Soundcheck review by Horace Austin
VIP Soundcheck lasted an hour.
About 125 fans in attendance.
All band present tonight.
Zak was working on his bass drums. Boom, boom, boom...boom, boom, boom.... Pete looked at the audience and said, "Interesting, isn't it?" Audience laughter.
"I Can See For Miles" - Pete and Simon had a conversation about the timing of their guitar parts. Then Pete unplugged his guitar, walked over to Simon and the two had a brotherly chat about it off mic.
"You Better You Bet" - Soundchecked at Frank's suggestion since, according to him, they're doing it tonight. Pete to Frank: "Are you trying to music direct?" Audience laughter.
"So Sad About Us" - Followed by a lengthy discussion about the harmonies. Then they played it again.
"Magic Bus" - Attention focused on Roger's harmonica mic. This has been a problem the last two shows. The harmonica solo has been inaudible in parts.
"I'm One" - Pete said he listened to the album at home the other night.
Roger wrapped it up. "Thank you for coming and supporting us."
Review by Dante DiCarlo
Birmingham was the second stop of the tour for me and I had a seat on the side but not too far from the stage. As the band began “I Can't Explain”, I thought the sound was immediately better than at Glasgow. It wasn't particularly loud, but it was punchier and clearer. Pete was in a joking mood, at one point fairly early on he made fun of some guys singing “We are the mods” referring to them as old aged pensioners. Of the rarely played track brought back, “I Can See For Miles” is looking like a survivor, having been played at all shows so far and it's easy to see why. There don't seem to be any big hitches with the song and with the present band line up it sounds absolutely stunning, full of depth and power. Pete once again talked about his frustrations at the song failing to be a massive hit, if I recall correctly he screamed “bastards!!!” to sum up the lukewarm response by the record buying public.
After this we were treated to “Pictures Of Lily” which joined the set list in Nottingham. Pete told us this was about a craze that was very popular at the time, going on the say that he might be a wanker but only about 35,000 times. Roger then responded by calling him an amateur. The song sounded very good until the instrumental break preceding the final verse. At this point someone got lost and Roger almost came in too early and then barely manage to sing the next verse for laughing. What's great is despite a few hiccups the band is still going with the songs they haven't played very much at all, and can still have a laugh when it goes awry. I think it was after this song that Pete read the chords off his chart to us, to paraphrase “C, G, A minor... etc... what was I trying to prove?”
Straight after this the band played a first for the tour, “So Sad About Us” As far as my sources go, apart from the Pete and Paul Weller acoustic performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 2000, the last time this was played live was 1968. Perhaps it was because of this that the pretty simple song had some serious problems. I was later told by Pat Stanton that in the sound check, Roger had wanted the song shorter, and maybe the structure became confused. It started off with the jangly chord riff but skipped the “la la la” refrain and went straight into the verse. After the middle eight it seemed like Roger started singing the “la la la” part but Pete carried on playing one chord. Then everyone seemed confused about whether there was a key change, when to go into it and when to start the final verse. Pete carried on strumming the B chord for what seemed like ages before the verse finally got played. At the end Roger informed the crowd that they had done the song in sound check but bearing in mind their age, they'd already forgotten it!
You Better You Bet was another song that was brought out for the first time this tour, though it has been played a lot over the years. A song with a somewhat complex structure and series of chords went totally fine. Sometimes the hard ones are easy and the easy ones are hard.
“Join Together” also looks like one that will stay, this time I was close enough to see Loren Gold playing the Jew's Harp and John Corey playing the harmonica. For this show Pete sang “I'm One” which I guess he prefers to “Long Live Rock”, I love him singing this track but I've seen it a few times both solo and with the band.
The rest of the show was pretty much as normal, Roger telling us that instead of going off stage, standing in the cold and coming back on for an encore, they'd just play the encore without leaving the stage at all. Makes perfect sense I say! One thing I did notice is that Pete played “Magic Bus” with a capo on the 5th fret though still in the same key and I have to admit I have never noticed him doing this before. Before the song was played, Roger introduced it as the song that always gets requested but they never play. Someone then shouted for “Boris The Spider” and Pete and Roger sang a few lines of it before starting “Magic Bus”.
Overall the performance and sound was much better than in Glasgow, but Glasgow was the better set list. It seems the band has really warmed up now though. Zak has been on fire, the vocal harmonies and extra guitar and keyboard parts are subtle but effective (managing to not stray into Who on ice mode, thankfully) I have also loved John Corey's beautiful introductions to “Love Reign O'er Me”. On to Newcastle!
Review by Luci Morris
I was fifteen years old when I first became an official Who fan. That was three years ago, I’m eighteen now, and on December 7th I had the great privilege of attending my first ever Who concert. I’d been saving money since the age of sixteen, and by the time I was seventeen I had £500 saved up for the sole purpose of seeing my favourite band live. As soon as the dates were announced, I wasted no time in trying to buy the best tickets I could afford, and I managed to get three tickets that were decently close to the stage (maybe 10 rows from the front) for me and two friends, also Who fans. I spent a lot of my money on these tickets, and also for travel and accommodation for the weekend (since Birmingham isn’t actually that close to where I live), and I can say without a doubt that this concert was worth every penny I spent.
I don’t have any past experiences of seeing The Who live (like I said, this was my first time seeing them) and my knowledge of the instruments and equipment they used to create such a sound is almost non-existent, so this review will be focused mainly on my own personal experience and what an absolute powerhouse it was.
Now, how do I even begin? The first song of the night was ‘I Can’t Explain’, which seemed most appropriate as (I believe) it was their first ever hit. Everyone went crazy, jumping from their seats in excitement, and some of us even rushed as close to the stage as the ushers dared to let us go (which, sadly, they only allowed for the first two songs, after which we were promptly made to return to our allocated seats, what a tease!). A few songs in and the audience are full of energy. A quick break between songs allowed for some chanting and calls from the crowd, the loudest of which was a group of fans a few rows closer chanting “We are the mods!” over and over, which ultimately resulted in Roger yelling “No you’re not! We are!” and a surge of laughter from the crowd. Pete then joined in, commenting on how it was a “group of old aged pensioners” in the crowd, to which Roger sharply retorted with “they aren't the old aged pensioners, we are!”
The songs then continued. ‘So Sad About Us’ was played, which I very much enjoyed as ‘A Quick One’ is my favourite album, so I was appreciative and very excited to hear some (albeit only two) tracks from it. Before they began playing, Pete checked through the chords, listing off each one (and there were a few!), someone in the crowd said something to him, which I didn’t quite hear, challenging him as to whether he could play the E7 chord. “I know E7,” he told them as he played it, “that’s E7”. The crowd cheered. He had played one chord and the crowd, myself included, were cheering.
After, a few more great songs were played, including 'Behind Blue Eyes', 'You Better You Bet' and 'I'm One', which I thought Pete performed exceptionally. They had now moved onto some songs from 'Quadrophenia', following with '5:15' which included a video on the huge screen behind them of John Entwistle playing one of the most amazing bass solos I have ever seen! Still, I have to give credit to Mr. Palladino, I've always maintained and strongly defended my belief that John Entwistle was, and always will be, the greatest bass guitarist of all time, but after Sunday's concert I have to admit that Pino is very close! I don't want to spend too long talking about just this one bass solo, but honestly I could, it was just so impressive! The entire crowd seemed to be in a trance, all cheering had ceased, and after it ended the crowd's excitement only heightened. I turned to my friend and asked "were you hypnotised by that bass as well?" And without tearing her gaze from the stage, she simply replied with "a little”, which I think shows just what an extremely talented and impressive band The Who are, be it live or on film. It had also been so well integrated into their live music, and I'm very grateful they did (it wouldn't do for a 50th anniversary tour without it!) since, as a young fan, this is the closest I will ever get to the original line-up.
'Bell Boy' was played straight after, with Keith Moon receiving the same big screen treatment as John. His unforgettable vocals were played over the live music, with footage of him singing from behind his drum kit at another past show they had performed. It really was a treat! I was singing along, as I'm sure many other people were too, and again I am so glad they included it into the show (for the same reasons I mentioned earlier) and they had pulled it off beautifully!
Daltrey’s vocals on ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ were simply amazing, he was sounding as good as I’d ever heard him, and never before had I heard that track sung as powerful as I did that night. ‘A Quick One (While He’s Away)’, another favourite of mine, was also performed, and Pete mentioned how it wouldn’t sound the same without “John Entwistle’s girlish voice”. It wasn’t the same, but it was just as good. The crowd all sang along on the ‘cello’s and ‘you are forgiven’, I very much enjoyed being a part of it!
A small set of ‘Tommy’ was then performed, and coincidentally this set also started with another favourite of mine, ‘Amazing Journey’, my favourite song from ‘Tommy’ (I’m very lucky to have so many favourites performed at my first Who concert)! After four songs from the rock opera, ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ were played, the crowd (and likely myself, most of all) erupted with a cheer of excitement. Both classic songs were performed so amazingly, and the screen visuals (not just for this part, but throughout the entire show, I must say) were simply stunning. So much time and effort must have gone into them that I could have been content to just watching the visuals all night!
For the encore they played ‘Magic Bus’. I say ‘encore’, instead of leaving and running back a few moments later, Roger said they’d just go straight into their final song, justifying that there was little point to run off and stand in the cold for a while when they honestly didn’t need to, and that makes complete sense to me. Before announcing just what song they were to play, Roger said it was a song that “since it was written, it’s been requested at every show” and a man stood behind me immediately yelled “Boris!” , which got me excited (Who doesn’t love ‘Boris The Spider’!?). Roger and Pete both quickly attempted to sing the chorus of John’s classic in his signature growl, but neither pulled it off quite as well. They then revealed the song that was so often requested was one they never, or at least rarely, played live, and as I mentioned before it was ‘Magic Bus’. Naively, I didn’t expect a lot (don’t get me wrong, I do love the song, just that ironically it isn’t one of my favourites!), but I was quickly put back into place when they played possibly the greatest version of that song I had ever heard. Daltrey’s harmonica solo was certainly unexpected and simply blew me away, especially at the fact he incorporated ‘Stone Fox’ (or the theme from ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’, however you know it) into the song, it did make me smile! I never thought they could make that song any better, but clearly they just did!
Overall, it was an unforgettable night, the entire band was on top form, especially Zak, I must say! I was very impressed by just how skilled he is! But what else would you expect from the son of a Beatle and musical student of Keith Moon? To any fans around my age that are reading this, I urge you to do everything you can to see this band, it truly was a life-changing experience for me! And if the fact that it’s The Who we’re talking about isn’t enough to convince you, I would highly recommend seeing them for a unique music experience and a night of timeless, classic rock that’ll have you wishing the show will never end.
Review by John Hughes
I was on the side, in block 1 Pete side, and the sound quality was superb. Powerful and loud, too. I managed to get into the soundcheck, which I thought was very interesting. Forgive me for being naive, but I thought a sound check was to check the sound, ie the band would stroll on, play a couple of songs while roadies twiddle with knobs, various people would grunt ah, one - two into mikes, and when everyone was happy that each band member could be heard, they would stroll over to the pub and get a few in. Well that's what happened back in the '60's, but now, it seemed to be a means of rehearsing songs, widdly guitar bits, and an excuse for a drummer to go boom - boom - boom - several times.
At one point Roger played up to that by asking if Zak's vibrator thing was working ok, as Roger didn't think that Zak was feeling the power. I thought - "Now this is more like it! " At this point I was positively straining forward to see exactly what Zak's vibrator thing was, and where it was, but Roger mumbled something about lowering Zak onto a pad and frankly I was left frustrated.
So while they were gently meandering through a few songs, including two versions of So Sad about Us, during which Frank Simes halted the first run through and started to make suggestions, which is when I thought I heard Pete say, somewhat incredulously, (with that stilted intonation that generally means the next thing that's said is "you want some, son?" prior to fists flying) "Are. you. directing. me?" Frank I thought had the sense to fudge around that issue!
The one thing that came over to me was that there was some tension between Pete and the rest, it seemed to me, and concisely stated by Bernard, the affable Frenchman (who I ended up talking to) who said the soundcheck showed "the Woo is Roger's band now." Bernard, if you're reading this, I mean no offence, but I loved your inimitable pronunciation of the Woo.
Sound check over, and on to the show. The set list, with the exception of Boris the Spider was as previously listed. Some entertaining banter between Pete and Rog, or Pete, Rog and the audience entertained between songs, too. I liked Pete's comments before ICSFM that "I wrote this masterpiece, that only got to number 16 in 1965, that showed the British public didn't appreciate art, wit, and class." Then stamping his feet he shouted "the bastards!"
The next song he prefaced with the comment that when he wrote this, it was again about a subject of great concern to him, which had done a lot better in the UK. Someone on stage called him a wanker. To which he said, "I may be a wanker, but only 334,000 times." Roger; "Amateur"
At one point Roger, who was sitting on the edge of the drum riser, said "I've gone all left eared, what's going on?" while fumbling with his earpiece. And during Magic Bus, Roger's harmonica solo was fine. Now I thought Roger was playing the theme to the Old Grey Whistle test, ie Stone Fox Chase by Area Code 615. So, Pete introduces the final song as "the most requested song we ever have. At every gig, someone always calls out "Magic Bus" Some clever clogs in the audience then shouts out "Boris the Spider" Pete laughed and said yeah, Boris the Spider" and proceeded to sing it in a mock John style gravelly voice. Only two bars, but enough in my opinion to say that it was played in Birmingham. Pete also said, after he stopped singing this snippet, "We really miss John's harmonies, you know, his high girly vocals". Then they played Magic Bus - again, very nostalgic for me.
The show was I suspect the last live Who show featuring Rog and Pete singing and playing the Who songs I have grown up with. (Well, perhaps until the "Who hits 60" tour.) As such I can confidently say I went out on a high. One of the very best post John shows, I think, and one where Zak was man of the match. His drumming was magnificent. I thought that Pino was mixed low in the soundcheck, but higher in the actual show. Solid, competent bass. Simon I thought was somewhat in the shadows. his harmonies were clear and obvious, and from time to time you could hear him, as Pete called it, wanging away, but he seemed to be in the background. The various keyboards did make some difference, and Loren Gold's jews harp playing in Join Together was very good. He also plays a mean piano.
Were there any highlights for me? So Sad of course, but I fancy it might not get an airing again. AQO definitely, my goodness did it bring back some memories, a superb Join Together, still emotional John solo in 5.15 and the Keith Bellboy, and Roger's extraordinary ability to replicate the screams in Love Reign o'er me and WGFA, a song that still thrills.
And yes, there were fumbles from time to time - but in all seriousness, if I could carry a song like Roger can when I'm 70 I'll be well pleased.
Pete's guitar playing for me was sublime at times. I'm no musician so I'll simply say it again - his guitar playing was sublime. Overall, I thought it was a great way to go out, emotional, nostalgic, entertaining, thrilling, and still with that edge of rumbustiousness that gave Pete's playing in particular a keen edge.