Review by DG Devin
So they tell me I have probably just seen my last Who concert. They said that once before (and only once despite popular myth). Five months from now almost to the day it will be forty years since I first saw The Who live, without question the greatest rock concert I was ever witness to. Over the years I've seen other, lesser, versions of the band as two of the original members moved on to some other plane of existence. Good Lord, that second show after John's death, that bittersweet joy of seeing the greatest of bands but now with only two of the original titans left.... So how am I to feel now, if this is really the last time I will participate in the communal joy of a Who show?
When I became older (but no wiser) and took a wife I was astonished at her collection of tickets stubs from the early days of rock--The Beatles, The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones (she is clearly pictured in the front row at the second-ever U.S. Stones show, in Bill Wyman's book Rolling With The Stones, page 133. See the blonde in the glasses in the bottom right corner? That's "My Wife"--Brian Jones seems to be leering right at her, do I want to know if there is a story there? But she had never seen The Who until I took her to her first Who show a dozen years ago and she was enraptured--I knew I had found a keeper. She got teary at the beginning of last night's show in Oakland, thinking that this might be it. So many memories of that building--we met at a tailgate party at a Stones concert there, one of the very best Stones performances I ever saw in addition to meeting my future wife, a good night. We've seen The Who there before, and The Dead, quite a legacy for a humble basketball arena.
I realized how I wanted to think about maybe the last show when I saw a woman last night whose leg was encased in a cast as she slowly made her way on crutches down the steps in our section, half a dozen rows up just off Pete's corner of the stage, really good seats. I figured if this women wasn't letting a broken leg stop her from using that precious ticket then I needed to stop being maudlin about it and just enjoy what was about to occur. Yeah, we're a lot older, battered, scarred, not all of us made it this far. But dammit we were once again going to do what the San Francisco Chronicle said about Daltrey and Townshend at the second show after Entwistle's death--"Defiantly spitting into the abyss, at high volume".
Despite what some obnoxious fans think--that The Who are at their best only when some jerks down front intentionally manage to make them mad--I maintain that the best Who shows happen when there are grins on the faces of our boys, and there were grins last night. Weren't they supposed to be doing less talking to make more room for music? Well they were yakking last night. Roger told a story about marrying his first wife because she was pregnant and back then that was what you did, you got married. But he remembered looking out the window of their sixth-floor flat and seeing an ad for this new band called The Beatles, and he had the first stirrings of the direction his life might take, he thought he had made the right choice in going with The Detours.
Pete talked about the Monterey Pop Festival, and Eric Burdon being amused by the drug-addled reactions to "I Can See For Miles", he told Pete he just thought it was a song about a guy who could see really far. I can remember Pete saying in the past how they got so many requests for that song, to which I was always tempted to ask, well why don't you play it you bastards? They played it last night, I was thrilled, always loved that song. Someone held up a little sign requesting some rarely performed song and Pete thanked them and said tonight they were playing only what are known as "the hits". Roger talked about the tour and the album celebrating 50 Who hits, and then Pete corrected him and said the name actually refers to 50 years and four hits.
We were both struck yet again by the brilliant graphics displayed on the big screen behind the band, tour after tour someone has done an amazing job of mixing old film and still photos and computer-generated images that compliment the music so well. The sound was excellent, loud but not stupid-loud, and nice and clear.
As I hoped, someone in the audience got us all singing, "Happy Birthday" to Pete, that was a lovely moment. Pete acknowledged what he called, "the clowns" down front with little paper party hats, I thought it was a clever touch on their part. Pete also said for his birthday he wanted a new amplifier, a proper one, which I took to be a joke as he's seemed quite happy with those Fender Vibro-Kings for quite awhile now. He raised our hopes for a moment when he said that everyone he knows is a better guitar player than him, and then quickly added that however nobody can play like him (gee, no kidding). Then he teased that he has so much power that he can destroy a guitar with one fingernail and everyone screamed, but there was no guitar smash. Another big audience reaction came when the projection screen showed a series of Keith Moon images with his name and the dates of his birth and death, but we were both surprised when there wasn't really a similar tribute to Entwistle, just a few photos of him during the "historical" sequence.
It was a bit surprising that they structured the show to have no encore, but that fit with the theme, a trip through their greatest hits with a very clear climax at the end. But it almost looked like the other members of the band didn't know if they were supposed to leave the stage or not, eventually after many thank-you remarks from Pete and Roger who of course told us to be lucky, everyone wandered off and the roadies wandered on and began loading out even though the house lights never really came up, it was odd.
The music, well it was a good night, Roger's voice was good although I was a bit surprised at how rough it was when he was speaking, but his singing was fine. Pete might finally be showing his age, but he was dancing at one point, really tearing it up like a much younger man, something else which happens when he's happy onstage rather than pissed off. They were glad to be there, they did not phone it in, I wish I had tickets for a few more shows as in years past, what more could I have asked, could anyone ask? If this is really the last time those two legends will tour, I will have to accept that as I accept my achy old back and all those prescriptions I take every day. Ah but what a glorious thing it has been, this band, I'll listen to them so long as I'm still drawing breath.
Review by Tim Herrlinger
What a wonderful night! This band continues to amaze me and not just because of their age and perseverance. I'll leave it to others to describe the Pete birthday wishes at the start of the show. There was lots of energy by Pete, Roger, Zak, and Simon all night at Oracle Arena and the packed crowd enjoyed a whopping good show.
Those of us in the front row got machine gunned by Pete and there was an appearance of The Birdman during Sparks (always a favorite of mine).
Our son Jack was getting a lot of attention during the show and he held up like a trooper. The sound check had given him his first taste of what was to come and we enjoyed seeing him manage a wry smile when The Who really pumped up the volume at the start of the sound check. Little did he know he'd be getting a full dose of aural and visual stimulation when the main event started. Maybe it was his ear protection (blue Edz Kids Earmuffs), or the fact that his chin barely reached the top of the front rail when standing on a collapsible step stool we brought, but lots of photographers took his picture.
I need to interject a little back-story first. During the VIP gathering, we went up to donate to Teen Cancer America and say hello to Simon. He remembered me and I thanked him for all his efforts to help raise money for TCA. We got a photo and I mentioned that we'd be seeing more of Simon since we were on the rail. Simon said he'd try to get Roger to notice Jack.
Roger was particularly engaged with the crowd and not just during the sing-a-longs (e.g., You Better You Bet). When he sang about children, he looked at Jack and even pointed.
Halfway through the show, Ben Breslin (bass player for Slydigs) came through the front row holding a beer and stood next to Shari, Jack, and me. He was very polite and gave lots of fist bumps with Jack. Ben wanted to put Jack on his shoulders, but I wasn't too keen about that. Ben pulled out a Simon Townshend pick and gave that to Jack. It was one of many acts of kindness that night which produced an instant smile from our kindergartner.
But the best was saved for last. After Won't Get Fooled Again, there were intros and the band started to leave the stage. We were really thrilled with the show. I looked at Roger and pointed to him in an acknowledgement of thanks for a job well done. And then he quickly turned around as if he'd forgotten something, got a tambourine and tossed it toward Jack. I caught it and gave it to our son who was on my shoulders. I couldn't see his reaction, but I'm sure he was beaming. The house video caught Jack holding the tambourine and everyone saw the really nice gesture from Roger. I looked at Simon and he was grinning from ear to ear! He pointed to us and nodded his head. I'm sure Simon had said something to Roger and planted the seed. Such is the generosity of the band and their true appreciation of the fans.
After the show, a roadie presented Jack with a set list. Graciousness again. I put the tambourine in my backpack and we walked out of the venue to our car. Many people recognized Jack and kept telling him how lucky he was to get that tambourine. So it was a perfect night in all respects. Sue and I were excited to share our love of The Who with Jack and the lads came through immensely, fulfilling our wildest fantasies.
Review by Pat Stanton
The show last night in Oakland was a 2+ hour birthday celebration for Pete on his 71st birthday. Unlike Roger at the Toronto show on March 1st when he did not seem to want to be reminded of the date, Pete mentioned it throughout the night, joking and laughing about it. He even demanded a new amp at one point telling us he could because it was his birthday and then asking the fans in front of him to tell him they thought it sounded better. Sounded the same to me on the other side.
A group of fans in the front put on birthday hats and lit small birthday candles when the band took the stage. Pete was a bit embarrassed and told us to take them off in rather colorful language but he enjoyed the moment. Roger just laughed.
Both Roger and Pete expressed their love of San Francisco, especially Pete, saying it looks better now than it ever did. His appreciate and love of the water probably factor into his comments.
The set list was the same shortened list as Portland so it seems 5:15 is retired again. Too bad as I thought that was one of the best songs they performed in recent gigs.
Roger told us his extended van story again, telling us that you had to marry a girl back then if you got her pregnant or get the sh*t beat out of you. The white laminated arrow on the van pointed to Freedom.
The intro to Miles was longer than usual, with lots of Monterey Festival references due to our location.
Join Together was especially spirited with lots of audience participation as we were again led by the master of karaoke. Pete mentioned that it was the Greatful Dead's favorite Who song and he remembered that they once performed a 25 minute rendition. Now that is a lot of join togethers.
Roger always introduces the Rock before he leaves for his short break, usually just praising the song as one of Pete's masterpieces and his favorite. Last night he changed it up, telling us that we had been conned as the band never had 50 hits in America, maybe 5. When Pete laughingly told him the "50" in the tour name was a reference to the years not the number of hit songs, he replied "50 years? Does that mean I am getting old" and laughed as he walked off.
Pete seemed to have fun all night and was especially responsive to the audience. At one point at the end of Baba, he came across the full stage machine gunning the front with his guitar. I caught it in one of the pictures.
Roger's voice was very strong although his ending of Love Reign was not as successful as most nights. He sounded great on all the others.
As unfortunately expected, fans were smoking throughout the night and it bothered Roger. I spoke to fans who were in the 9th row and they told me they saw smoke chimneys all over the floor all night. I hope that southern CA is more considerate.
During the intros, Shari Soultree threw the huge birthday card that she had made and that lots of fans had signed on the stage. Roger picked it up and placed it behind Pete and then carried it off stage for him.
Pete was especially complimentary of Pino in his intro, relating how he had flown in from Florida the day John died and helped them save that tour in 2002 and how lucky they are to have him. I got a great shot of Pino during his My Generation solo. Pete was on fire during that song last night.
Roger thanked everyone for all the love and support during his illness as he always does and Pete made the mocking violin playing while he spoke for the second night. Hopefully he doesn't continue that as it isn't really funny nor appropriate.
Southern CA is next, with an extra day off between Oakland and Anaheim and then Anaheim and Staples Center.
Review by Dan Pagan
'Keep Calm, The Who is coming on', the Lad's opening with Who Are You along with audience participation. Pete looking back at the vid' screen seeing '71' happy birthday Pete, he was like 'ooh c'mon...smiled.' Pete playing guitar like a madman, he hasn't lost it...no arthritis in his arm's doing his windmills. Roger never sounded so better, the time off was worth the wait!! Between the songs and stories, one of the best parts of the show was Pete's rendition of 'The Rock' from Quad with video's of stuff happening in America / U.K. and around the world, powerfull!! This was my 9th time seeing The Who, Pete would hit 1 chord on his guitar,and you'd know what the song was going to be (I guess that makes me a Who Fan) on 'WGFA'. Roger let out the scream and the place went nuts!! Epic Daltrey!! Pete windmilling like a propeller hitting power chords. I was surprised they didn't play 'Anyway, Anyhow'' or ''Can't Explain' but that's cool. When Pete introduced the band members, he said 'there are alot of great guitarist's better than me, but I can smash a guitar with one nail on me finger f*cking better than anyone...' aah Pete!! Overall a great show!