without real musical merit just don't stand up in the face of the performance we saw yesterday.
Highlights for me included the very touching tributes to John and Keith on the video screens during a couple of songs. John's jaw-dropping Ox-cam solo on the video screens in "5:15" left the audience roaring, and my wife in tears which is a reaction a lot of us have when we think of the mighty Entwistle being gone these ten years. The audience was just as enthusiastic to see and hear Keith doing "Bellboy" on the video screens, something which later lead Pete to comment that Keith Moon still isn't quite dead after all these years. He made that remark during the band introductions after they had performed Quad in its entirety, nobody said a word prior to that which was quite a departure from what we're used to--Pete's onstage wit being something I look forward to.
I was pleased to see Simon take the spotlight for "The Dirty Jobs", that was nice. Dang, he's looking almost as grizzled as his big brother these days, getting a bit grey there Simon. Why Rabbit isn't up there I don't know, I didn't hear anything from the three keys players that was one lick better than what Rabbit would have done. The brass was done properly, just where it was needed as per the studio album, they aren't using these backing players to carry the band.
Now, there was one bit of trouble. During "Doctor Jimmy" Roger's voice pretty much quit. It happened suddenly, in a flash he could hardly croak out a sound. Somehow he made it through the song, but it was very obvious something was wrong. By happy chance "The Rock" then provided a long instrumental break which allowed Roger to retreat behind the drum riser where we saw him put his head in his hands in between gulping bottled water. To say we were concerned would be a massive understatement. To our relief and delight Roger returned to belt out "Love, Reign O'er Me" at something close to full power. I watched his closeups on the video screens intently to see if he was lip syncing and I don't think he was getting any digital help, the old trooper was still giving it his all. He spoke to the crowd about this after they completed Quad, saying he is in effect allergic to pot smoke now, it makes his throat close up, so if anyone had any pot it would help if they would eat it rather than smoke it, and that would make it last longer too. Pete then remarked audience members could instead eat the person next to them, that would last a lifetime; later, saying goodbye at the end of the show, Pete thanked the audience for eating the band--yeah, for almost five decades now, Pete.
I'm sure there are those who won't go to see our boys on this tour for the reasons we've heard since John's death--it isn't the real Who, they're past it, why pay for half a band, blah blah blah. Okay, to each his own. But with the exception of Roger briefly having trouble with his throat due to the smoke, I can honestly say that Pete and Roger delivered the goods at Oakland. Pete still prowls the stage like a big awkward jungle cat, lunging into his guitar and whirling his arm like someone half his age. Roger is still spinning that mic through the air when he isn't wailing into it, his performance and his calendar age just don't match. So we sure aren't sorry we have tickets to three more shows, not when those guys can still blow the walls out like this. My doubts were laid to rest, so I'm glad that in half an hour we're heading for the train station for the trip to Reno. I didn't expect to see them again, I really didn't. But I'm sure glad they decided to do it again, they are doing the music proud.