Review by Peter Schleck
"How do you say, 'Quadrophenia', in Quebec-ese?"
This was just one of the nods by the man Commander Daltrey affectionately calls "the Maestro", to their current surroundings on this, the first night of what is to be an eclectic(?) selection of cities comprising The Who's 2017 tour of the Americas, one that will see them travel quite far south of here, and by that I don't mean Florida. By fall, we fans will be able to tango in Buenos Aries to wrap things up. See you there! Undiscovered tour country.
But will it be just a tour wrap or something more?
If the performance here in Quebec is any indicator, the lads are fit for more. Roger and Pete looked robust, seemed in good spirits, and brought the usual blast of energy to a performance so many younger bands could and likely do still envy. Roger was strong in voice. Pete takes the guitar to another realm. He did again tonight. Zak Starkey continues to make all this possible, as well. His talents were on display again tonight.
A band that not long past marked its own 50th anniversary, they were the July 13th headliner here at the 50th summer concert festival in this French-speaking city on the banks of the St. Lawrence.
On another historical note, it is my understanding that a General Townshend was among the British commanders to lead the storming of this city over 200 years ago. On the very site of tonight's concert, the Plains of Abraham.
Among a smattering of French greetings and salutations by Pete, Zak Starkey would count off with his drum sticks and Pete, our own musical field general, would lead the band through a recognizable survey of the whole of The Who's body of work.
They began with the traditional I Can't Explain, and moved on through the Seeker, Who Are You, I Can See For Miles, and the like.
Those attending recent shows in the U.K. and elsewhere would recognize the now standard fare. Diehards might--who am I kidding--WILL lament the absence of variation, the lack of rarities, but that ground will continue to be quibbled over. I leave that to others.
There was a medley of Tommy selections, a sampling of Quad, and some of their later hits. You Better You Bet was back. C.S.I. Songs all around, as well.
One awkward moment resulted in the band coming to a "full ground stop" on Love Reign O'er Me, with Roger turning back to Loren Gold's empty seat and remarking, dryly, "We have lost our piano player." I am hoping it was only a bad batch of poutine or other local fare, and in any event, Loren was soon back at his post. All jokes aside, I hope everything is okay. Loren, like Frank, John C., and the other supporting regulars, is Who family.
I am no musical technologist, but those among you who are would better recognize that Pete seemed unsatisfied at points with his guitar effects, and/or his monitor(s), and there was some fiddling here and there. Nothing that set him off, but perhaps some first night "glitchery".
I also want to praise Jon Button. With love for Pino, I will say if insider fans are looking for variety, Mr. Button brings a bass sound closer to Our Beloved John. Listen for it. No one is JAE or ever will be again, but the change in sound is noticeable. Different. Good in its own way. It was welcomed on My Generation. If they carry on further, I would like to hear his take on a 5:15 bass solo.
Further on the topic of variety, Pete seemed to bring a "Shaft" sensibility to the guitar effects on Eminence front. It was different, and enjoyable. I might even venture to predict it will be heard again on the Tonight Show in coming days, but I have no inside information. Perhaps it is what I would choose. How's that for confirmation bias.
It was a full festival crowd, a happy, polite crowd, albeit some of whom did not heed the posted request to refrain from smoking. (Memo to the crew: better luck may be had if posted in French in a French-speaking city).
For this fan, it was a happy occasion to see these fellows-Pete and Roger--and their reliable supporting cast on the stage, sharing what they want, how they want, when they want.
Still the best live band here or anywhere, in my opinion.