Review by Abraham Castro-Kreimerman
BRAVO THE WHO. WHAT A CLASSY SHOW.
I decided to take the plane from my Mexico City and to Toronto to see The Who with the excuse to visit my family. So I went to the Scotiabank Arena with my brother Rafael and Mathias, my 13 year old nephew in his first Who show, extremely happy to be the youngest Whooligan in the attendance. He asked me to go… impossible to say No.
What a night. This was a totally different performance. The assemble that Pete and Roger created with the orchestra and the new arrangements gave a fresh feeling to the entire show and enhance even more the tracks we all love. It’s incredible that time passes and Pete and Roger still keep the power to make a huge impression and surprise us with their talent and partnership.
The opening was superb… from Tommy, my favourite album of all times. Extremely close to the original with Pete and Simon in a brutal and mortal duel of guitars in the Overture as well as in Pinball Wizard. Zak made a powerful drum beating in Amazing Journey and in Sparks… a tune that still is tattooed in my heart.
Love the fact that in this tour the attention was focused in the orchestra instead of the video… it made it kind of intimate but as pompous and strong as always. The exquisite mix made it unforgettable. The addition of Billy Nicholls was a smart decision, such a talented partner-in-crime that made a brilliant support. I also enjoyed the addition of Emily Marshall as a second keyboard player, it was more than obvious that she was having the time of her life… same as me.
In the “second act”, The Seeker sounded so intense and deep and made a unique contrast for being acoustic. You Better You Bet as well as Another Tricky Day had amazing backup singing by Jon Button, Loren Gold, Simon and Billy. I was expecting Relay but this change in the setlist with Tricky Day was fortunate. Roger made a great scream at the end of WGFA and Zak’s drumming, particularly in the solo made it EPIC. Love the fact that he’s playing an electric drum kit and the sound had perfect manipulation… that’s why this song was monumental. The closing of the “second act” was sublime… the new arrangement of Behind Blue Eyes gave a new life to this intense writing of Pete. The violin and cello made it more deep.
In the opening of the “third act”, they played my favourite track, meaning my favourite song in my life… The Real Me. Splendid… Zak was as strong as always and Jon made a respectful rendition to John’s bass playing. So grateful they played it. Shame that they didn’t play more of Quad… The Rock was totally majestic. I never enjoyed as much as last night in Toronto… Baba O’Riley, grandiose, monumental. Although I missed Roger’s harmonica, Katie Jacoby violin solo touched our hearts… I’m sure that The Loon wherever he is, was also moved by this “crazy idea of adding a violin” by Katie in the best performance I ever heard. Unforgettable concert… I even love The Who more. So happy to share this experience once again in Toronto with my brother and with Mathias, the newest Whooligan who deeply enjoyed it and didn’t miss the chance to make fun of his dad and uncle for their singing and dancing. Viva The Who. Viva Pedro, Rogelio, Juan and Keith. Lucky to keep The Who in our hearts.
Review by Michael Hanley
I went to 3 shows in 2019. Buffalo, Toronto and Vancouver. I loved them. I remember being so hopeful we would see the band again soon. The orchestra was good with Tommy and FANTASTIC with Quadrophenia songs. I always loved Pete’s orchestral work on Street in the City and Football Fugue. But we all know how 2020 and 2021 went. So when this tour was announced it was with a bit of trepidation. Would it even happen? The boys are getting older, would they still be healthy enough to tour? For those with similar reservations, GO!
Toronto was great. Rogers voice was strong. I have no idea how at his age he continues to perform so well. Pete was great. Very chatty and in a great mood. We all remember Dec 17 1982. Pete does too. Is it because its coming up to the 40th anniversary or was it specific to being back in Toronto? He’s certainly never talked about the farewell show so much in previous outings here. First he pointed out that they were OLD! In case we missed it. He explained his balance problems, and how if he closes his eyes while playing, he falls over. At one point he gave a demonstration by holding the mike stand and trying to stand on one leg. I’m not sure I could do it now either. Lol.
But the most honest comment came a couple of songs later where he simply said “It was my fault”. Referring to the breakup of the band. You could tell there was regret but also it was needed at the time for his own sanity. I recall watching Much Music in 82, and in a fantastic interview he explained he needed to stop. Too much pain around him. Keith, Kit, Cincinatti. The pressure of the new record contract. Fan expectation. I remember feeling sad that my guitar hero was feeling so bad. Nothing I could do but wish him well and support his solo career and time off into the publishing world. Live Aid was amazing and I could not believe they were there. Then his much deserved silence.
In 89 I was at both Toronto shows and from that point on, I never missed a Toronto, Buffalo, Hamilton, London, Darien Lake show. Anything remotely close. And a few far shows too. MSG and Vancouver. Solo and as the band. For the last couple of shows I’ve been going thinking ok, this may be the last time I see them. One of them will need to stop. I’m sure you all had the same thought. But hey, lots of blues artists continued into later life. But none of them is Pete Townshend.
For the last few years, Pete has presented a grumpy, almost curmudgeonly persona on stage. Toronto was different. He was happy, friendly, joking and honest. His guitar playing while was not as aggressive or expressive as some previous tours, but still was fantastic. A few small windmill bursts at appropriate times felt natural, not forced. Its weird to see a show without my generation, substitute and I can’t explain. But I gladly give them up for The Rock and LROM. These last 3 songs, The Rock, LROM and the finale of Baba were worth the price of the ticket alone. Pete said he hoped they would be back to Toronto another time. I believe him.
After the concert, I was left with a feeling that I had not expected. Pete feels content and happy. I am so happy he’s in a good place at this time. Of course, I give full credit to Rachel. She’s the one who makes him happy and got him into a better place years ago. Without Rachel, Pete wouldn’t be here now. I know Nancie thinks this is the last time they will tour together. She may be right and I’m ok with that. But by god, I hope she is wrong and we can experience this religious experience that is unlike any other.
Review by Nannette McCormick
The second leg of the Who Hits Back! tour begins in Toronto, Ontario. As Pete Townshend always reminds us, the Who consider it a good omen to begin or end a tour in Toronto. I am particularly excited to reunite with friends that I typically only see at Who shows and events because we live hours away from each other. Easy border crossing, we told the customs agent we were going to see the Who in Toronto, and that's all he needed to know (other than asking us if we had alcohol, tobacco or firearms). We drove to Lisa's house in Niagara Falls, CA to pick up her and our friend Kim who drove there from Jamestown, NY.
I didn't tell the customs agent, but I had a six year old bottle of Roger Daltrey cuvee in my Who Hits 50 duffle bag. I had been keeping the bottle since I received it for Christmas and didn't want to open it because it was so beautiful. Six years ago when I made the decision to keep the bottle pristine, the world was so different. Dave and I decided this year, after we bought the tickets for the Who show in Toronto, that it was the perfect occasion to pop the cork and share with our two friends.
We checked into our rooms in a hotel adjacent to the ScotiaBank arena...the first thing we did was get together in my room and gather around to experience the ceremonious popping of the cork of this pricy libation. We left our own mark on the hotel when the cork hit the ceiling...not exactly Keith Moon like destruction, but it made us feel a little bit like rockstars. Kim brought out the champagne glasses she bought especially for the occasion...we laughingly call our group the Whoers, and she had some flutes made for the occasion with our established date of 11.8.2017. Dave and I were already friends with Kim, but we met Lisa at a show when Roger Daltrey was doing the A Quick Run (While Pete's Away) Tour in Niagara Falls on that date.
I expected to hate the champagne. I never liked the taste, but until then I had only had the cheap stuff that passes for champagne in my neck of the woods. Asti Spumante was all I had experienced, and to call that champagne is like saying that a Fiat is similar to a Mazzaratti. It was HEAVENLY and a good prequel to the show.
The VIP experience was not so great, and this is a cautionary tale for those about to go to a future show. You have no choice but to get your merch at the venue. The people who were handling our posters at the arena shoved them into messenger bags with no protection, so all four of us ended up with creased, signed tour posters. They also did not give us guitar picks, and did not play Who music at the reception as was advertised. While bummed about the posters, we did not let it ruin our good time because we were not there for the VIP party, we were there to see the band.
Steven Page was a great warm up for The Who. He is formerly the singer of the Barenaked Ladies, and continues to have a great voice with terrific range. Some people seemed concerned for him after I posted pictures, thinking he looked like an unkempt Drew Carey, but I assured them that despite appearances his voice was strong, powerful and as good as ever!
The Who came on stage about 8:45. Kim, Lisa and I wore Minnie Mouse ears with a Union Jack bow that I bought in Orlando, FL. We hoped Roger would remember us from the Rock Legends cruise as we wore them last time he was on, and he got a kick out of them...we even wore the ears to the meet and greet on the ship, he thought it was great fun. Roger saw us sitting in front row center with the ears and actually did a double take and smiled! Pete seemed a little quiet, almost reflective, in the beginning, I think he was trying to get his bearings...only a few days ago Rachel was posting photos from the yacht, and today they are in Canada ready to go to work again.
They launched into Orchestra Set 1, which included:
We're Not Gonna Take It
Roger was having quite a few problems with his ear pieces, yanking them out and talking to the tech backstage to say that they weren't working for him. He was missing some of the lyrics and was visibly seemed to be getting tense. Eventually a tech came out and hooked him up with new ear pieces, Roger was acting goofy while getting hooked up as if the tech were tickling him when he put the cord in the back of his shirt.
Roger comes to the microphone to address the crowd after the Tommy set and says, "Thank you! Its good to be back in Toronto. I mean, all this time, after our final tour! (Laughs)
Pete: "Ask them. Who was here for our final show?
Roger: "I was".
Pete: (Looks at Roger) “You were."
Roger: "I think I was".
Pete pauses then says, "Well, I think everybody's got a right to change their fucking minds!"
Roger: "Well, exactly! Nothing like keeping you lot on your toes!"
Pete:"Anyway, it said something in the local paper that we played here many many years ago in '82, and it said we were very brave because we invited the Clash to support us."
Roger: "But we survived in the punk era"
Pete: "You know the story, you've probably heard it and I won't tell it again. It was my fault. I got fed up. I'm fed up now, actually.
Roger: "He's always fucking fed up!"
Pete: "You can see the proof of that, you don't need him (Roger) to tell you. Anyway, it's so great to be back in Tor-Ron-Toooooo. This pandemic thing is over this week. You're all going to have a shock when you can see what each other look like!" The band launches into the next song.
Who Are You
Pete: "Well, you know how old we are. I can't say I'm feeling quite like I did in 1982, when I gave up the Who because I was feeling too old (smirks). And one of the other things that happens to me, if I shut my eyes, I sometimes fall over (laughs). I don't know how many of you can do this, but I do it holding on to the mic stand. You shut your eyes, stand on one leg...(pretends to fall) I can't even fucking do that! Anyway, this song that's coming up, it's one that I love to play. It's written about the big cocaine thing that happened in the '80s right through the whole western world, but it was some good stuff."
Ball and Chain
Pete: "I am actually very confused. Listening to our stuff and it sounds like I've never heard it before. How long has it been since our last tour? It's not that long ago. 3-4 months, something like that. I've been home, getting a suntan (makes mocking faces) ON MY SAILING BOAT. I've got a new boat. A new old boat. It's an old boat but it's new to me. And we did pretty well with it. And if you don't wear a hat on a boat you just get brown, brown and then you get liver spots and then your skin falls off. But lucky for you I've been through all that. Last time I was this hot I was in the desert...no, in the jungle...I'm getting confused (laughs). In the jungle, in Florida, where I wrote this song. I dedicate it tonight to my wonderful, wonderful friend, our friend, Tom Wright, who took some great photographs of the Who over the years. He died a little while ago. He should have died a long time before, he had something like 80 stents in his body. This is for him, he was with me when I wrote it. The Seeker!"
Pete: "I just adjusted my hearing aid"
Roger: "Oh, is that what you're doing?"
Pete: "And it's interesting when I adjust my hearing aid, because all of a sudden, I can hear everything (laughs and shrugs). I haven't heard a fucking thing said tonight. It should be better now. No, fucking seriously, it should get better now. Watch me. Now I can hear." Pete does a crazy "hey look at me" interpretive dance and launches into the next song.
You Better You Bet
Pete: "I feel that was alright. Rog?"
Roger: (speaking off microphone to Pete, he's uptight/pissed off because of sound problems)
Pete: (Sympathetically) "Oh. You should come and stand over here. It's good over here. Now that I've got me hearin' aids in, I can hear everything. (Roger still talking to tech, upset) I keep drifting off. To 1982. (Laughs) It wasn't a bad decision, really. I have no fucking idea where I've gotten to. I was just thinking about...there's some very lovely young ladies down here (HE IS POINTING TO LISA, KIM AND ME!!!!) who seem to know all the words to the songs. Thank you very much. I was so down there, not up here. (Looks at Roger). Anyway, what are we doing now?"
Roger: "It's good to be back. Where are we?
Pete: "Oh Magic Bus, that's right" (Pete is referencing a Magic Bus chant the crowd was doing, but instead they launch into Tricky Day."
We were over the moon that Pete was talking to us, and the reason for getting his attention was simply this. Our group was in contrast to our surroundings. We noticed the majority of the crowd was very sedate, many even sitting. Lisa, Kim and I were up the whole time, singing to all the words, dancing and hugging each other and having a great time. It probably gave Pete a little nostalgia about how concerts used to be. Being called "young" was a bonus too, which made me think maybe Pete needs glasses in addition to hearing aids, but I digress. It felt great!
Behind Blue Eyes
Orchestra Set 2:
The Real Me
Love Reign O'er Me
At the end of the show, Pete pointed to us and threw and handful of guitar picks, I was lucky enough to get one! I haven't seen him throwing guitar picks for a long time, so was grateful to get one that Pete actually grabbed and threw! Lisa got Pete's set list, and Dave got Zak's drumstick.
The show finally came to an end. We wanted to extend our post show high, so we went to the bar across the street, E11leven for drinks. Being a Sunday night, there was time for one drink and then it was already last call. Even Toronto rolls up the sidewalk on the weekend, not sure if this was always, or if it's a post-pandemic staffing problem. Our conversation turned to what the future might hold. We all agreed that this would be a perfect Who concert for us to end on, for several reasons. VIP is too pricy for us to do more than once a tour, and without connections it seems to be the only way to get a front row seat. Getting acknowldged by both Pete and Roger (who blew us kisses) from the stage was surreal. As a teen listening to Quadrophenia in the 80s with my headphone on, I never dreamed I would leave my little town and actually share a moment or a gaze with the members of my favorite band, who got me through high school angst and who I still turn to in difficult times. Dave and I will always remain friends with Lisa and Kim, and may eventually have to find other reasons to get together. The Who has been more than a band. It's been a source of entertainment and the best music ever, but also a lifeline and a community of some of the best people I know. The Who brought us together, and nothing will tear us apart.