The concert in Atlanta was brilliant. One of the best Who shows that I have seen, especially on this tour. Everything just clicked. Roger and Pete were phenomenal. The orchestra complimented the band during both sets. We even got a little chatting rather than just forging ahead song to song.
Roger was strong all night. He was laughing and twirling his microphone energetically. And his voice was brilliant, culminating in one of the best renditions of Love Reign that I have seen in a long time. Passion from the beginning through the end. The audience went crazy after it.
Loren's Love Reign intro was complex and very entertaining. It was also longer than usual, at more than 2 1/2 minutes. Pete joked about it during the band introductions, both praising Loren and blaming him if the show ran long and if the fans had to pay extra for parking.
Pete was hopping around all night with his short "leaps". We were even machine gunned down at the end of Eminence Front. And he got the verse sequence correct in I'm One.
As much as I enjoy Substitute, I was thrilled to have it swapped out for Kids Are Alright. YBYB is still in and The Seeker still out.
When introducing Miles, Pete reminded the audience that it was the band's first US hit in 1967, before anyone in the audience was born, at least according to him. When some of the seniors took exception to this, me included, Pete told us not to raise our hands and that he only wanted young fans who know how to use a laptop. I found absolutely no humor in this and thought it was rude. I know, Pete humor, but still obnoxious.
I recorded 10 videos, most were posted individually but can be viewed on YouTube under Chipdog67. The lighting was odd during much of the show so some pictures and videos are a little fuzzy but the sound is there.
Striding desperately around the outside of the venue, I finally saw the VIP crowd gathered in a lobby; by the time I got in, they had already started to move deeper into the building. Check-in table was still staffed, and the ladies there were friendly, efficient, and quickly escorted me in to catch up with the group. Saw a couple of familiar faces, joined them near the back of the line, and in we went.
Greeted with a hearty blast of vocal harmony: I Can See For Miles. Also got some bits and pieces of Who Are You and Eminence Front. Somewhere in there, Roger mentioned that the sound onstage was a little "bass-ey." Not just onstage, but to my ear, not a bad thing. I've really been enjoying Jon Button's work on this tour; both he and Zak seemed more forward in the mix tonight, and I liked it. Didn't interfere with the orchestra, actually helped balance orchestra and band. May have sounded different elsewhere in the house, though.
At some point there was the inevitable discussion about who could and couldn't hear what; Pete said to Roger, about his guitar: "I can hear you. And it sounds good!" Roger's response: "That's a first!"
Keith Levenson introduced the band--to the orchestra! And then they launched into a full-on Overture. Great appetizer for the show, and it struck me how the orchestra functions especially well in transitions between songs; Overture going into the Captain Walker bit became its own little moment, a bouquet of emotions you wouldn't have noticed before. Very nice.
Speaking of appetizers, food in the VIP lounge was pretty good; bite-size Beef Wellington, of course, also bites of chicken and waffles, mini egg rolls, a great cheese plate, and so on. If we can't leave the venue after sound check, it's nice to have a place to hang out, although the DJ was a little loud, sometimes interfering with conversation. Swag was good, too, messenger bag, assortment of logo picks in the cutest little metal matchbox, and my favorite: the poster. This time, it even matched the venue!
Liked these guys better than I expected; they are loud, but in a good way, and my ears adjusted pretty quickly. Great balance of power and finesse, though their stagecraft lags a bit behind their musicianship; some of the moves and props a little blatant. They're good enough not to need that stuff anymore, but may not yet have realized it. Really liked what I heard, though, and may end up listening at home. Great work, guys--keep going!
Ended up shuffling seats a little, which was good because I landed between a very large stranger and Roger's mic stand--much better than the other way around. Helped keep a family seated together, and got a better view! The large stranger turned out to be a gentle giant named Bob; at the end of the show, he handed me one of Zak's sticks that he snagged, probably my most substantial stage catch so far. Stuff like that isn't necessarily a goal for me, but is deeply appreciated when it comes around.
The Goal and the Crowd
I've talked before about Concertland, that destination which exists only during a show, created by the interaction of stage and audience. From the audience side, getting there involves listening with a certain degree of concentration, and gives an experience found nowhere else. It's a bit different in larger, rowdier venues, stadiums and arenas as opposed to theaters and concert halls; in bigger places, there's also the good but occasionally scary feeling of being part of a very large, very worked-up crowd. That happens at sports events, too, but without the Concertland part. The combination of crowd and Concertland, when it works, is incredibly potent.
It works tonight. The crowd is involved and knowledgeable, without being especially rowdy. It adds a lot to the show and belonging to it feels energizing, intense and exciting without any fear.
I'm beginning to understand Concertland itself as having two components. First, intellectual appreciation of the music itself, which is something I don't feel qualified to address; I've never trained to understand or write about it and am learning as I go, so I leave that to more expert opinion. What I show up for is the other element, that bouquet of emotions, which in a concert like this becomes a whole field, maybe a Great Plains, sea-to-shining-sea sort of continent of them.
I tend to listen from that place where intellect and emotion meet, and try to at least partly return to it when I compose one of these write-ups. I think one reason I focus so much on Roger onstage is, as a singer, I think he might work from a similar place; it helps me engage and get the most of my trip to Concertland.
Anyway, enough theory. On to the show.
Didn't suffer a bit from hearing it twice. There's a point where the Brothers Townshend go head to head on guitar; great moment both here and in sound check.
The confused defiance of Roger's "I heard it/I saw it/I heard it/every word of it/I won't say nothin' to no one.." hits home tonight in a way it hasn't quite before. I've focused on the defiance and missed some of the hurt (maybe on purpose.) But his tone just gets right to the essence of childhood damage: bewilderment and a scared promise to be good, even while sticking to the truth. It's not so much defiance as just not knowing yet how to lie--but learning. And that's possibly the worst damage of all.
The benefits of blending orchestra and band very well demonstrated here; beyond words.
Fiery crowd pleaser. Simon is a force in his own right, and brings an indispensable depth to the show. So good to see him work, and to see how he and Pete work together.
We're Not Gonna Take It/See Me Feel Me
This is defiance, and nothing childlike about it. I've always loved "Let's forget you, better still," the ultimate fuck you to someone so loathsome they're not even worth hating. But then...50 years along, and that eerie, ethereal vulnerability is still there. The contrast, the way defiance and vulnerability entwine, allows Listening to You to become epic, the whole thing scaled up by the crowd, lifting things up into a realm of spirituality, not just seeking but doing. Always listening--always, in that space between head and heart, beach and sea.
And Pete says: that's as much of Tommy as we can do without breaking my heart.
Who Are You
That opening, squibby little riff still fits a bit awkwardly with the orchestra; it's one thing they worked on in sound check. Everyone gets through it, though, and the song goes well. I've always loved the third verse especially, the multiple levels it works, all fanning out from "such a love as this."
A word about banter--generally I can remember a lot of it, but have trouble recalling where to place it, which song was being introduced or situation hilariously embellished. Brian Kehew covered Pete's comments about younger fans and his riff about the boiler suits, but left out a bit of the latter: evidently, before they copied Pete and started wearing coveralls and Doc Martens, plumbers and other workmen would show up to fix things wearing...tutus. "It was all very amusing, but I'm glad I put a stop to it."
Roger gave us a classic, and filthy, riff of his own involving the strange things conductors do with their hands; you really had to see it, words alone do not suffice. "Thank you, Keith." And thank you, Roger--I think.
Nothing but a straight groove for me, and a little laugh with Roger at the line "fucking hair thins." Flip my ponytail and mouth "Not mine!" and I think he catches it; I like to think I made him smile.
Imagine A Man
The orchestra really fleshes this one out and takes it to new heights. And I've always admired the writing, but performance-wise, it's still all Roger. Not a crowd pleaser, but a natural for the orchestral treatment, and so worth hearing.
Hero Ground Zero
It does start off sounding a lot like Another Tricky Day, and there's hints of...Fragments? Something from Endless Wire somewhere in the body of it, which gets me thinking about themes in music--not just in lyrics. Writers tend to have favorite themes, topics they explore in words over several works, at different depths and angles, and this is generally seen as a good thing, a mark of advanced artistry. In some genres, the same thing applies to musical themes. Despite long-ago apparent self-accusation (New Song) Pete doesn't actually write the same thing over and over again--but there are musical themes that run through his work. It's generally a composer thing rather than a songwriter thing.
IMO Pete's got one foot in each world and I'm glad he seems to finally be getting comfortable with that. He talked about how good the Atlanta Symphony is and how their conductor approaches him with projects--my immediate reaction is to brag about the Alabama Symphony and our star conductor/composer Carlos Izcaray, but there seems to be a friendship between Pete and the Atlanta conductor; it's not a competition, no need to make it one even in my head.
As for the song itself, having read a Des McAnuff quote about Tommy (the character) being "hero ground zero" makes me hear this one differently. My first impression had to do with 9/11 and the heroes of that Ground Zero, many of whom have serious health problems now as a result of their service then I look forward to getting more comfortable with this one, learning the lyrics and seeing what's really there.
From a 2008 article in Variety, penned by (Tommy director) Des McAnuff.
"Tommy is the antihero ground zero, where west meets east, the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll rebel. Through new-wave and grunge and contemporary slacker rock, they won’t die and they won’t grow old. Long live the Who — however you spell it.”
The Kids Are Alright
Back to basics with this one; the contrast between the band-only set and the orchestra sets makes all of it shine.
I Can See For Miles
Big shout out here to Billy, Simon, Jon, and Loren for the vocal harmonies.
You Better You Bet
Roger always has such fun with this one! And we all have fun right along with him! And Brian Kehew said something in his blog, talking about Pete's comments about younger fans, that with them there's no nostalgia. I think nostalgia has a bad reputation sometimes, because it's such an easy thing to evoke, and can put sort of a gooey gloss on other, stronger emotions stirred by a work of art; there's an air of dishonesty about it.
But there's a difference between memory and nostalgia; a work can stir memories, which may or may not bring nostalgia. Sometimes having a history with a song can add layers of meaning, without swaddling them in the cotton candy of nostalgia. That's become the case with most Who songs for me; this one, for reasons too long to get into and having next to nothing to do with the actual lyrics, used to be the most nostalgia-prone setlist staple for me. I've kinda gotten past that and tonight just enjoy it in the moment. You bet.
Won't Get Fooled Again
This version really brings out the strengths of the song; stripped of all the anthemic bells and whistles, you can hear what great bones it has, and think a little more about the lyrics, which kind of sum up the band's attitude across the years; heroically antiheroic, a revolutionary anti-revolution that nonetheless demands change--just not the change the other "revolutionaries" are going on and on about. Convoluted and strange and you could get lost in all the self-contradiction, but if you just listen: listen, with all due commitment and concentration, the song itself will set you right.
And maybe it's even just this version on this night. Sublime, and the crowd takes it a notch higher, singing along not only on the usual bits, but all the way through, not overpowering the guys but adding an eerily powerful extra echo.
Behind Blue Eyes
So glad they've kept that vocal harmony bridge in here. This one can turn into an anthem of self-pity, but done right, it doesn't. Instead it highlights how even villians have feelings, but beyond that--how we all have some villain in us, because of our feelings. (And I wonder if Roger still thinks of Nellie the pointer when he sings it...) Funny little moment at the beginning where the crew brings out chairs for Katie and Audrey--Roger sit in Katies' before she can get to it, then she shoos him away.
Ball and Chain
There's an intensity in the new songs that seems to come not only from the writing, but from the newness; the guys have to focus on getting it right in a way the more familiar songs might not demand. During this and Hero Ground Zero, it's good to see Pete stalking around, looking proud of his new creations--and also making damn sure everyone does them justice. Between all that and the raw, grown-up anger of Roger's delivery, it almost made the Quadrophenia set sound tame.
The Real Me
This will probably always take me back to the night when I first really heard it, and "it runs in the family" will probably always hit a nerve. Quadrophenia in general has a lot of history with me, but it's never been nostalgia: nothing gooey or sweet about the memories it brings, and no one in their right (or even wrong) mind would want to go back there. Flashbacks, yes; nostalgia, not so much. I've never subscribed to the idea that Quadrophenia is just about adolescence, but after Ball and Chain, I can hear the teenage tone of its angst a lot more clearly. Not a bad thing.
Adolescence resonating with age bringing a very visceral sense of not just loneliness, but a specific type of loneliness. Specific perhaps not only to adolescence, but to England. For me, second hand and learned from friends I've made there, but entwined with first-hand memory in a way that's very complex, almost telepathic. Extremely intense, and thankfully, fleeting.
Flashback all my own this time, also very specific, involving a long dark road at night, pushing certain things as far as they will go, hoping they'll break, and how it felt when they didn't. Get a chance to embrace a former self here, and welcome her to the show. She's both transcended and right at home. Interesting how letting go of history lets you embrace it. I owe a lot to an afternoon on the beach at Brighton, listening and letting the songs break free from the hold my history had on them. "History ain't changed," but now I can listen beyond it, and feel things other than what I felt back then.
Orchestra and band, anger and vulnerability, past and present, head and heart: how they play off each other, making more together than either could alone. This IS beach and sea, and the rock that rises beneath it, the one we're all perched on as the tide comes in. This is possibly Pete's greatest composition, and IMO up there with the greats of all time
Also: Zak's drums. So absolutely key to this one, and I admire how Zak uses what Moon laid down, without copying. How he makes it his own; no substitute. Just another great drummer playing what has to be there.
Loren's solo improv transition piece: Brian Kehew covers Pete's comments about this, but all joking aside, it's a great addition to the live set. Not only Roger but the audience benefit from a moment here, to digest what came before and get ready for what comes after, to focus; both pieces on each side of this are so intense, their energies linked in such a way the whole thing would fall apart without a bit of quiet in between. Loren manages to capture and translate the particular energy of the specific night in such a way as to inform Roger's performance, while letting the crowd step back just a bit so as to appreciate it. Quite an accomplishment.
Love Reign O'er Me
Roger has talked about the ending...shower...as orgasm. On an eyerollingly obvious level, of course--but I never quite got what was underneath that, why he persists at it long after the startle effect has worn off. Tonight...well, his performance is, for lack of a better word, sensual--not in the shallow sense of mere sexiness, but in a way that reflects and extends that whole interplay of opposites, by taking it down to the utter root, the very physical thing that both represents and creates everything else. Not just talking, or even singing about it, and not at all crude, though it could be--enacting it, proving how yes, that sort of love is spiritual too, and in some ways, done right, more so than any other. That mystery at the root of interacting opposites, self and other. Spirituality incarnate, in every sense of both words. And truly beyond words, though of course that never stopped me trying.
How on earth he gets all this across on stage I'll never know--but damn I'm glad to have been there to see it. Thank you.
Which Pete introduces while introducing the band introductions by saying: "Before chaos descends..."
Chaos does indeed descend. And it's so incredibly beautiful. And before we know it, gone.