I Can't Explain
Who Are You
Behind Blue Eyes
You Better You Bet
Love Reign O'er Me
Amazing Journey / Sparks
Band intros / Baba O'Riley
Won't Get Fooled Again
Review by Steve Voyce
The Who at 50 Hits Atlantic City
“Here by the sea & sand” everything went as planned. It turned out to be a great trip to Atlantic City to catch my second WHO show of the current tour. Last week in Philly was incredible & my expectations were very high for the AC show. I had read about some issues at the Nassau gig & seen some mixed reviews on the state of Roger’s voice but a WHO show at the beach was too much to pass up.
My wife, son, son’s girlfriend & I arrived early & there was a terrific pre-gig party setup just outside the main entrance to Boardwalk Hall. Bright sunshine, moderate temperatures, the famous AC boardwalk, a decent cover band playing, cold drinks & good friends made for a classic early summer Jersey beach vibe as we waited for the doors to open.
After passing through the turnstiles, we grabbed a few drinks & headed to the Teen Cancer America booth. Soon, Simon Townshend arrived & began his “meet & greet” with the assembled fans. Simon could not have been friendlier or more gracious to everyone on line. He chatted & signed autographs for all.
As we were finishing our brief visit with Simon, we caught the familiar riff of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ “Bar Reputation” echoing from the main arena. We got to our seats before the song finished but did not use the seats until her set was over. Joan & the band had the place rocking from moment one. The 11 song setlist was an impressive review of her big hits & a few new tunes. Highlights for me were “Do Ya Wanna Touch Me” & “Light Of Day”. I liked her “French Song” & “Love Is Pain” as well. Joan played with the crowd saying, “Love between two people can be a beautiful thing…but it can be BETTER WITH THREE…especially if one of them is me!” She was in a playful mood all night, running around the stage & smiling broadly! Her band was tight. Guitarist, Dougie Needles was a punk showman, complete with spiked Mohawk & he nailed all the killer riffs & solos. I enjoyed watching his antic as much as seeing Joan. Drummer Thommy Price deserves special mention supplying a relentless beat to drive the songs. The set closed with “I Hate Myself For Loving You” and I knew I had seen a performance worthy of a headliner slot any other tour.
After a brief intermission, the Who walked casually out on stage & proceeded to blow the roof off the Hall. From the beginning of “I Can’t Explain” it was clear this was going to be a special night. The boys brought their A-game to Atlantic City. Pete was bashing away at his Stratocaster & Roger was slinging his microphone right from the onset. I’ve listened to the Who’s recordings thousands of times & I’ve watched many concert videos but seeing Daltrey & Townshend play live is something that can’t be captured by electronic (or vinyl) media. It must be experienced. There is an electricity, a palpable ferocity that cannot be put into words. These two septuagenarians bring such passion to the music that whatever they’ve conceded physically to the passing years, has been surpassed by the sheer musical & vocal virtuosity they now possess. The familiar riff of “The Seeker” seemed raw & biting. The classics “Who Are You” & “The Kids Are Alright” were performed brilliantly. Pete even chatted about how the meaning of “Kids” has changed since they were first playing it in the 60’s.
Squeeze Box follows & has some fun graphics derived from the Who By Numbers cover artwork. I’m not a great fan of this song but they played it well, Frank Simes got the banjo part correct (unlike Philly!) & the video was funny. I always view it as kind of a “throwaway “song, “I Can See For Miles” rocked & “My Generation” sounded fresh. In my mind “Hope I die before I get old” sung & played by the 70 year-old men on stage did not seem the least bit ironic. These men embody youthful enthusiasm as they performed. On the two nights I’ve seen the band this tour, they have not “gotten old”.
The big surprise for the night was the inclusion of “Slip Kid”. After hearing the first few bars, I grabbed my camera & recorded video to commemorate the moment. (Shameless plug: you can see it uploaded on youtube). The triplet of songs from the Who’s Next era, Behind Blue Eyes, Bargain & Join Together brought the house down. The on screen graphics for BBE were spectacular. Bargain & Join Together may have been my favorite songs I’ve heard at a WHO concert, expect there was more to come. Roger had great fun holding the mic out over the audience to sing along with the “Join together with the band” chorus.
“You Better, You Bet” was a bit harder than the studio version. I much prefer the live version of this song to the more “pop” studio recording. It finally has some balls to it. The two songs from Quadrophenia were simply spectacular. I love Pete’s acoustic intro to “I’m One”. He chatted a lot before going into the song & briefly removed his omnipresent sunglasses for a bit. Pete standing on stage with his Gibson acoustic guitar talking about music is a visual from this show that I will take with me forever.
Now came the moment of truth. Roger had to pull it together to sing one of the toughest vocal tracks in the Who repertoire, “Love Reign O’er Me”. He AB-SO-FUCKING-LUTE-LY NAILED IT. His voice was a bit rough in Philly but he gutted through it. In AC, his voice was stronger & he wailed. This was an incendiary performance; the passion in his voice was palpable. Prior to the final “LLLLOOOOVVVVEEEE” scream, Roger took a gulp of water & spit a rainfall that gave a great visual effect. (I’m sure many of the Jersey faithful are familiar with Springsteen doing something similar). I’m sure I saw Pete give him a knowing nod & a smirk as if to say “you killed it on that one!”
Pete then took over for “Eminence Front” with Roger taking a vocal break & strumming along on a butterscotch Telecaster. The mini-opera “A Quick One “ followed. Now this song has a venerable place in WHO history because of its importance during the Rolling Stones “Rock-N-Roll Circus” TV special from the 60’s. To me, however, it’s the weakest part of the show. The stage graphics remind one of the red & white circus drapes making a nice visual effect but the song seems silly to these ears.
The Tommy triplet was absolutely breathtaking! Amazing Journey/Sparks was played with intensity & I’ve read & agree that seeing Pete Townshend play the opening riff to “Pinball Wizard” is like watching John Hancock sign his name! Pete always is counted amongst the best rhythm guitar players in rock history but I think he is outstanding at playing lead as well. I think he does more of it now than in the old days because he no longer can rely on Entwistle’s “lead bass” or Moon’s “lead drums”. That said, the current rhythm section of Pino Pallidino on bass & Zak Starkey on drums is stellar. Pino has a different style than John but his solos on “My Generation” are every bit as exciting as the originals. As far as Zak’s drumming, I will paraphrase Pete’s introduction, “The first time the Who has had a proper drummer. Keith Moon was not a proper drummer. Zak incorporates a lot of Moon’s flash & virtuosity & bravado while keeping a much steadier beat.”
Is there any more uplifting song than the refrains of “See Me Feel Me?” Listening to you I feel the music, gazing at you, I get the heat…” I get chills down my spine whenever I hear this & the current band is taking the feeling of these lyrics & transporting the audience to a place that most bands can only dream about.
The final two songs from Who’s Next are the knockout blows. There are simply no words to describe how well the band played these. The audience was in a frenzy from the Tommy numbers when the opening synth riffs of “Baba” started. Roger making pick-type motions to emphasize the “working for my meals/get my back into my living” lyrics. Pete bashing away, windmilling & “machine-gunning” his guitar add to the songs mounting intensity. The audience screams full throated to “Teenage Wasteland!” & Roger kicks in with an astounding harmonica. The frantic ending then moves right into that intro…Won’t Get Fooled Again! We were treated to a spectacular version of the song that night. The blue water graphics & “laser-like” effect call to mind the famous scene from the “Kids Are Alright” movie. Oh yes, Roger hits the scream like a jackhammer, there was no holding back. I can’t believe the man’s vocal cords are not shredded after a performance like that.
At the conclusion, Roger & Pete exchanged introductions that felt sincere & from the heart. Two long-time (not old) friends appreciating how they were able to achieve heights together that they never would have alone. Roger stating what a genius Pete is & how fantastic his songs are. Pete stating that Roger sings his songs better than he could do himself.
All in all an incredible experience & a phenomenal show. If this is indeed the final time I get to see the band, I saw them go out on top.
Soundcheck review by Terry McBride
Ushered in promptly at 5 on the dot to the first rows of middle floor section. All on stage except PT. Lots of hats. RD is wearing a white Homburg. Someone (FS?) is playing the Pink Panther theme which morphs into a six minute blues/space jam thing. Entertaining. AR is fussing with a guitar sporadically. PT shows up and slings one. They launch into WAY at the 10 minute mark. RD is skipping much of the singing, hitting the salient points but not finishing verses. PT begins gesturing to BP and pointing to his floor monitors, signaling that one needs to be louder and one lowered. The song end about the five minute mark and PT has BP come on stage and they isolate some of ZS's bass drums. Lots of bitching about the levels. Too loud. There's some banter between RD and PT about hall acoustics. They reprise some 2013 talk about the hall, referencing elephants and dinosaurs. IO begins only to have PT stop and complain that the place is like singing in Carnegie Hall. After a pretty much complete version, someone mentions SK. Doesn't seem as if PT is interested, claiming he can't do it without his charts. They instead do EF. Very energetic rendition, with PT bouncing about and actually doing a spin. PT is fairly pissy, with numerous digs into all directions throughout the sound check. After some more talk, with PT claiming he's forgotten how to play it, they launch finally into SK. Twice they get partly through it until stopping. PT complains that all he can hear is backing track and himself. Now everything isn't loud enough. After the third aborted run through PT basically tears into everyone for not committing to the song and he doesn't want to play it tonight. RD says that doing so many shows in the same area they need to change something. Finally a near complete version is done. Over twelve minutes of sound check on this one song. Nice. After more milling about PT says BP wants a run through of ICSFM because it's the only song where everyone is singing. A fairly cursory version follows. The bulk of the band starts to unstrap gear when PT announces to the fans that he's trying to break in a new guitar and we're welcome to stick around. He can still make us deaf! Someone hollered 'Happy Birthday at some point during the check. Another commented that he couldn't hear us, prompting a response that he could. Now, after some gear fussing, someone in the crowd did an impromptu suggestion that we sing Happy Birthday, which we all did. Right at the conclusion, segue so smooth it couldn't have been scripted better, PT launched into WGFA! Backing track and some ZS, rest of band watching, ST standing five feet away. AR stood by with another guitar, and PT did a number of trade offs, switching guitars as he was checking levels and tones. Fascinating stuff. Finished to his satisfaction, PT called an end to the proceedings at the 49 minute mark, thanked us again, RD and PT had earlier, and that was that. Fascinating dynamics throughout, obvious low level tensions artistically. Makes one wonder who's running this show.