Review by Vick Griffin
Great show in Raleigh. As my wife and I took our seats I realized at 54 we might very well be on the low side of the median age in attendance! Not many youngsters in the crowd - I think the promise of this tour being the finale brought out Roger’s and Pete’s contemporaries. I had seen them back during the Quadrophenia Tour in '12 with my son (and before that in '79 after Moon's passing) so I was hoping the lads had a little left in the tank for this final tour.
They did not disappoint; set list stayed pretty much intact with only a couple of exceptions - like the first three shows in Florida, they opened the show with “I Can’t Explain,” but dropped “Substitute” from the second spot and basically moved everything up a slot and then inserted “Squeezebox” halfway through the set. Loved hearing little played gems like The Seeker and Join Together, although I would have gladly traded Squeezebox for Slip Kid - (darn you Miami / Tampa!) - one of my favorite songs from a really underappreciated album. It's always easy to quibble about the inclusion or exclusion of a particular song here or there when there are so many good songs, but kudos to Rog and Pete for mixing it up just a little this soon into the tour. The lads kept the stage banter to a minimum for the most part, although Pete threw in the odd joke and commentary about his guitar-playing proficiency (or lack thereof).
Pete gave “I’m One” the same treatment from the Quadrophenia Tour and it was well received (before the last verse he announces to the crowd that he’s going to sing it in an English accent - the wife thought that was funny). “Love Reign O’er Me” sounded every bit as good as it did in 2012, although I thought the piano intro was a tad spotty. After “Eminence Front” (I guess if you’re got to play something from “It’s Hard” that’s what you play) came what I felt like was the only hiccup of the night: as much as Pete might have wanted to acknowledge some historical context for their creative explorations into "opera" song structure, the inclusion of "A Quick One, While They're Away" was a bit of a drag, both figuratively and literally, although it gave the old geezers in the audience a chance to run to the bathroom. It would have been a real treat to have heard that song cycle in the original stripped-down arrangement with just the four of them.
The boys came back strong however with the “Amazing Journey / Sparks / Pinball Wizard / See Me, Feel Me” run from “Tommy.” “Sparks” really shined with Pete and Zach facing off each other they attacked their guitar and drums, respectively. I’ve always been fond of the instrumental pieces in “Tommy” as they really showed off the progressive side of the band. Sure, The Who could knock the 3-minute single out of park, especially in the mid- to late-60’s, but “Tommy” ushered in a whole new era of more complex songwriting.
And then of course, we were treated to hearing their two anthems from WGFA. By then Roger was running on fumes, but at that point I don’t think the audience cared. No matter how many times you heard those songs on your favorite “album rock” station on the 70’s/80’s, it’s amazing how they hold up in a live setting. My wife and I were even treated to the obligatory “fan” behind us who explained knowingly to his partner that the song’s not really “Teenage Wasteland” but “Baba O’Riley.” I’m glad he cleared that up.
The band took its final bows, and I had a slight feeling of melancholy as I watched Roger and Pete linger on stage and wave goodbye to the crowd. I could see it in their eyes as well. It's been a great ride, and I'm glad to have been a fan for 40 years.
Long Live Rock - and Long Live The Who!