SetlistI Can't Explain
Anyway Anyhow Anywhere
Getting In Tune
The Real Me
Behind Blue Eyes
You Better You Bet
Who Are You
Won't Get Fooled Again
The Kids Are Alright
Let's See Action
(The Dallas Morning News, 28-08-2000) Continue reading
(Star Telegram, 28-08-2000)
Those are two questions I met head-on frequently over the last few weeks - sometimes seriously, sometimes jokingly - after I spread the news to anyone within shouting distance that I had a ticket to catch The Who's Aug. 27 concert at the Reunion Arena in Dallas.
I couldn't believe that I was finally going to get the chance to catch my favorite group, a band that I've always wanted to witness with my own two eyes and ears since I first strapped on an electric bass at the age of 13 back in 1983. What hooked me during my first year as a teen-ager and transformed me into a life-long fan was watching The Who's last gig on the Cinemax movie channel at my parents' house, a show that was filmed in Toronto, Canada in December 1982. Wow, I thought. I have to see those guys. But I soon lost hope when guitarist/chief songwriter Pete Townshend grounded the group as a working entity in '83. How was I ever going to watch Townshend's famous windmill move on the guitar? When could I get a real-life glimpse of bassist John Entwistle, a man who lets his fingers do all the talking? After all, The Who was the main attraction that pulled me into music, so I had to see them in concert, somehow, some way.
Missing the group's reunion 1989 tour that celebrated the 20th anniversary of the group's "Tommy" album, I still held the desire to see The Who. Maybe, just maybe, the band would take its energetic show back out on the road again, I wished. Thankfully, Townshend, Entwistle and vocalist Roger Daltrey shelved their differences, at least temporarily, to play more than 40 dates this summer, and I scooped up a ticket for the tour's next-to-the-last stop. (The tour's final performance was earlier this week in Houston, Texas.) I knew that I would revisit the feelings of being a shaggy-haired teen who spent many after-school hours making noise in garage bands.
Unrealistically, I wanted to play bass like "Thunderfingers" Entwistle, although I knew I probably would never be quite that quick on four strings - I'm still far from it. But if I couldn't play like him, at least I could study his playing in Dallas and maybe cop a tip or two. I did, however, secretly harbor a couple of concerns as the countdown to the concert evolved from weeks into days. Townshend continues to suffer from tinitus, a form of hearing loss caused by years of playing at loud volumes, and I wondered if he could even hear himself onstage. Much of this condition was triggered by former drummer Keith Moon's antic of bribing a stage hand to put a dangerous amount of explosives inside the drum kit during a 1967 TV appearance on The Smothers Brothers' variety show. The explosion occurred inches away from Townshend, singeing the guitarist's hair and making co-guest Bette Davis faint.
Although I knew there wouldn't be much dynamite at the Reunion Arena, I asked myself if Townshend, now 55, could still cut it in front of a wall of amplifiers. For the '89 tour, Townshend was joined by a second, much-younger guitarist who handled a healthy portion of the six-string solos due to Townshend's lack of hearing. Those shows sounded professional, but they were missing some of the pre-punk energy The Who bathed in while performing in the 1960s and 1970s.
With crossed fingers, I hoped that when the lights dimmed at Sunday's concert, Townshend would be the only electric ax man. Sadly, one thing I knew I could count on was the absence of Moon, who died at the young age of 32 in September 1978 from an overdose of medication prescribed to help cure his alcoholism. Moon was just as responsible as Townshend for the group's frenzied sound, attacking the drums and then smashing them at the end of concerts. (Moon was replaced by former Faces drummer Kenny Jones for The Who's last two LPs, "Face Dances" and "It's Hard," and their accompanying tours.) For the current summer tour, the band recruited Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr, to occupy the drum throne - Starkey's loose, semi-wild style resembles the rowdy hurricane fills Moon unleashed. I knew it wouldn't be the original Who, but it was as close as I was going to get, and that made me more than a "happy jack."
Challenging myself, I decided to cover the concert for the Times Record, no matter how many extra musicians were destined to grace the stage. Swimming in a wave of anticipation, I wanted to photograph England's original bad boys of rock and roll, although I had never shot a professional concert before. I made the necessary phone calls to The Who's tour managers to land a spot in the photo pit in front of the stage. I was all set. On the day of the concert, my mind was still racing with adrenaline. Making my way through the Reunion Arena's parking lot and the dry, Texas evening heat, I lugged my camera bag and heard various car stereos blast "My Generation" and other Who favorites. Carrying two cameras and 120 exposures of film, I knew I had to have a quick trigger finger.
Photographers were allowed to only shoot The Who's first three songs, and I knew they would be short songs. After much pacing, I was finally given the pass and escorted downstairs with seven other photographers. I wondered if I would get an elbow to the head from another shutterbug in an effort to get that one great shot as soon as the band plugged in. Tossing concern out the window, I strategically planted both feet directly in front of Daltrey's microphone stand before the musicians emerged from the speakers. By standing here, I was guaranteed an opportunity to shoot Daltrey, Townshend and Entwistle close, so long as no one shoved me out of the way. And close they were.
The lights went down, the crowd's volume skyrocketed and I quickly put the camera's viewfinder up to my eye. There was Townshend plugging in his red Fender Stratocaster, and, thankfully, he was the only guitarist up there. I couldn't believe my eyes, but I didn't vapor lock. The very second the band ripped into its set opener, a roaring version of "I Can't Explain," one of its first singles from 1965, my nervousness vanished and my finger became almost as busy on the camera's shutter button as Townshend's chord structures. Panning back and forth and clicking just as fast as my camera batteries would allow, I felt like I was shooting a tennis match, and I loved every second of it. Buzzing from standing just a few feet away from Daltrey and Townshend, my pulse was beating as fast as Starkey's drumming.
The Who sounded simply astonishing, much like it did when Moon provided the backbeat. The godfathers of punk were older, but you wouldn't have known it from their muscular, dynamic sound and energy. And yes, Townshend still windmills. Lifting his lanky arm high into the air like some bizarre musical wizard, he assaulted his guitar as I snapped shot after shot. But it was a challenge to keep him and Daltrey in focus - they were all over the stage. "Substitute" and "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere," also early singles, came next in rapid-fire style. I don't think I've ever cranked my Minolta camera so fast to manually advance the film, but I was able to fire off 71 shots, all within about six minutes. As the photographers were quickly escorted from the pit, I silently prayed that I nailed at least one clear, tight shot each of Daltrey, Townshend and Entwistle. Checking my camera bag at the arena's front door, I could hear the ringing sounds of "The Relay," an early 1970s single.
I couldn't sprint to my seat fast enough to catch the rest of the show, working up a sweat from my dash through the arena's outer corridors and from my brief-but-incredible stay under the hot stage lights. When I plopped down in my seat in the dark, I was thankful I still had a good view of the band, which hit most of its high points from its unparalleled 17-year career with 2 1/2 hours of high-gear rock. Townshend's playing was at an all-time high - his solo leads sounded as confident as ever. Daltrey, the oldest at 56, was also in peak form, only straining a couple of times on high notes. He spent much of his time swinging his microphone by its chord high into the air and out over the audience. The only time he didn't sling the mic around was during the first three songs, possibly for fear of accidentally killing a photographer. And, as always, the 55-year-old Entwistle sported a statuesque look compared to Daltrey and Townshend. The bassist showed the almost-packed 20,000-plus seat arena just who is the boss on four strings with an 8-minute solo on "5.15." Backed only by Starkey's snare, bass drum and hi-hat, Entwistle popped and slapped all over the neck, leaving audience members of all ages wide-eyed and slack-jawed. Even Townshend was taken back by the moment, playfully bowing to Entwistle following the song.
In addition to burning through must-play numbers such as "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Who Are You," "My Wife," "Pinball Wizard" and the track that addresses the "teenage wasteland" of growing up, "Baba O'Riley," The Who gave new life to some almost-lost gems through the massive PA system. "The Kids Are Alright," from the band's 1965 debut album, "My Generation," served as an encore and took on new meaning as an ode to all children and grandchildren with two new verses, one song by Townshend and the other by Daltrey. Although no solo material was performed, Townshend performed an acoustic, one-man version of "Drowned," which was highlighted by his lightning-fast fingerpicking. Even Daltrey got in on the six-string action, putting on the same acoustic guitar for "Naked Eye." Despite having a good time, Townshend did let his angry-man persona radiate on occasion. After someone threw a large British flag onstage, the guitarist sarcastically replied, "maybe I can have a jacket made from that." Entwistle, however, was a little more open to visiting objects that made their way to the stage. When a large white cowboy hat was tossed his way, he promptly put it on his bass amps before the band pushed forward with its set list, which included "Let's See Action," "Bargain," "Getting In Tune," "Behind Blue Eyes" and "The Real Me." "You Better You Bet," which Townshend erroneously announced was a radio hit from "about 1979" - it was released and charted in 1981, was the only post-Moon selection The Who played. After ending with an extended version of "My Generation," Townshend, Daltrey and Entwistle waved good-bye to the screaming fans. It was the most entertaining, thrilling show to photograph and watch, an event that would have made even the biggest Who fan of all, Keith Moon himself, smile. And Townshend didn't even have to smash a guitar Sunday to prove that he fronts the world's greatest rock band. Maybe it won't be the last time The Who blows through America, but then again, maybe it will be.
I saw the Who last night at Reunion Arena and was blown away at how much energy Pete had. The total show was great although I was a little worried at the start when a fan held up a sign that had a song request on it. Pete looked down at the girl holding the sign and said "Put that sign down, I'm giving you all I've f*cking got and I can't give anymore". Then he said " and you not getting a guitar pick either". After that he turned away and said to Roger with a smirk something like "well, nothing like starting off in a nasty mood". So he turns around and throws his pick to the girl (she must have missed it because he threw another one so she could get it) I'm thinking, oh no, but the moment was quickly lost and Pete was very talkative throughout the rest of the show. The Dallas Morning News gave the show a great review only commenting on Rogers strained voice which I thought was a nit picky point. Roger sounded and looked strong as ever.
So loved your site, I was able to see the set list of a Who show I saw in 1976 in Ft Worth. Really fun!
I travelled all the way from Kansas City to see The Who in Dallas, and it was most definitely worth the trip. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this show, but as usual, The Who did NOT let me down!
I was very surprised at how enthusiastic Pete was throughout the show. He did almost all the talking between songs (usually Roger's job), and he sure didn't act like the old man he's beginning to resemble. I've never seen him play so fervently and do as many windmills as he did during this show (I've seen The Who four times in concert to date since 1980). He was absolutely cooking on the guitar, particularly during "My Wife", and his playing sounded not unlike 'Live At Leeds' at times. For those who were there, I was the guy in the upper deck in front of the hockey press box windmilling along with Pete throughout--damn, that was fun! I was pretty disappointed with the crowd in general, though--not a sellout, for one thing, and the people in the upper deck sat on their hands all night, like it was a wine-and-cheese party. Come on, folks, this is The Who, not Yanni!
Roger was surprisingly subdued, but in good voice during the show. John Entwistle (my favorite member of The Who) was his usual rock-solid self, and he came close to bringing down the house during his solo during "5:15", although it was tough to hear through the murky sound mix, unfortunately. I was also very impressed with Richard Starkey's little boy on the drums. Zak resembled a young Keith Moon, only more controlled and less maniacal. Sorry to say this, Ringo, but Zak is a far better drummer than his old man!
I was a bit surprised at the omission of "See Me, Feel Me" and "Love, Reign O'er Me" from the set list, but that was offset by the inclusion of tunes like "Naked Eye", "Bargain", and "The Kids Are Alright" which I'd never heard the band perform live before in-person. All in all, I was quite pleased with the band's performance, and it was certainly worth the 500-mile drive (in miserable heat, I might add). If this is to be the last Who concert I attend, it's a great way to go out. I hope there are more to come, though.