I Can't Explain
The Quiet One
Behind Blue Eyes
I Can See For Miles
A Man Is A Man
Cry If You Want
Who Are You
See Me Feel Me
Love Reign O'er Me
Long Live Rock
Won't Get Fooled Again
Twist And Shout
Having a look through the various concert files, I have noticed a definite lack of reviews for what was billed as The Who's Farewell Tour of 1982. For shame all you thirty-something fans! In an effort to remedy this, I wish to submit my own rather lengthy epistle.
To do this review any justice, I must first compose a preamble of sorts so please bear with me as I have to cast my mind back some twenty-one years.
Growing up in the rural 'boon-docks' of Vancouver Island, I wasn't exposed to much in the way of rock music until about 1980. Needless to say, much of my record collection was then assembled retrospectively, much to the chagrin of my father who was a classical music professor. I first became a rabid (some say obsessive) fan of The Who upon the release of their '81 effort 'Face Dances' and have since amassed many of their recordings and various memorabilia.
When the 1982 Farewell tour dates were announced, I realised, to my dismay, that the band would not be appearing in Vancouver (let alone Victoria) and had lamentably resigned myself to the fact that I would have to miss out on seeing the band perform. An advertisement in the local newspaper came to my rescue whereby, for the princely sum - for a sixteen-year-old - of $120.00, a local entrepreneurial organisation would provide tickets and transportation to Seattle to see this legendary band on the 20th of October. Given that no bugger would come with me, I decided that I would undertake this arduous journey on my own and duly went off to purchase my ticket.
The big day arrived and I hopped onto the bus for the trek. Happily John, an old friend from my primary school days was aboard so I was cheered, as I would have a confederate to accompany me to the show. After what seemed like an eternity of bus and ferry rides, customs checks and some news crew boarding our bus for the obligatory camera shots of fans, we were deposited outside of the gates of the Seattle Kingdome. The tour operator then issued all the occupants of said tour each with an official Who baseball jersey, tour program and ticket for the event. Incidentally, the tickets were priced at the outrageous cost of $16.00 We were warned not to purchase any of the poor quality t-shirts from the various stalls outside of the gates and to be aboard the bus for the journey home at a specified time. With these words of wisdom from the tour operator, we were then unleashed to make our own way inside.
Once inside the hallowed venue of the Kingdome we all made a mad dash to the front of the stage area. Despite the tragedy of Cincinnati a couple of years previously, festival seating was still in evidence. Once we had secured our preferred place of observation one couldn't help but to notice the stage, which was, to my eyes, impressive to say the least. The entire stage comprised the moniker 'WHO' with the stage proper located beneath the elongated H. Above the stage was an enormous video screen in which one could view the performers up close. Onstage, much was covered in draped cloth to conceal The Who's stage gear until show time.
The concert began promptly, as advertised, at 8:01pm. The first act scheduled was the then little known producer/ songwriter T-Bone Burnett and his band who, with great energy, dashed out onto the stage. I remember the music as being a somewhat poppy cross between Devo and perhaps Elvis Costello. With the benefit of hindsight, the music wasn't bad but unfortunately Who audiences are notoriously intolerant of the support acts and T-Bone Burnett suffered a particularly bad response of almost incessant booing and jeering from the ninety thousand fans in attendance for the duration of their thirty-minute set.
Next up was The Clash. By 1982, punk music had finally gained acceptance in North America and, judging by the sheer amount of people dressed in army fatigues and berets in tribute to their recently released album 'Combat Rock', I'd say about a quarter of the audience were fans of this band. The Clash stormed on and provided a bombastic cacophony of noise and excitement. To my amazement, there were still a number of people booing but they were far less than before and even they fell silent as The Clash pumped out familiar songs like 'London Calling', 'Train In Vain' and their latest hit (at the time) 'Should I stay Or Should I Go'. Having not had much exposure to punk music in the 'classic rock' radio culture of the Pacific Northwest of the early eighties, this performance came as something of a revelation to me. Now I understood what those two or three guys in high school were on about in their enthusiasm regrading The Clash!
After The Clash left the stage triumphantly to much applause and cheering, the venue grew quiet and tense with the mounting excitement. I remember the increasing surging crush of people as fans were attempting to wend their way in closer to the stage. One girl standing next to me passed out from the heat of all the crushed bodies and had to be carried out, somewhat reluctantly, by her boyfriend. An anonymous voice became audible over the public address system entreating the audience to remain calm and to give one another room as some fans were in serious danger of becoming crushed in the melee directly in front of me. The audience, to our credit, complied, undoubtedly in fear of a repeat of Cincinnati tragedy.
The house lights suddenly went out and the audience erupted into a deafening roar. The longer the delay, the louder the crowd became. I turned to smile encouragingly at my friend John and in the split second that my attention was averted from the stage; there was an almighty wave of noise and light as The Who took to the stage and without any to-do, ripped into an energetic rendition of 'My Generation'.
Center stage was Roger Daltrey looking tanned and fit, resplendent in what appeared to be a gold lame suit. I was rather amazed to hear young girls screaming when he came out, in a manner that recalled the Beatlemania craze of the early 60s'. It didn't take long before he began his trademark swinging of the microphone, like a lasso, over his head.
Pete was situated stage left wearing jeans, black leather jacket, striped t-shirt and, rather curiously, a headband. Legs and arms akimbo, he was thrashing every note out of his new stage guitar; being a black Schecter Telecaster as if he too, had just been enthused and inspired by The Clash's performance. It wasn't until the outro of 'My Generation' that Pete began his now famous windmilling and leaping upon which, the audience began cheering anew.
Far right was John Entwistle wearing, as was his wont, a black suit with a large silver spider at his neck playing an Alembic bass guitar. To this day, I will always remember John's fingers flying up and down the fretboard with aplomb and seeming abandon to match Townshend's gymnastic leaps and jumps.
Dominating center stage was a massive black Yamaha drum kit replete with double kick drums and a dazzling array of cymbals. Buried within, one could witness Kenny Jones, clad in a white tank top (there’s a fashion statement) pumping all four limbs as if they were pistons in order to conduct the band rhythmically.
Those with keen vision would have noticed session player Tim Gorman on Kenny’s right enmeshed within banks of keyboards. You couldn’t see much of Tim throughout the night, aside from a head bobbing in time to the music, but during the course of the show one would certainly hear him and appreciate his contribution to the proceedings.
Following the opening track were ‘I Can’t Explain’ and John’s new composition ‘Dangerous’. This song proved to be the first of many songs from the new album ‘It’s Hard’ that would be performed that night. ‘Sister Disco’ ensued. This song was particularly noteworthy due to the appearance of two sets of massive searchlights that were located to either side of the backstage area. The audience sounded suitably impressed and roared its approval as the massive lights scanned the ceiling of the cavernous venue.
Next up was ‘The Quiet One’ featuring John Entwistle at the microphone. This autobiographical number was to be the only inclusion from ‘Face Dances’ but it certainly rocked the house with some of the most furious drumming from Kenny. Two more new compositions in the form of ‘It’s Hard’ and ‘Eminence Front’ were then featured. Given Who audiences renowned rejection of new material, I was happy and surprised to see many of the fans singing along to ‘Its’ Hard’.
Always a crowd favourite, the beginning of ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ was all but drowned out by the constant sing along roar from all and sundry and ‘Baba O’Riley’ witnessed the feature of the searchlights once again. It was a spine tingling moment to hear ninety thousand fans eagerly singing along to Townhend’s ‘Teenage Wasteland’ middle eight section.
The set followed on with ‘I Can See For Miles’ and ‘Drowned’ before two new songs, "A Man is A Man" and ‘Cry If You Want’ were performed. If any song was under appreciated, it would have been ‘A Man is A Man’ as the audience clearly didn’t know what to make of a ballad in what was essentially a blood-and-guts type show. This was soon to be remedied by ‘Who Are You’,
‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘See Me Feel Me’, ‘5.15’, ‘Love Reign O'er Me’ and a particularly rousing rendition of
‘Long Live Rock’.
No Who concert would have been complete with out the perennial favourite ‘Won't Get Fooled Again’ which was played with all the excitement one would expect. A huge explosion accompanied Roger’s banshee wail toward the end of the song, which, was in fact a bust of smoke and light accompanied by a pre-recorded ‘sound bomb’. Nevertheless, the audience reaction was at fever pitch.
The encore consisted of three songs. First up was what is probably The Who’s most requested concert piece being ‘Magic Bus’ complete with Pete dancing about the stage like the proverbial village spaz. One selection from ‘Live At Leeds’ performed was ‘Summertime Blues’. The highlight of this song would have to have been the audience participation when we all chanted along to John’s basso profunda spoken lines.
Sadly every show must come to an end and The Who did it in fine style with John belting out the all-time classic ‘Twist & Shout’. The end of the song that marked the finale of the show provided me with a most pleasant surprise. Throughout the concert I had completely forgotten about their old, and now sporadic, tradition of auto destruction when without warning Townshend suddenly and viciously kicked over his mike stand and gave his guitar a good going over by spinning it about and then hurling it high into the air only to let it plummet down to the stage and partial oblivion. An enthusiastic roar of approval from the crowd and the band took its final bow and was gone. Thus concluded one of the most memorable concerts I have attended.
If I had any criticism, it would be that the guitars sounded too thin and trebly but that is a minor complaint. It is well documented that the band didn’t particularity enjoy this tour (this is confirmed by the bored and gormless expressions on their faces and the lifeless playing in the "Who Rocks America" video) but, judging by the smiles, easy stage banter and blistering playing (not unaccompanied by Pete’s guitar sacrifice), the Seattle gig was what would be considered, ‘one of the good ones’.
To this day I still have my baseball jersey, tour program and ticket stub (happily still in pristine condition) and very fond memories of $120.00 well spent on an evening of sheer excitement, song, dance and plenty of sweat!