Review by Joel Naftelberg
The day started like any other. Perhaps there was a special feeling about it. Tonight The Who were playing at Madison Square Garden. I knew it was the only date on this tour with support from the great Joan Jett (who would have opened the whole 2015 tour, and did play many of the non-cancelled dates). There was something more. It’s New York City, The Garden… the place of so much Who magic… from four sold out shows in June of 1974 through the 2000 Tour, the last with John, the 2001 Concert for New York, the Quadrophenia sets and now the Who Hits 50 Tour.
Tonight I would be with my wife and son. Sitting up close on the aisle, favoring Roger’s side of the stage but providing a beautiful site line to Pete and his guitar playing.
Before the show, The Who and Madison Square Garden paid tribute to the late, legendary David Bowie. Bowie, who passed away Jan. 10 after a battle with cancer, had strong connections with The Who and the Garden. He was a regular guest and performer at the Garden. Bowie loved The Who, he was a true fan. He covered two of The Who’s songs on his 1973 album Pin Ups, Townshend returned the favor when he guested on Bowie’s Scary Monsters album from 1980.
A message displayed on the Garden's big screens read: “David Bowie. Friend of The Who, Son of New York. Tonight we will distinctly miss David Bowie, longtime fan of The Who. Nearly every year at MSG, he sat in the first row right beside the stage. We’ll miss our friend, a true icon of music and art, and a brilliant innovator.”
The set list included crowd favorites such as “I Can See for Miles,” “The Kids Are Alright,” “My Generation,” “Bargain,” “Love, Reign O’er Me,” “Eminence Front,” “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me, Feel Me,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and more. The opener was Who Are You. Sections of the set included Quadrophenia, Tommy and songs from varied chronology in their outstanding catalogue. This set varied from last years set in that it favored Roger’s vocal time. Longer instrumental sections seemed to spare Roger 10 minutes or more of singing time.
My favorite for this evening was the Tommy medley & the closers, Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get fooled Again. The seats we had were not the best for sound mix. At the top of the show Roger & Pino could barely be heard from where we sat. Roger started the night tight and appeared uncomfortable… a few people that were at the sound check said he may have a cold. He warmed up. For that matter he got really hot. His voice was strongest from the middle of the show through to the classic scream on Won’t get Fooled Again. Pete’s was solid and his playing clean. The Who doesn’t challenge Pete anymore but he never phones it in. He comes out to give a show. Pete’s gets turned on to entertain through talent and a telling of music history. The catalogue is mind blowing and the 20 song set list is a look & listen at this current incarnation of this legendary rock act is mind blowing, leaves the audience completely satisfied with the die hard fans knowing it’s only a peek.
Pete and Roger are joined on stage by Zak Starkey on drums (Ringo Starr's son). Zak has been a perfect replacement for the irreplaceable Keith Moon. Along with Pete's younger brother Simon Townshend on guitar, Pino Palladino on bass, and three keyboardists, the sound is as big and full as it ever was with the original 70’s three-piece and a vocalist. Our friend Loren Gold, Frank Simes and Jon Corey play keyboards and provide backing vocals. Tributes to Keith Moon and John Entwistle were shown on the stage's screen between sets, multiple montages with photos of the original band were projected behind the current line up during certain songs. Pete and Roger own the stage but their band mates play an integral role in creating the current sound of The Who
After the show the family went backstage. What a crush! Pete and The Who make New York their second home. There are many friends here. My wife’s strongest connection to Pete & The Who is the Tommy on Broadway production in 1993 and she hasn’t had the chance to see Pete in over decade. It was very exciting to see their connection. And for my son to see the love Beth received from many of guests in Pete’s meet & greet room. Director Des McAnuff and many of the players from the NY Theater world were there to say hello to Pete. The day may have started like any other but the night was oh so special. This night at the Garden was a celebration of music, family, perseverance, hard work and lots of faith.
The Who’s tour returns to the NYC-area on March 19 at Prudential Center. Joan Jett is touring with Heart and Cheap Trick this year, including a few NYC-area dates in the summer.
Review by Paul Varey
Way back on 1 December 2014, Roger Daltrey said welcome to the long goodbye while Pete Townshend welcomed everyone to “the first UK show of this long, long tour we’re doing,”. When they took to the stage last Thursday night at MSG I bet neither of them thought that their tour would take quiet as long as it actually has. The major issue with this tour has, of course, been Rogers illness, which due to its severity put back the second leg of the US tour. But the tour has also evolved, there were the sprawling shows in the UK in late 2014, then the slightly changed sets of the first US leg (we thought the original shows were a little too long Pete is quoted as saying). Then we got the more festival oriented sets in New Orleans, Glastonbury, Amsterdam and Paris (it was so hot in Paris that night that I'm surprised the audience lasted the distance let alone two men Pete and Rogers age!) Then there was Rogers illness and at Wembley, in February, a setlist devised to give Roger a little more protection whilst putting more emphasis on Pete. But throughout all of this there has been a move towards a 'rockier' feel to the setlist.
Thursday nights show moved at the pace of an express train. Whilst many 'hardcore' fans may bemoan the loss of 'A Quick One' it did slow the show down and seemed intrusive as the set list developed. The inclusion of 'The Rock' gives Roger a break and also allows Pete time to pick up a few themes and go on extended guitar runs. In fact the whole shortened set list as played at MSG may miss a few 'hardcore' songs, but it does contain many more examples of Pete firing off riffs and playing mini jams. Talking of jams, special mention must go to John Cory ( You don’t want a photo of me, I'm just the piano player, not the star!) for his extended introduction to “Love Reign O’er Me.” Zak Starkey has been playing with The Who for over 20 years now, longer than the legendary Keith Moon, and Pete said "I hate all drummers, basically, but this one's almost acceptable!". Well sorry Pete, but Zak is far from acceptable, he is fan bloody tastic. What's more the new wooden kit he is using helps him provide an even better punch to the proceedings. Pino continues to be more prominent in the mix. Whilst, at least to these aged ears, there appears to be less keyboards and more supporting vocals from Loren and Frank. Simon was his usual great self and, I'm only sorry I couldn’t have stayed on in the NYC area to hear him play on Friday night.
The band that performed on Thursday night may not be the same as the one that first performed at MSG and, Keith and John are dearly missed. But this is still a great band who are still pushing boundaries and proving that what was once thought to be a five minute fad can still bring a tear to the eye fifty years later. Grab it while it's hot, the long goodbye won't last forever...
Review by Pat Stanton
I think that the show last night at Madison Square Garden was the best yet on the 2016 tour. Roger sounded and looked wonderful and Pete continued to be masterful. Sadly Pete is back to his T-shirt look rather than the dapper Harrington jacket but at least it is not the ripped one from Detroit. Real Me was back and hopefully it will swap out periodically with other songs. Lily was retained which is always fun. Pete mentioned in sound check that his voice was on edge but I thought that his voice sounded just fine during his two solos - I'm One and Eminence Front. Friends who had not seen the band since the 2015 spring tour commented that Roger sounded very strong and noted his weight loss as I have in prior posts. Who are You seems to be the new opening song on this tour which is fine as it is always so solid. Lots of good Roger shots due to my vantage point plus Simon and Pino. Super fun show.
Review by Jonathan Bayer
Just got back from the Who at MSG. I enjoyed the show. Pete caught fire a few times and Roger sounded good. He even hit a couple of screams that i didn't think he could do any more. In all honesty, its really more of a nostalgia show at this point (i've seen them 12x or so since '79 and this would probably rank towards the bottom, but one of the better non-Entwistle shows). I think the 2000 tour was probably the last great Who tour (caught multiple shows at MSG and they could hold their own against some of the best who tours). Some of the songs tonight sounded fuller, with the four back up musicians providing harmony on the back ground vocals (Pete said as much). On the other hand, this is, or at least at one point was, the Who. And there were 8 people on stage and more than one had a guitar in his hand! And its never been the same to me without Entwistle. But all of this was known to me in advance (Entwistle has been gone for 14 years, Pete has had help on stage for the last few years, Roger’s voice can be rough at times). In the end, it was just great to see them on stage again at the Garden- happy, healthy and still capable of kicking ass.
Review of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon by Sean Duke Cassidy
After seeing The Who at the Garden the night before, I got up very early to get in the standby line for the appearance on the Tonight show. I arrived at 4:50 am. It was snowing, and there were already 5 people in the queue. They had no idea about The Who, and were just tourists who wanted to see Fallon. So I was number 6. At 9am, it was still snowing, and they handed out the numbered standby tix after you showed them your ID. We were told to come back at 3:30 pm to see if there were any no shows/tickets available for the show. They started checking folks with standbys in at a little past 3. There were over 80 people with standby tickets. After about 45 mins, they said they MAY have 30 spots, if you have a higher number than that, you can take off. About 15 mins after that, they took the 1st four. I was 6th... But we were asked to wait, and if there were some more seats, they would let us know. It was about 4:10 then. Taping starts at around 5pm. At 4:45, the page came back with 11 more tickets. I was in! All the waiting worked out. We went thru heavy security and a metal detector then we were ushered to the studio in 2 groups in an elevator. I was seated in the last row, but it really didn't matter to me, as I made it in. Plus the theater/studio only holds 240 people, so there were only like 10 rows! I have been to way bigger movie theaters.
The Who went on last. Jimmys excitement showed thoughout the nite. It really seemed like a huge event. There was a long pause after the 2nd guest while The Who were being set up. Every thing was on a rolling riser/stage, and got pushed out from behind the curtain and set up were Fallon did his opening monologue. And then we were off! By now everyone has seen the footage. The performance was awesome. Zak stuck around after WAY, and jammed briefly with The Roots. And then it was over. I found all aspects of the experience to be well worth it. And would do it again in a second...
Review by Lauren from Boulder
Before I start my review of the show, I would like to thank the state of NY for whatever law it is that requires we have access to our tickets ahead of time. That makes my life so much easier. I freakin' HATE Will Call ticketing (almost as much as I hate not having a real, old school hard ticket at the end of the night).
This was the first tour, other than 2002/2004 (when the loss of John was still raw), where I went into it feeling a little jaded, a little blase. In the run up to my trip, there was no excitement. I was looking forward to seeing all of you people, whom I love. I was looking forward to seeing the shows. But I wasn't excited. That finally changed when I boarded the bus, headed to the airport.
I made my way to the Garden on the subway. My heart started beating fast as I approached the exterior plaza, for what is most likely, my final Who show at the Garden. (I think it's my 13th one in that hallowed hall. Not bad for someone who lives almost 2000 miles away.) The next hour and a half was spent in the pre-show whirl of socializing and shit to do. Side Note: I really do passionately hate this tour's lining up protocol. Life was so much less stressful, when there was no line.
They finally wound us through the Garden, where we then waited outside a curtain. We could hear, sort of, but we couldn't see anything. It was torture to hear The Real Me and not be in there. They finally led us in, before the end of the song.
Real Me from outside the curtain/walking in.
I Can See For Miles harmonies acapella. I absolutely loved this. I wish they would incorporate this.
Miles - full band
Roger still has a cold.
Pete - "My voice is in the edge"
I'm One - first verse only
Pete suggested The Rock but it didn't happen
I loved watching Joan Jett rocking out about five rows back, off to the side, on the floor. She really is one of us.
Had a GREAT time socializing, but dinner itself sucked, again (what is it with this lame, British food theme this year???). Most importantly, they had bottled water for me to take into the show - in a funny way, the best part of the VIP package.
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Joan's set was pretty much the same. I like it. I think she's a strong Who opener. She doesn't blow me away, but she's solid good, and I'd rank her pretty high among Who openers. Opener Note: After watching some video, I'm pretty excited about seeing Tal Wilkenfeld. I'm sorry I'll only get two shows with her.
Location, Location, Location
My seat was my absolute perfect happy spot. FRC, three seats Pete side of Roger. Unobstructed view of Zak. The only thing that wasn't perfect, is that Pete blocked my view of Loren. Small price to pay!
They were solid. They were tight. They were sharp. It wasn't explosive or electric (when compared to themselves, I mean), but it was most excellent. From the moment they started, I realized that nothing has changed. Even Who's Left, in their freakin' 70s, is STILL the very best thing out there and worth every dollar, every hour, and every ounce of energy. They started strong and they really never wavered. There were a few flubs here and there. I can't remember which song, but at some point, Pete was just off. At the end of the song, "I fucked it up." I love that about them. I think Roger and Pete and Simon were all a bit under the weather, but you would never have known it from their performance. It was not a magical, mythical show, but I think it was probably the strongest Garden show since at least 2002. I remember for sure that 2004, 2006 (x2), and 2012 were not especially strong shows. I don't really know for sure about 2002. I was still too shattered. For me, more than anything else, the NY trip that year was about being with my tribe, after the few weeks off following the Gorge. It was very, very healing. Ok. On to random thoughts and rememberances.
My NY Who husband, Andrew, observed that the video images were astonishingly sharp (he's an AV obsessed geek guy). Unlike many other people, I neither love them nor hate them. But I do agree that I'd rather see more images of them playing and less of other stuff.
Roger was in black jeans and a long sleeve, button up shit, with the sleeves rolled up. The shirt was never opened. I like the new haircut, and I prefer the lack of beard. But I really don't like the glasses of the past year or two. I don't think they are a flattering choice. Pete, after wearing something sharp in Toronto, was back to the Who-bo, ratty grey t-shirt. Not even a new, clean t-shirt, but a ratty one. I don't get it. But truth be told, I started thinking about it, and if it was a choice between the ratty t-shirt and the damn sports jacket that was always getting in his way, I think I'd stick w ith the ratty t-shirt. Pete wore the dark glasses for almost the entire show. I imagine it's easier on his eyes, but I hate it. I love seeing his beautiful, blue eyes. Then at the end, he donned a little hat, that looked pretty cute. Reminded me a bit of Australia.
I want to thank Roger again for the lack of stage monitors. It's been a while now, but it's been such a game changer in my world, that it bears repeating. And also worth noting, not only does Pete not have that sucky black music stand blocking our view, but he doesn't even have his iPad stand out with him this year. But I will say, that it is obvious to me that one of his monitors is a lyric feed. I was a little disappointed to see him staring intently at it during Bargain, "And like..." But hey, whatever makes it work for him. I'm just grateful that they are still pounding stages like fine clowns.
Fun bit of chatter - Roger talked about them being a "boy band" before introducing one of the early songs. Kids, maybe?
Most pathetic bit - the fact that we were all excited to get Real Me AND Lily (they had been alternated at the first two shows).
For the most part, Roger was in strong voice throughout. And he was surprisingly physical. We got a good amount of mic swinging, for these days.
Who Are You - I really, really miss the show starting with I Can't Explain. It just feels viscerally WRONG to me (unless they are playing Quad), but for whatever reason, I found the way they burst into Who Are You this time, to be more powerful and engaging than it was in Paris or Amsterdam, over the summer.
The Seeker - fine.
Kids Are Alright - I personally like having Kids in the setlist. I'm more partial to it than I am Substitute or Lily or M y Gen or Magic Bus. My faves of the early singles are Can't Explain, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, and I'm a Boy (wouldn't THAT be cool?!) but not AAA so much since John died. I think Kids is a strong, post-John choice.
I Can See For Miles - I'm still enjoying it every night, after so many years of waiting for it. And Pete, it IS a brilliant song.
My Generation - If they're going to do My Gen, I wish Roger would bring back the Cry if You Want interlude. I LOVED when he did that a few years ago. Next to Amazing Journey/Sparks, it was my highlight of the show, every night.
The Real Me - I spent the first 1/2 of the song, with my eyes closed, facing where I used to spend most of the night facing (John) and in spite of the sonic absence, I was seeing in my mind's eye, the six glorious nights of Quad where I watched him setting that (and every) song afire in that room. BEST WEEK EVER!
Pictures of Lily - Fun. Not great, but fun.
Behind Blues - Nice. Always nice. I do wish they would bring back the acapella interlude they did on Roger's solo tours. I absolutely loved it. I don't know why Pete isn't into it.
Bargin - I always love Bargain. I'm glad it's in the set list. I wish Zak would step up and be a little more ambitious with it. I had the same problem with Scott playing it, as well. Last night, I listened to the '71 Winterland version from Who's Missing/The Box set through a real stereo system. OMFG. Keith was fucking god on those drums. The interplay between the three of them was earth shattering.
Join Together - fun singalong. Not a favorite of mine.
During JT and YBYB, I went roaming - first checking in with all of the front people Pete side, and then heading up to the best Pete side loge section (108?), to groove with some of my Wholigals. You Better You Bet - they like it.
I'm One - Universally, as far as I can tell, we'd all like Pete to alternate I'm One and Drowned. We love them both, but it would be an easy way to have a wee bit of variety. Also, universally, we all wish Pete would stop feeling like he has to try to sing in that forced, gravely, shouting voice. Every single person I speak wants to just hear his sweet, sweet voice. It's amazing to me that he's still not confident in that voice. Pete - we all LOVE it.
The Rock - It's good, but other than giving Roger a break, it doesn't really add much to the show. There are better ways to give him a break. GOING MOBILE, anyone?!
Simon kicked some ass on The Rock, but I still wanted it to be Pete playing those parts. It was interesting to see the updated version of the video. I didn't pay attention to the beginning part, but if I'm not mistaken, the Keith and John parts are different and they added some contemporary footage, including the Paris attack. And I can't remember if the Katrina footage in there is new. And of course, again, seeing the 9/11 footage, IN NY, is ALWAYS profoundly powerful and deeply moving. Each and every time (in the NY area), it shakes me to my core.
Love Reign O'er Me - Roger shined in Love Reign, as always. And interestingly, I learned this show that the last "Loooooooove" is not supplemented. As soon as he approached it, it became clear that he was not going to pull it off. He quickly shifted gears and handled it seamlessly, like the pr o that he is. I doubt a dozen other people even realized.
Eminence Front - was particularly good tonight. Pete came alive. As Eddie and I agreed immediately afterwards, it wasn't Vancouver good, but it was a notch above usual. And as always, Roger looked unbelievably sexy wearing that electric guitar. I can't explain...
Amazing Journey/Sparks and See Me Feel Me are ALWAYS my highlight of the current show. Each and every night. And we got some ambitious mic swinging tonight.
Pinball Wizard - fine.
See Me, Feel Me / Listening to You - never ever fails to reach right into the depths of my soul.
Baba - fine.
Won't Get Fooled Again - fine enough. But without John, always profoundly disappointing.
Being MSG, I really thought they just might do Naked Eye for us. I was sad they didn't. Newark, guys. It's the last time you'll have us together.
The #1 lament of almost every Who fan I talk to (at last nine out of every ten) is the absence of A Quick One.
MY #1 lament is the absence of So Sad About Us and Cry if You Want and Punk Meets the Godfather. Ok, that's lament #1 and #2 and #3. Personally, I'd give up anything other than Amazing Journey/Sparks/See Me Feel Me for ANY of those three.
And I don't understand why they didn't keep Slip Kid around. I know Roger didn't feel like they found the groove. But I've gotta say, even though it's not a personal favorite, the one time I saw it, I thought it was great. I'd pick it over most of the set list.
I'll miss you all in Boston and Chicago and Louisville and Philly and Pittsburg, but I'll see you in NJ.