Review by Alan McKendree
The only other time The Who has played Austin was July 3, 1980. The pre-show text projections kindly referenced that with a “The Who in Austin history” slide, mentioning the date and a short paragraph about the band which included Rabbit. The pre-show projections contained lots of very attractively-presented educational text about the band and personnel, for those unfamiliar in the audience. In general, the video production is outstanding in this tour. Throughout the show, in the projections and the music, there’s a hint of looking back and wrapping up. Not maudlin, just present.
Joan Jett delivered a killer opening act, looking and sounding great, and the venue was well attended to see her. Highly recommended.
I’m happy to see the band changed things around after their traditional I Can’t Explain opener, dropping the predictable Substitute for an early high point of The Seeker, followed by the widely-known Who Are You.
Pete ran into a number of equipment problems early; at one point he announced he was going to swap out an amp, which Roger misunderstood, so Pete and Roger had a brief discussion of “swab” vs “swap”, ending with Pete overenunciating “I’m going to swaP out an amP. The swab comes later.”
Pete filled the lull with the transparent time-passer “It's really great to be in Austin” <crowd roars> “one of the greatest music cities in the world” <crowd roars> “ I was just on the river, and I could sort of hear bands in the distance.”, etc. At one point he said, “I know Jeff Beck’s in town tonight, so there’s at least one real guitar player in town. I know there are hundreds of guitar player in Austin better than me. UNFORTUNATELY <Townshendian pause> I’m the one you’re getting tonight.” It’s notable that this was all done in a calm manner — fix the problem and move on — rather than screams that the situation might have elicited from a much younger Pete.
The rarity Pictures of Lily was a nice treat for older fans, followed by a relatively contained My Generation.
I've seen a heck of a lot of Love Reign O'er Me performances, but last night Roger really wrung himself out. He visibly gathered his strength before the last "LOOOVE", and hit it! and then went down to hit a very low, difficult note on the last "me". He kind of rolled his eyes and went upstage by the drums and leaned on the mike stand to recover as the band finished the song.
We got A Quick One, which was top on my want list. Friends who I'd persuaded to see them for the first time were just babbling about how good they were. The Kids Are Alright, but they repeated that this is the last tour of this sort they plan to ever do.
Amazing Journey/Sparks kicked off the Tommy songs, and it was satisfyingly dark and menacing during the “Captain Walker didn't come home” segment added in recent years, and crashing/explosive otherwise. During Listening to You, the video screen showed a giant hand with finger pointing at the audience, swinging slowly back and forth to include everyone. For those who hadn’t figured it out yet or were hearing it for the first time, the band was making it clear they were talking to us in that song.
As customary on this tour, there was no encore. The band finished with the one-two punch of Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again, and took their bows. That, too, is quite apropos, as they used to do it, doing away with the choreographed retreat and timed re-entry. They clearly leave it all on the stage, and perhaps the lack of an encore gives a quite Who-like slight jar to the audience.
Reactions of local friends seeing them for the first time ranged from quite positive to babbling ecstasy (very satisfying). What I see is a band doing a fantastic show, without the element of danger in the playing that once was one of The Who’s trademarks. There was some jamming, but no anger. There were windmills, but no frenzy. It was paced and professional. It blew the audience away, and it was far more than we ever could have expected back when it all started.
Soundcheck review by Lauren from Boulder
Everyone was on stage when we arrived. They were actually doing some tech work on Magic Bus when we first came in.
We got WAY, part of squeeze box, part of EF and I'm One. Lots of chatter.
Roger had just eaten, and confessed that he really couldn't put out for us in that condition. (My words, not his.)
All of the songs were flat and low energy, but fine.
Pete and Rog had a fun little exchange about the hand signals for the note going up (like a carrot up your arse). Then what's the signal about a note going down? A cucumber up your arse. You probably had to be there, but it was pretty amusing in the moment.
And while Alan made mention of it the other day, I'd like to elaborate on the Squeeze Box animation. We only saw a smattering of it, but SUPER COOL! It starts with building the Who By Numbers cover, by connecting the dots. Then it fills in John's autograph. Then has them moving and playing in their places on the cover. Then, the WBN images of Keith and John continue on to do other stuff. Like I said, we only saw a small part of it, but it was super duper cool. And I left my usual soundcheck spot (inside aisle, Pete side) to go sit on the floor by Alan (center), to share the Squeeze Box-ness of it all.
After the aforementioned songs, Roger left the stage pretty abruptly - something bothering him. (Physical, I think.) I was distracted and didn't see it. He never came back. Soundcheck was over. Super short. Pete was left out there to fill in Rog's bit and express their gratitude and call it a day. (Which he did a pretty good job of.)
Additional Note: Joan Jett and a couple of her band members were in the Pete side loge section watching most of soundcheck. Mark came out for a bit (. Nic was out some of the time, but oddly - all the way over on Simon side.
Then it was off to dinner. The graphic posterboards and stuff that they have created for around the room are pretty cool. Lots of good images from throughout Who history. There was music on, but it was barely audible. Odd.
The food was adequate but unimpressive. Eddie said that Duluth (Atlanta market) and Raleigh were the best and the the food in general at JazzFest was fantastic.
Over dinner, we were mindful of the time, making sure to be out to see Simon. The bunch of us that cared arrived at the main merch/TCA booth at 7:05, only to discover from Isabelle, the nice woman on the road for TCA, that UT (the venue is on the Univ of TX campus) would not allow them to collect donations. Somehow, Simon concluded that was reason to cancel his M&G/signing. :-(