Review by Lauren J. Hammer
I can’t believe it’s 2023, and still, I’m going to see The Who (aka Who2). It’s seven months since closing night of the U.S. tour in Las Vegas, and here we are again, this time in Barcelona, Spain.
As expected, it was a generally solid, but underrehearsed show - a stereotypical Who2 opening night gig. Aka, dress rehearsal.
The venue was a cavernous arena that, in spite of being in the heart of Barcelona, was very difficult to actually get to. Is was probably 1/3 larger than the average U.S. arena, and about double that of the average UK arena. The entire upper ring was empty. The rest of it, mostly full. If it were a UK show, it probably woulda been sold out. Here, a respectable turnout, but far from full.
Simon opened the show with a 1/2 hour solo acoustic set. What a wonderful surprise!
Not too many people were there, as the tickets said 9:30, but apparently that was the headliner time. Turns out doors were at 7:30 and real ticket time, 8:30.
Simon came out at 8:40 and played a 30 minute set. Not his best set, but GREAT to have him open and a damn sight better, IMO, than 80% of their support acts during my Who years (with Vintage Trouble, Pretenders, Paul Freeman, Joan Jett, Pearl Jam/Eddie Vedder, and Robert Plant being the exceptions).
The Way It Is
Break the News
I’m the Answer
Forever and a Day
New song - Low (?)
Who2 and the orchestra came on promptly at 9:30, opening with the Tommy segment. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for me to give a clear read on the first 20-30 minutes, as the venue security absolutely ruined that entire bit. As far as I could tell, everything was peaceful with the crowd up front, when unprovoked, security came in and started hassling everyone. There were literally three of them, on our side of the barricade, standing in front of us, doing everything they could to prevent us from enjoying the show. It was a nightmare. Certainly one of the 10 worst and maybe one of the five worst security experiences I’ve had at a show. Assholes. (And they were just as rude after the show.). Palau Sant Jordi staff grade: F.
I’m especially angry that they largely stole from me my two favorite songs of the current show - Amazing Journey/Sparks and SMFM/Listening to You.
Anyway, once they finally left our space, life was good again, and the way people re-arranged in the space did really end up working for me, personally. Big thanks to Alessandro y Francesco y Horace.
Security continued to hassle us all night long about standing back from the rail (which is essential to my full enjoyment of the show), but at least they were no longer standing among us, invading our space, and blocking our view.
Roger was in generally excellent voice - again, still. And he looked great, in light blue jeans and black shirt (not a dress shirt, more like a 3/4 length T). Flattering, but odd, for how warm the weather was.
Pete looked tanned and beautiful, but he was wearing the damn suit, which in addition to being an odd choice vis a vis the weather, was of course, in his way throughout the night.
They look and ARE amazing, for 79 and 78.
Both of them wore tinted glasses all night long, which is always disappointing to me. A) They both have such beautiful eyes and B) They always feel less connected to me when hidden behind the darkened glasses. Pete had a skullcap on all night long, as well.
While Pete didn’t seem unhappy or angry, per se, I wasn’t convinced that he actually wanted to be there. It was the absolute antithesis of opening night at the Hard Rock in Florida last year, where Pete wouldn’t stop talking all night long. In Barcelona, he said almost nothing all night, until near the end. Neither of them spoke, really. No chatting. No stories. No jokes. No intros. Just the basics.
And don’t get me wrong. The basics were fine. Good. Solid. If it was your only show (and your name wasn’t LF), you likely loved it.
No setlist surprises, whatsoever. Nothing even remotely ambitious. (See setlist photos, if you don’t already know the fossilized setlist.) Still no Imagine a Man, which was by far, my favorite non-Tommy/Quad song with the orchestra. Not a surprise, but disappointing.
For reasons I can’t fathom, Ball & Chain (aka Guantanamo aka Big Cigar) remains in the set. WHO is such a great album, but that’s one of my least favorite songs on there. Oh, what I would give to hear All This Music Must Fade or I Don’t Wanna Get Wise, or even Detour. (At least I've gotten to see She Rocked My World and Beads on One String.)
The band set was enjoyable, as it always is. The one thing I’m grateful for is Another Tricky Day staying in the set. It’s definitely my favorite song of the band set. I just wish Pete would step up to the mic and sing on it. I’m mystified and frustrated by his lack of backing vocals. No diss on Simon, who sings Pete's parts well, but I wanna hear Pete! (I also really wish he’d sing more of his own backing vocals on YBYB and Who Are You, etc.)
Pete got a little bit energetic and engaged during I Can See For Miles, smiling, and everything. I’m not sure why, but I enjoyed it.
During Behind Blue Eyes, I wish that Zak wouldn’t play during the bit that I want to be the fully acapella segment - “and if I swallow…," as it is at Roger’s solo shows.
As per usual, there were a few misfires here and there, but overall, it was strong. With nary a change since May of 2019, they could practically do this show in their sleep.
One thing about this show that was really nice for me, was that the video screens, instead of being near the front of the stage (making it very difficult to see from the front row), were set up here towards the back of the stage. This came into play for The Rock, where I tend to watch the video. With this setup, I was largely able to have both the band AND the video in my sightline. That was cool. Zak killed it on The Rock, as he always does. (He’s absolutely brilliant, every night, on both Sparks and The Rock.)
Inside crowd letdown: Pete and Billy did not do the clapping bit during The Rock. It’s become so deeply ingrained in me, that it felt very strangely absent.
Related little aside: a few weeks ago, a video of The Rock showed up in my FB feed. I hit “play” and kind of had it on in the background, while working at my desk. I could hear it, but I was only “half” watching it. But without even thinking about it, I automatically, alone in my office, found myself clapping on cue. Now that they’ve successfully trained us, it felt so wrong for them to not do it.
One more note about The Rock - the Barcelona crowd was vocally expressive at three points in the video - cheers, for the Keith segment, cheers for the John segment, and a strong round of “boos” when Trump appeared.
All in all, a solid, predictable first show.
I hope everyone at Firenze Rocks (in Florence/Firenze, Italy) has a great time.
I look forward to getting back on the bus for Berlin.