It was a long time coming.
The tickets for the Minneapolis stop of the North American leg of The Who Hits 50 Tour went on sale in October 2014. That meant it would be a yearlong wait for the rock legends to take the stage at Target Center (home of perennial NBA loser MN Timberwolves and perennial WNBA world champion MN Lynx) in October 2015. But, seeing as how this was likely going to be the last time my rock heroes would play in my town; Roger Daltrey, lead vocalist, had called the tour the “long goodbye”, I had to buy tickets and gird myself for the wait.
The wait got longer when in September 2015 it was announced that the tour was on hold due to Daltrey being hospitalized to be treated for viral meningitis. Fortunately, he recovered and the tour resumed in the spring of this year.
May 1st. Finally, the day had arrived. My wife and I and 10,000 plus Who fans would be treated to two hours of some of The Who’s greatest hits. Daltrey and Pete Townshend, songwriter and lead guitarist, took the stage joining the six other members of the now eight-member touring band. Townshend, sometimes taciturn when performing, actually skipped his way into the spotlight.
The rest of the band included Simon Townshend (Pete’s brother) on guitar and backing vocals and Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr’s son) on drums. Those two have been members of The Who since 1996. That means Starkey has been the band’s drummer longer than the original drummer Keith Moon. Pino Palladino continued his role, taken on in 2002 after the death of John Entwistle, as bass player. The other musicians were Loren Gold, John Corey, and Frank Simes, all playing keyboards and various other instruments and providing backing vocals. Simes is also the musical director for the tour.
Kicking off with one of their late 70s hits Who Are You which was followed by The Seeker, had this Who fan swallowing back quite a sizable lump in my throat. “This is it,” I thought to myself, “I’m never seeing these guys in concert again.”
I pulled myself together and witnessed these living legends rock the house with such classics as My Generation, The Kids Are Alright, Behind Blue Eyes, Bargain, You Better You Bet, and Eminence Front.
There was a chunk from their pioneering rock opera Tommy (1969): Amazing Journey, Sparks, Pinball Wizard, and See Me, Feel Me. That was preceded by a chunk from their 1973 masterpiece Quadrophenia: I’m One (to which I damn near lost it), The Rock (this instrumental track was the highlight of the night), and Love Reign O’er Me.
There were also a few songs the boys don’t normally play in concert: I Can See for Miles, Pictures of Lily, and the excellent Join Together. I had forgotten how great that song is! And many of the songs that night were introduced by either Daltrey or Townshend with explanations on their meaning or how they were written.
Also throughout the show were projected images on the big screen behind the band. For most of the first half of the show the images were of The Who in their early days. Images of Moon’s lunacy and Entwistle’s rock steadiness paid tribute to those absent original members.
While Daltrey’s voice may have lost some of his former range, I thought it was better than when I saw the band in 2002. However, from what I’ve read in other reviews, it is Daltrey’s voice that has garnered the negative criticism. Well, you try pushing your voice to its limits for the better part of 50 years, and let’s see how well it holds up. I thought he sounded pretty good.
Townshend was a monster! He played with the same ferocity he had when he was half his nearly 71 years of age. The leaps and stage slides may have long gone by the wayside, but his playing was at its windmilling best!
They capped off the night with their two biggest anthems, both from their most commercially successful album Who’s Next (1971): Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again. Incidentally, Daltrey nailed that scream at the end of Won’t Get Fooled Again, proving he could still do it. Take that, critics!*
However, by the end, the old fellas were drained, but seemed to have really enjoyed themselves performing for us. The crowd, also feeling drained, graciously accepted the band’s thank you’s and goodbye’s. No encore. The lights went up and we made our way home.
I cannot overstate what this band means to me. I’m so glad I have been able to see them one last time.
My only complaint is that they didn’t play longer.
“Rock is dead they say, LONG LIVE ROCK!” ~ Pete Townshend
*Update 5/13/16: As much as it pains me to say so, it appears Roger didn’t nail that scream. I was quite surprised when he hit it when I was at the show, due to the lessening of his vocal range, but I wanted to give him credit. However, it was nagging at me. Was it live or was it Memorex?
I found video of the entire concert. It’s not the best quality, but it’s the whole show. At the 1:55:18 mark is the scream. It’s not clear if he is lip syncing. However, there is another video from the same tour in June of last year of the boys playing Won’t Get Fooled Again. At the 9:09 mark he doesn’t quite get the scream synced up right. He didn’t have the microphone near his mouth when the scream starts and he begins to close his mouth before it ends. Plus that scream from June 28, 2015 sounds like the exact same scream from May 1, 2016 to me.
Oh, well. He is 72. I guess I’m OK with being fooled this one time.
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