Review by James Kuhn
This was my first and only show on this Who tour, and I had remained relatively spoiler free in terms of watching footage from other shows, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect when stepping into Rogers Arena. From afar, the whole year has seemed to be an exciting time for The Who, but also a year of some tension, with Roger wanting to tour and Pete wanting to record a new album. Both seemed initially uncomfortable, with Roger taking some time to find his way into Pete's new songs and Pete taking some time to warm to playing with an orchestra. But this dynamic and tension between the two has produced so many amazing pieces of music and moments on stage throughout the years, and somehow The Who have once again seemed to find that golden mean - I am beyond happy to report that the show in Vancouver was strong and celebratory.
Pete and Roger were in fine form and animated as they performed, with Roger whipping and tossing his mic and Pete energetically roaming the stage, windmilling, and jumping during numerous songs. The sound mix between the band and the orchestra sounded shocking good to my ears in the 4th row, with each complementing rather than overpowering the other. Pete and Simon were able to play interesting lines even within the framework of the orchestra, and the flourishes in the arrangements brought out surprising nuances and emotions in songs I have heard a thousand times before.
An early highlight came on the very first song, with the Townshend brothers coming together with a beaming Roger to duet during a soaring Overture. Seeing the smiles on stage made me think that this was going to be a great night. Tommy felt powerful and vital as the set continued. Vocally, Roger eased into the show, but was in full force by We're Not Gonna Take It. It was a rousing climax to the Tommy set, with Pete's ferocious leads, Roger's passionate singing, and the orchestral embellishments combining to make me feel the song in a way I hadn't in some time; it was one of my favorite numbers of the evening.
Following Tommy, the playful banter picked up, particularly from Pete. He lauded the London-esque "proper weather" of the rainy and chilly Pacific Northwest. He spoke of how much he was looking forward to a post-show bath (alone! - he's 74!), with a crime novel and cheesecake to smear all over himself, Roger staring at him in bemusement. And he humorously pushed the upcoming album throughout the show, repeatedly telling the millennials in the audience that due to the record company releasing the album during the competitive holiday season, it was their duty to buy it as a gift for their grandparents. The Who Sell Out!
Eminence Front has been a live favorite of mine for some time and was well performed here by an animated Pete. Imagine A Man was preceded with Pete talking about The Who having fewer albums than many of their contemporaries due to their pursuit of solo projects and alternative careers, including his unprofitable time as a book publisher. He finished by talking about By Numbers wasn't as popular as other Who albums, but featured some great songs, drawing cheers from the diehards. Imagine A Man proved to be a apt choice of deep cut for this tour, with Roger nailing his vocals, and beautiful accompaniment bringing out the emotion of a song that probably wouldn't be featured in a normal Who performance. One hopes that it will inspire the band to include additional live rarities as they continue touring in this configuration; earlier on the tour, Pete mentioned The Song Is Over on his Instagram as a possibility. Hero Ground Zero similarly made effective use of the entire orchestra to conclude this portion of the set.
For the following segment, Roger told the crowd that the Who were returning to the little band that they were and exclaimed that the best line in rock is "I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth." Substitute and I Can See For Miles had infectious and bouncy energy. Leading into the latter, Pete and Roger spoke about the brilliance of Jimi Hendrix and how excited they were when they *thought* they had him signed to their record label. Pete hilariously said that in 1967 when they recorded I Can See For Miles and The Who played the Monterey Pop Festival, women didn't have boundaries, but as a gentleman Pete did, and saying "no, you can't have me!" He kept this up...until 1968!
I didn't know what to expect out of Won't Get Fooled Again performed minimally as an acoustic piece with only Pete and Roger, but for me it was one of the absolute highlights of the night. Playing the song this way permitted Pete to go on brilliant and lengthy improvisational riffs. Pete's virtuosity on the guitar shined, his abilities transfixing the audience and seemingly even Roger as he looked on at moments. It drew a long sustained cheer upon completion.
Behind Blue Eyes benefitted from Katie on violin and Audrey on cello, again adding a new dimension to a song that for me personally is somewhat played out. The orchestra returned to stage for a strong performance of Ball and Chain, which felt like it fit right in with the rest of the set. The show would come to a crescendo with a stirring Quadrophenia set. After a biting The Real Me and fun I'm One, the crowd was enthused to hear that Eddie Vedder had made the trip north from Seattle to again perform The Punk and the Godfather! Roger draped his arm around Eddie as they traded verses during the first half of the song. Eddie then drifted to Pete's side, facing him as they sang during the second half of the song. The affinity The Who and Eddie have for one another was evident from the smiles on stage, and it was a wonderful performance and inclusion in the setlist.
The Rock has been one of my favorites in the setlist since 2012's full Quadrophenia tour. It was a delight to see the Townshend brothers trading guitar leads across the stage as the orchestra soared, making the song and Quadrophenia's various themes even bigger. It was perhaps my favorite arrangement of the night. Love Reign O'er Me was preceded by a lengthy piano improvisation from the talented Loren Gold. Roger returned to stage and had saved his best for last, absolutely crushing the song's challenging vocals and drawing the longest sustained cheer of the night.
Pete introduced the band following Quadrophenia. Particularly funny was his facetious rant about drummers when he came to Zak. He said that if it were up to him, he wouldn't even have a drummer, he'd have an electronic box that beeps and boops because it's more reliable. Zak mocked leaving the stage. Pete looked to the empty drum kit and asked the audience if they wanted to see him play, as even a chimpanzee could do it. Concluding the band introductions, Pete added that he had finished insulting everybody. As Baba O'Riley started, Pete snuck up behind Roger and started air drumming the intro of the song, one of the funniest moments of the night. I can't recall previously seeing Baba as a closer, but it worked astonishingly well with the orchestra and Katie's superlative violin solo to close the song and the show. Roger chided Pete that the ace performance would teach him not to sack the bloody drummer, and Pete called for a hand for "poor old, much maligned Zak Starkey."
Final heartfelt goodbyes were shared. Pete thanked the audience for the effort to continue to come out and support them, saying that he knows it doesn't just end with the cost of the ticket. Roger thanked the audience and expressed how much he still enjoys playing at 75. He said that their youth may be gone, but the music is better than ever thanks to the maestro, Pete Townshend. Pete shared that he was reluctant to tour, believing that they had accomplished everything they could with the current lineup of the band, but that Roger had convinced him to give the orchestra a shot, and he had often ended up loving it. Pete also poignantly added that it was rare and great to play on a stage with so many women. He praised Roger's inspired vocal performance and Roger sent us off with his traditional wish for everyone to be happy, be healthy, and be lucky.
If this tour was The Who's last-ever swing through the Pacific Northwest, it was powerful and memorable. We are so very lucky to have Pete, Roger, and the rest of the band performing at such a high level in 2019. Beyond the music, the jovial atmosphere will stay with me - Pete and Roger genuinely seemed happy, and for that I am equally grateful. I will treasure this experience, and I can't wait for the new album and whatever might come next in their creative lives. As I stepped out into the cold fall air, I felt invigorated, the buzz that only a stellar show by a favorite band can provide.
Review by Pat Stanton
The Vancouver concert was excellent from start to finish. Both Roger and Pete were on all night, laughing and joking with the audience and each other.
The setlist had one major addition from the San Diego show - The Punk and the Godfather plus the extra as bonus of Eddie Vedder joining the band to sing it with then. It is a super song and Eddie bouncing his way through it, with cues from Roger and Pete along the song (like "one more" from Pete to Eddie at the end of the song so he knew when to stop). There is a genuine love between the 3, with Roger frequently putting his arm around Eddie's shoulder and deferring lines to him.
The Tommy set was very strong, with Roger adding lots of microphone flourishes and swinging throughout when he wasn't banging his tambourines. Pete was super animated the entire set.
One particularly cool moment in that set was during the Overture when the Townshend brothers come together at center stage and perform a dueling duet. Pete had told the band/orchestra on a prior soundcheck that he just counters off what Simon is performing and that Si is the lead on it. Tonight, Pete literally stopped playing for 20/30 seconds and just let Si play solo, with Roger grinning broadly behind them. Cool.
As usual, chatting is kept to a minimum after the initial Hey and good to be back in Vancouver and Canada, with its "proper weather" (50° and rainy, felt like England) until the Tommy set is completed.
Before WAY, Pete launched into his plans after the show to take a hot bath, by himself as he is after all 74, (haha, like there weren't a number of volunteers in the audience willing to join him) and some weird idea of rubbing cheesecake on himself. Roger just did one of his classic stares at him during this discussion. LOL.
WAY and Eminence Front were solid. Prior to Imagine a Man, Pete talked about the fact that there were periods in their prime when they pursued solo careers and endeavors, like he was a book publisher for 8 years, not profitable for him but enjoyable. As a result, they did not record as many albums as some of their peers, and that the album that featured this one might not have been as popular (Who By Numbers) as some but that it contained some excellent songs. Fans in the front hooted on that. Roger performed How Many Friends on his 2018 Tommy tour from that album- how I wish that would replace the tacky YBYB.
After Imagine a Man, Pete introduced Hero Ground Zero, making his first pitch about the new album - a subject he revisited several times during the show. He told us the album was ready to be released last April but the release was delayed by the promoters until early December, with 140 other bands releasing albums for Christmas/holiday consumption. His idea was that all the millennials should buy one for their grandfathers. Pete is still convinced that the aging audience is all male, never seeming to see the older females who are also in attendance and not because our male companions drag us to the show. A Christmas present of the album is a good idea.
After the first orchestra set, Roger announced that they were now going back to the little band that they were, with emphasis on the little in a strong English accent. Again we heard how being born with a plastic spoon in your mouth is a far superior line than worrying about dying before you get old. Haha. Naturally, Substitute followed. Pete and Roger have immense fun performing that one.
The Miles intro was very amusing. Pete reminisced about this being the first big US hit, admitting that he did not know how it charted in Canada, and that they recorded it after Monterey where they performed with Jimi Hendrix. Pete recalled how they loved to perform with him, especially as they thought that he was to record on their label, which didn't work out, Roger ruefully nodding in agreement. Pete recalled how dynamic he was on stage but was different offstage, Roger agreeing, saying that he was quite quiet. Fans probably recall that Roger's wife Heather was initially pursued by Jimi, dubbing her the Foxy Lady, but that she chose Roger.
Pete then recalled back in 1967 when Miles was released how woman (in his universe anyway) had no borders. I guess he meant the groupies. Roger looked at him and mumbled that women had borders. Funny moment.
WGFA was exceptional. Pete totally went off on very long riffs. I saw Keith Levenson just watching him perform this with an enormous smile on his face, clearly appreciating his creativity. Roger often just stands and watches his partner during these moments, also smiling.
Ball and Chain was the welcome back number for the orchestra, again with a little album pitch from Pete.
The Quad set was especially strong, of course highlighted by Eddie's guest performance on Punk. The Real Me and 5:15 were equally energetic and dynamic. Loren's Love Reign intro was brilliant but Roger's performance was unbelievable. The applause following the song went on so long it was embarrassing to Roger - of course he loves the adulation but it is a band concert, not a solo show. I admit that I was one of the last to stop applauding, it was that good.
The band intros broke the Roger lovefest mood, with Pete laughing and joking throughout. The special target was Zak and all drummers. Pete said that he would not have a drummer if he was to form a band - he would get one of those little boxes that makes a rhythmic beat. Zak took exception, left his kit, Roger begged him back, and Pete announced that he could play the drums in his absence. When we hooted back that he couldn't he was challenged and air drummed the beginning of Baba. Roger was center, doing his fist raised before he realized what Pete was doing behind his back. He leaned back into him while Pete drummed. Priceless!
Group lovefest at the end, Roger praising Pete; Pete praising Roger and a proper Be Lucky sendoff. Everyone exited stage left except for Katie, with Roger laughingly joining her, stage right.
Excellent show and my last of this tour. Next stop, Leeds in March 2020.
Review by Michael Hanley
This was my 3rd show of the tour. I saw Buffalo, the second show, Toronto in Sept and now the second to last. Loved it.
Eddie Vedder was there again, to sing the punk and the godfather. Nice, thanks Eddie. Roger sounded great. He had 2 issues at the start, and I was worried, but then settled down and kicked ass.
Pete was in great spirits. Just before baba, he belittled Zak, and drummers in general, saying he could do better. Zak got up and pretended to leave. Then pete mimed like he was drumming. Zak got the last laugh. As Pete signaled the end of baba, Zak stopped, then played 3 more notes in a f you to Pete. Lol. Pete took it well and Roger joked to never piss off the drummer.
The sound where I was, was excellent! Katie was very good on Baba, although Toronto was better. Loren's LROM intro was great. Did Pete write it or is Loren improvising it?
While I like the Tommy portion, it's the Quad portion that soars for me. I love it. I am constantly amazed at their ages, they are so good. Pete is amazing. So you think 20’s gonna be a good year?