After the truncated concert in Houston 2 weeks ago due to Roger's illness, I did not know what to expect last night in the brand new Chase Center in San Francisco. The concert exceeded my expectations and was one of the best of this Moving On tour.
Roger was relatively subdued in soundcheck, arriving last and dressed with a lightweight jacket zippered up, even though the arena had not yet ramped up its air conditioning.
Not so Pete. He was on stage and animated when we entered. He was immediately gregarious with the audience, commenting on the fishy smell in the Arena, saying they must be trying to give the new place some ambiance by cooking old smelly fish in their ovens. After the first harmonies of Miles, he turned to Roger and told him he was sharp. Roger sang again and Pete told him he was still sharp, resulting in a 90° turn to face Pete, a classic Roger stare, no response, just his stare, and a 90° turn back to facing the audience. Classic Roger silently saying WTF. I think Pete was just having fun as Roger sounded fine. Pete then commented on it being what would have been John's 75th birthday and that he just learned that John Lennon shared the same date, although different years. His colorful observation of that 2 fxcking scumbxgs were born on the same day followed. He also gave Jon permission to really crank up his volume in John's honor.
There was a sweet moment after soundcheck was breaking when Pete walked over to Katie's first violin seat and greeted her with a kiss on each cheek. Not the gruff, grumpy and sarcastic Pete, just a glimpse of him being sweet and kind.
From the moment the band took the stage for the show, it was clear that Roger was back and that everyone was happy to be back on stage performing.
The setlist was consistent, with YBYB back. Pete commented at the end that the orchestra was one of the best that they had worked with so far. I completely agree - they blended with the band and didn't seem to conflict or overpower as some have.
After See Me Feel Me, Pete normally comments that the Tommy section is over, crediting the concept of this tour with an orchestra to Roger and his 2018 Tommy tour. After a bumpy start last May, Pete now seems to really embrace and enjoy working with an orchestra.
WAY was energetic and Eminence Front was especially animated. You knew that Roger was himself again as he didn't just go through the motions of playing like in Houston and he joined in with gusto in each chorus.
Imagine a Man has really become a significant high point of the show. Roger is meticulous on having the setlist build to peaks and then coming down with a strong song. Love Reign/Baba is a classic example of this; Imagine a Man/Hero Ground Zero needs work. Join Together would be a much better follow up.
They kept the same 2 new songs, Hero Ground Zero and Ball and Chain. Pete commented that some diehard Who fans may know that he released the later as Guantanamo as a solo but that this version has lots of bells and whistles and is completely different with Roger singing it. They really get into performing it. I think that it will become a new standard for them - not so much Hero Ground Zero.
The band only section starts with Substitute. Roger loves the "I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth " lyric, saying it is a much greater line than "I hope I die before I get old." Every time it comes up, he smiles broadly and looks to us to sing it back to them, loudly. The remaining 4 in the band set went well, especially WGFA, as Pete was totally into the performance.
The second orchestra set always starts with Ball and Chain and it was especially rousing tonight. Roger stands quietly until it begins and just explodes with the first chords. They perform this one with such vigor I really think it will be penciled onto the setlist for future tours.
The Quad set is always too short. Punk and the Godfather hasn't been on the setlist for a while and is missed. Same with Drowned. 5:15 is always super as is the Real Me.
This was Loren's home concert and his intro to Love Reign was close to 2 minutes at 1:42. It was varied, complex and beautiful and a fitting prelude to the song. Roger was on fire with his rendition. The audience went crazy after he finished.
The band intros followed and Pete was especially effusive in his comments. He always is loving and complementary to his brother Simon and last night was no exception. Next was Billy Nichols and he spent a good amount of time talking about Billy being a talented musician, composer and an important part of both his and Roger's careers both as with the band and as part of their solo endeavours. He is much loved by both.
With the intro of our current bass player, Jon Buttons, Pete took a few moments to remember the irreplaceable bass player on what would have been his 75th birthday. He noted that John would now be Roger's age and that of course he is younger. Any age reference always gets a smirk and grimace from Roger but he still looks and sings wonderful for all those years.
Special attention was given to Loren and his unbelievably creative Love Reign intro. As much as I always enjoyed John Corey's intros on the last few tours, he is a distant memory now.
Baba and Katie's violin solo closed the show. Pete and Roger really had fun throughout Katie's performance- Roger does an Irish jig, laughing the entire time and Pete smiles broadly, doing his best jump at the end - good for a 74 year old guy.
The farewells were especially heartfelt. Roger always thanks Pete, saying without Pete's music, he wouldn't be where he is today. What was different last night was that Pete basically said the same thing back to him - if Roger wasn't there to sing his songs, he wouldn't be there either, closing with, "and what about that voice?" In Houston, when Pete came out to announce that the show was being postponed, he said that they couldn't go on because the way the show was built, it was Roger's show, it was a vocal show. Those are Pete's words, not mine. In San Francisco, he again acknowledged Roger's vital role in their mutual success. It was stunning and very sweet. The tour would have postponed if Roger had not recovered and it was wonderful to have Pete appreciate his partner.
Roger closed with his normal statements about their glamour and youth are gone but the music still lives on. Indeed it does. Be Lucky!