Review by David Wilson
The soundcheck started while we still lined up in the arena waiting to go in. This is pretty standard as the technicians go through their litany of tests to make sure things are plugged in and working before the group arrives. However, the slashing chord riff opening of I Can’t Explain, which still sends shivers up my spine – 40 some odd years after I first heard it, followed by Roger’s unmistakable roar signaled that the band was already there and raring to go. Our spot in the line was opposite one of the section opening into the hall…the black curtain was not going to muffle what had started inside. The band then launched into another personal favourite, So Sad About Us, as we were heading into the arena. It sounded so rich with the background harmonies in full gear. As we were getting settled, Roger was discussing how Squeeze Box should be one of the “switch-in” numbers if they needed it. Then came an attempt of 5:15, or should I say attempts. Five false starts later, after Pete struggled to remember how to play the opening chord, they whipped through it. So already, the soundcheck was proving to be great entertainment with a couple of favourites played (that hadn’t been heard here for a long time – Can’t Explain was last played in Toronto during the 2008-09 tour; have never heard So Sad live), the promise of Squeeze Box, and a straightforward 5:15 (no John video cut-in). I Can See for Miles was up next. Even in soundcheck mode this song is brilliant. The band played partway through Who Are You to get the levels set for the synth mix and the softer jazzy middle solo. Pete then stopped the whole song after he ripped off a fingernail, "I've pulled my nail and I'm feeling a bit faint." He was eventually coaxed into doing I'm One (which was absolutely fantastic) and then on to an abbreviated Eminence Front. He left the stage with, "Now, all of my guitars have blood and bits all over them...need to clean em up before the show!" Roger's voice sounded great, even at 3/4 power and, thankfully, so did Pete's. I've attended four soundcheck so far and each one yields great insight regarding the effort required to move the show from city to city and then make sure everything works right. One thing I'd never seen before during one of these sessions...Pete warming up his windmill!
Opening Act - Slydigs
We were treated to an up and coming band, Slydigs, as the opening act. What a great and entertaining band playing solid rock and roll with playful musicianship. They seemed like they were having a ball. Their set was definitely too short! I had not heard of them to this point, but they are definitely on my radar now. Bought both of the CDs available and even lined up to meet them after the set. Great musicians, lots of energy, great sense of humour...good guys. I'm a new fan!
The band came on and immediately launched into I Can’t Explain. While I appreciated the Who Are You opening last time around, there is NOTHING THAT COMPARES to Can’t Explain as the first song! The energy and slashing chords always ignite the air guitarist in me! I wasn’t alone. Heads were bopping and “pick” hands were striking at imaginary strings. I’m hoping that the Can’t Explain opening will be maintained for subsequent shows and that it wasn’t just included as extra warmup after the month off the road. After all, what other group, 30, 40, or even 50 years running still plays their first song? It just feels “right” when Can’t Explain starts up!
They then veered back into the same sequence of songs that we’d seen in March, with the exception of inserting 5:15 into the list. Although the set list was essentially the same, the performance seemed much more energetic, at least to me. Each song seemed a bit looser and raw (perhaps that what happens with a month off and no pre-tour rehearsal) than last time. Maybe I was just imagining a difference! Vintage Who shows always seemed to be on the verge of (fill in the blank), like the energy and momentum was capable of yanking the ship off course. Recent Who shows are much more calculated to coordinate with video support. This show felt a little bit more dangerous than the last one…
Roger had, thankfully, put on a bit of weight since their last visit and looked like his old self again…joyful, commanding, and professional. I found his vocals to be excellent (except when he flubbed the final scream in Love Reign O'er Me...missed the first time, stopped the song and tried it 2 more times, before eventually nailing it). Pete was also in great spirits and animated as usual. The fingernail incident didn’t slow him down one bit. Pete’s vocals, both backing and the leads on I’m One and Eminence Front, were unbelievable…no lost voice this night! One interesting observation was that Roger handled Pete’s “Captain Walker didn’t come home” lines. I don’t recall that happening before. Both Pete and Roger offered chatty commentary lead-ins to selected songs. Roger’s intro for The Rock, referencing Pete’s orchestral expertise, was touching and the sonic path that the song takes certainly underscored this. Pete’s guitar playing sure has evolved from the old days when he played heavy rhythmic parts to lead Keith through the songs. He is much more fluid and Simon’s support gives him ample opportunity to explore. I just wish he’d break off the damn whammy bar and just play! The rest of the band performed as expected. One highlight for me was Simon’s lead guitar work on Love Reign O’er Me. Zak was, well, just Zak!
The finale was just awesome, with Pinball Wizard, See Me, Baba, and Won't Get Fooled still sequenced together. Other groups would kill to have one or two songs like these in their catalog…having these four stadium anthems strung together creates an unbelievable surge of energy. You just can’t beat it!
Review by Pat Stanton
The show in Toronto last night was very energetic and fun. As the first show on this leg, it went very smoothly.
Pete was so full of energy it was amazing. He was jumping and kicking his legs all night and seemed possessed in his playing. He repeatedly told the Toronto audience how much he loves their city, relating that he would always go to a local pub that served proper ale when they would arrive in years past. He broadly implied that after a number of drinks he knew he had a lot of fun even if he couldn't remember all the details.
Roger sounded wonderful, routinely holding notes much longer than normal. He forgot lyrics in the middle of Bargain but just laughed it off. His screw up at the end of Love Reign when he tried for the very high note and couldn't reach it and then started talking about how you can't always hit that note. Not a good thing to start talking to the audience during a dramatic song.
The good news is that they opened with I Can't Explain and switched 5:15 for the Real Me. Good choices. They also rehearsed So Sad About Us in sound check so that may be swapped for Lily in future shows.
The 5:15 version was the shorter one without the long video of John that played on the Quad tour and in the 2014 UK shows. Touching note - during the Rock when they show John's picture, Pino turned his head and nodded in respect.
The entire band was very tight and seemed happy to be back on stage. This performance definitely bodes well for this leg of 15 shows.
Set list is attached as are many Simon and Pino and Zak shots as I was on that side and the lights frequently interfered with shots of Roger and Pete. A little variety is good!