Review by Seth Davidson
The Venue: Jiffy Lube Live (one of the stupidest names for a venue, formerly known as Nissan Pavilion) is a shed -- open on the sides, covered roof, lawn seating behind. There is a lot of walking involve in shows at JLL due to is layout. With VIP, we got close-in parking, which was a bonus given that the weather was threatening. The stage is high, but you can get up against it and there is plenty or room between the first row of seats and the stage so you can move around to get a better photo angle if you're so inclined. As mentioned, the video camera was a bit of an obstruction for those to the Pete side of center, but it rarely got in my way (3 seats right of center). Security was present, but not overly intrusive.
The VIP Experience
Swag: The swag is a small autographed "poster" specific to the venue and a messenger bag. There also is a set of guitar picks, but they're not ready ("production delay") and they'll be mailed to folks.
Soundcheck: We were taken to the soundcheck after it had started (heard a few notes of iCSFM, but that may have been a guitar tech. Also heard some Who Are You and a long Eminence Front. The soundcheck was more of a rehearsal than a soundcheck -- the band worked on Amazing Journey/Sparks and the Rock, with back and forth between Pete and the conductor (with input from Zak).
Best line: After discussing whether the score has two or three more bars than Pete is used to, Pete turned to the orchestra and said "don't worry about it, I'll just follow you"). Pete didn't interact that much with the "audience" for the soundcheck, but he did note the presence of a couple of service dogs (accompanying veterans) and he seemed delighted by their presence (Pete being a dog person of course). Roger, obviously clued in to the reports of sound balance issues from Grand Rapids, left the stage and sat in around the 10th row for a bit and then wandered back to the sound board and then disappeared entirely.
The Memorabilia room: We were then escorted back to a tented area where a meager amount of food (some wraps whose contents were somewhat mysterious, less than fresh small round rolls and hot dogs cut in pieces to fit on the small rolls) awaited us. We were given two drink tickets each -- Soda, mixed drinks, and beer are available (probably wine, but I didn't notice). I'd recommend sticking with beer since the drinks are pretty small and weak). A DJ was playing Who music and was doing a good job of mixing in some lesser heard trans. It was a small space and it was pretty crowded especially since it was absolutely pouring outside starting a little after 5 pm. Fortunately the bathrooms were very close by. There were posters and other memorabilia on display -- the low point being, and I'm not making this up, a collection of ticket stubs, one of which was for a show by the Guess Who. You could get your photo taken posing with a red Fender (I resisted for a bit but then went ahead and did it--the standard poses were I saw from people were a windmill or a faux smash). Around 6 pre they let us leave the tent to go to a nearby merchandise stand (the gates didn't open for everyone else until 6:30 so there was no line). The credit card machine wasn't working so it was cash only (eventually that was corrected). We weren't supposed to go anywhere else but there really wasn't any way to stop folks (although until 6:30 you couldn't get to your seats).
The Show: Peter Wolf was a great opener. I usually skip the openers but he was terrific. I see on his website that he's opening again for the Philly show, which I hadn't previously heard.
With respect to the Who, I approached the show with some concern as to what it would be like. The set list from the first two shows concerned me, less for the choice of songs and more for the order. I was presently surprised at how well it worked, with one exception (the closing with BOR).
The Tommy segment sounded particularly good with the orchestra and the drums and guitars were quite prominent in the mix for those of us in the front.
Pete's babushka/scarf/bedspread was eye-catching to say the least -- I didn't expect him to leave it on once they started playing but he did and he even windmilled with it on. It was wrapped around him in such a convoluted fashion he actually had trouble taking it off when he finally had warmed up enough to do.
Pete commented about the damp, somewhat raw conditions on a few occasions but he and Roger generally were in high sprints.
The Seeker was a particularly nice surprise, with Pete pretty fired up on guitar.
Roger got confused about the set list -- as has been noted there were two versions floating around and he must have expected TKAA rather than Substitute and was waiting for someone to bring him a guitar until one of the roadies came out and pointed out that he was misreading the set list.
Other highlights were, to my great surprise, the acoustic WGFA and Imagine a Man (again, not a song I expected to enjoy as much as I did). BBE featured Katie on violin and Audrey on cello which added a new texture to an old warhorse.
The Quad section had both highpoint and some not so high points. Obviously it lends itself to orchestration, but there were timing issues and some balance issues. During the Rock, Pete yelled at Simon that he was "too loud". Pete also consulted with Zak during one number, apparently (and this is a first) because Zak wasn't aggressive enough. When Zak really punched, Pete smiled and nodded. I thought something was off during Drowned but Pete didn't seem bothered. On the other hand, he was clearly unhappy with his guitar sound on 5:15 and was complaining about it during the song. However, he smiled somewhat ruefully at the end after singing the closing "Why should I care" lines -- probably recognizing the irony in those lyrics contrasted with his mini-tantrum.
Before the show I was of the opinion that they could drop LROM and I wouldn't mind. But they did a nice job and Roger didn't try to do vocal gymnastics at the end -- thankfully. (A note of warning for front row folks -- Roger was back to spelling a mouthful of water on the front row during LROM).
The rest of band was outstanding. Two notes: at one point (can't recall which song) Simon broke a string on the acoustic guitar he was playing and simply switched to a Fender electric. And Zak's wacky "hoodie" that he wore with the hood up at times also deserves mention (It was about the same color as his hair).
As others have mentioned, BOR is a strange show closer because it leaves Roger and Pete largely on the sidelines. Pete did run at Katie at one point with a big smile on his face and at the end of the song she gave Roger a little kiss and he grinned and might well have blushed.
Everyone was smiling during the post show "bows" and Pete made a point of commending Roger for his audacity and courage in pushing for the new format -- before explaining that another way to describe someone who is audacious and brave is "Mad Fucker."