Friday, May 1, 2015

The Who Hits 50! Duluth, GA Review

I caught The Who with Joan Jett last week in Duluth, Ga.  The combination of the two was a perfect bill.  Jett and The Blackhearts did an amazing job as an opening act (you can read about it HERE) and The Who kept the party rolling with a combination of great playing and entertaining interludes. 

Anyone that has been to a ton of shows knows that the worst part of a concert is waiting.  Waiting for the opening act to start, waiting while the opening act’s equipment is broken down, and then waiting for the headliner to start.  What this usually means is that you’re stuck looking at an empty stage and listening to some pre-selected music to pass the time.

This show was different.  When I entered the arena I was greeted with something that I had never seen before.  On the screen behind the stage was a presentation that was simply AWESOME.  It wasn’t just a picture slideshow; this was an all out fact-filled presentation that had great pictures and very interesting stories about the band.  It was a pleasure to watch and it really helped to pass the time.  Kudos to Mr. Kehew and the other gentleman that made the presentation - the crowd appreciated it!

On To The Show…

The Who kicked off the show with “Can’t Explain” and then rolled into “The Seeker”.  The crowd was pretty amped up from Joan Jett but after a short break that energy took a little hit.  All it took was the first windmill from Townshend during “The Seeker” to give the crowd the jolt they needed to bring the electricity back in the air.

When the band took the stage I thought that Townshend would be the least interactive with the crowd.  He took the stage wearing dark sunglasses and didn’t really have much of an expression on his face.  The perception was crushed after “Who Are You” as Townshend took the lead talking between most of the songs…and let me just say, he was ON that night.  He had the crowd in stitches ALL night.

As any great showman would, of course he talked about the area they were playing -what better way to get some easy rapport with the crowd!  One of the best moments of the night was when Townshend formally greets the crowd and says something like, “Those from Duluth welcome to the show and those who are not…f@%#-off!  The crowd went nuts laughing and Townshend wasted no time getting into his next joke.  In an unexpected twist he began describing how Atlanta has been suffering from Elton John syndrome…it just grows and grows outward!  By this time the crowd lost it and he carried on with the bit for a bit longer letting the crowd know that it’s all in good fun and that he gets a Christmas card from Elton every year - which then Roger Daltrey joined the conversation and the two playfully squabbled about getting Christmas cards from different people.   It was awesome.

After “Pictures of Lily” Townsend once again walked up to the mic and began interacting with the crowd.  He said, “Usually by this time in the show someone is calling up to the stage for me to jump around.  Well, I’ve been pinned to the mic because I had to sing on the last few songs…and now I’ve been released with this next song”.  The crowd obviously went nuts and he carried on a bit longer lifting his feet and showing off his bouncing boots. 

With that, the band went into “My Generation” and everyone that was still sitting (Really only the people that were not on the floor) was now standing.  Magic Bus kept the train rolling and it was one of the most groovin’ versions that I’ve heard.  The crowd really seemed to enjoy it.  I took a scan of the crowd and almost everyone was moving or dancing in some way.  Who would have thought that at a Who concert people would be dancing like it was a funk concert?

After that we were treated to another playful moment by the band when Townsend got the wrong guitar from his tech.  Instead of being a prima donna about the whole thing the he and the band made the incident into something enjoyable.  Someone from the band called out, “Someone’s not reading the list” while Townshend kept saying, “What F#@&ing key is this in?  Not the white guitar, I need the crimson guitar.  What F#@&ing KEY IS THIS IN ANYWAY???”  It was very entertaining to say the least.

Also Daltrey took that opportunity to inject a story about how things were less complicated back in the day.   “You used to be able to play want you wanted, make it up as you go, but now people expect a set list…and what the F&CK were lights in the 60’s?  We never had them or a screen behind us, and now it’s a big production.” While Townshend piped in…”yeah – with dancing and pink bras…like Lady Gaga.  I don’t have a pink bra on…but I have this stupid hat and that should be enough!”  To which the crowd ate the hell out of that.  It was FANTASTIC to watch.  They were having so much fun up there.

The band rolled through all of the hits that you wanted to hear and played straight through with no encore.  It’s funny, before I knew there was no encore I was actually going through my head trying to figure out what they would play as an encore because they played just about everything!!

Fan engagement

The fan engagement was higher than most shows that I’ve seen in a while and was on display in full force during “Bargain” when it came time for the line “…The Best I Ever Haaaad…”.  Even on “Join Together” the crowd was singing the chorus. 

You obviously can’t go to a Who concert without people playing air guitar.  With that being said, I was hit by an air windmill about 5 times by the guy in front of me (Seriously)!  All in all – it was a great crowd – especially on the floor.

The Band

First and foremost Townshend was awesome to watch.  As said earlier, I was a bit skeptical when he came on stage, as he seemed a bit guarded.  But after the first song or so he let loose and was an absolute comic force on stage.

Beyond his interaction with the audience it was a treat to watch the legend play.  This being the first Who concert that I’ve seen, I’ve never actually had a chance to see Townshend play live.  What struck me was how busy his picking hand is.  He never really strums or picks in the same spot for very long.  He’s playing all over the different pickups – all the way back on the bridge, and even on the neck.  On top of the movement he’s just raunchy as hell – when he gets into it he beats the hell out of that guitar.  I can’t say enough about what a pleasure it was to watch him play.

The band weaved in and out of being in sync throughout a few songs during the night.  It was most noticeable in “The Seeker”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, and Baba, O’Riley.   For the most part, I found the band would get out of sync for a few bars and would get their groove back after realizing they were out of step.  But in “The Seeker”, I felt like it could be felt for longer periods – maybe even throughout the whole song.

On other songs they sounded brilliant.  One of the highlights was “Join Together”.  Not only were they tight on this one musically, but also vocally it was the best they harmonized all night.

Roger has one of the best voices in rock.  After 50 years of screaming, it’s taken its toll – BUT I felt like he nailed it for the most part that night.  You could hear a little struggle during “Love, Reign O’er Me” (and the mic problems didn’t help here) but on others like “Bargain”– roger did good job hitting the notes he needed to.

In Conclusion

This was a fantastic show start to finish.  The opening act was perfect in all respects; the band sounded great besides a few snafus and it was just a great SHOW.  The band handled everything brilliantly tonight and not once did they look at all frustrated – not when Townshend was brought the wrong guitar, when Roger had trouble with the mic, when they got out of sync once in awhile – they looked like they enjoyed every bit of it.

The guys were hilarious, the music was fab, it was thoroughly entertaining and I left very pleased – it was worth the 3.5 hour drive to get there!

I would highly recommend this show if you get the chance.

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