Review by Chris Watson
I first witnessed The Who as a teenager on a freezing cold December day in 1982 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. I stayed warm that day by virtue of a bottle of Southern Comfort. But on this sunny and beautiful Dallas day in 2015, that same teen ager was now a 40-something, drinking Diet Dr. Pepper, wearing reading glasses and bringing my daughter to see The Who for the first time. Times have indeed changed.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that The Who are still the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the world. They sang for their generation, added a couple more, and now have another. Their legacy is in good hands.
Prior to The Who’s set, a retrospective of their career playing in Dallas scrolled on the video screen backdrop. It included the venues played (some of which the band outlasted), the set lists from those particular nights, and other interesting ‘Who’ tidbits, including their 1967 Dallas gig where they played a cover of the Everly Brothers’ “Love Hurts,” (The Who’s only known playing of that song.) The pre-show PSA on the work being done for the Teenage Cancer Trust was incredibly moving and made it extra special that my healthy, young daughter was there. The moment was not lost on her.
I have been to many, many concerts thru the years, but there’s different vibe in the air at a Who show. I feel like I’m amongst friends and that we know something that others don’t, and that people seeing them for the first time soon will. Among the many things that I love about The Who is the way they arrive on stage. No big build-up, no huge introduction, just houselights down, Pete and Roger stroll on stage, they survey the scene, then the first chords of “I Can’t Explain.” Perfect. Cool.
Prior to this Dallas show you could count me among those who believed when Pete was in a bad mood, it would be a fantastic show. At the Cotton Bowl in 1982 he smashed his Tele because it wouldn’t stay in tune (it was cold!). It was clear from the start that Pete and Roger were having a blast up there. Pete referenced the recent passing of Ben E. King and the poor health of B.B. King and how The Who now seemed much more vital and spry by comparison. A very funny moment.
The band was backed by several monster musicians including Simon Townshend, Pino Palladino, and Zak Starkey. There’s a certain symmetry to having these three playing with The Who. It just feels right having them there.
After a few songs Pete mentioned, “There’s probably a lot better guitar players here tonight, but for now…I’m up here!” As a lifelong Who fan, I know that Roger’s voice and maybe Pete’s playing aren’t what they used to be. But, to me, they’re still The Who. My favorite band. Perfect. Cool.
There were so many highlights. “The Kids are Alright”, “Bargain”, “Magic Bus” and “Join Together” were just great. If I couldn’t hear “How Many Friends”, I’m glad we got "Squeeze Box." When you see The Who on this tour, do yourself a favor and pay attention to Frank Sime working his ass off. He may be the unsung hero of this tour. He does so many things, including banjo, high harmonies, high vocals, claves and so much more.
There will never be a time when “Love Reign O’er Me” doesn’t give me goosebumps (goosepimples, in England), and tonight was no different. Hearing “A “Quick One” in person was a special treat. They don’t write them like this anymore.
There were other highlights, of course. If we couldn’t get “Punk Meets the Godfather”, Pete’s rendition of "I'm One" made it all better. Zak’s work on “Amazing Journey” was outstanding. As someone who dabbles in drums occasionally, I’m convinced that Moonie wrote the drum part by dropping ink on the music sheet. Wherever the ink landed, those were the notes that got played. Like the rest of Moonie’s playing, his drum parts on Amazing Journey make no sense. Yet, when he played them they made perfect sense. Zak has that.
The last two songs of the night were “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” To me, Baba is the best rock song ever written. We played the ten minute synth bed (from The Lifehouse Chronicles) as the processional at our wedding. Some may feel that it has been overplayed. And they’re correct. That is partially my fault because I play it several times a week. The final song of the set was "Won't Get Fooled Again." There have been many great screams in rock and roll, but I will end any argument here. The scream that closes WGFA will never be equaled. If you haven’t already done so, search YouTube for Roger’s isolated on WGFA. Turn it up. And hold on.
This band and their music has meant so much to me in my life. I had a much different feeling leaving this show as in past Who shows I’ve attended. Roger closed by saying, "May you always be happy, healthy and be lucky. Good night and good bye." It just felt right. Perfect. Cool.
Sidenote: In 2004, I asked my then girlfriend if she wanted to fly from Dallas to see The Who at the Hollywood Bowl. She said yes and I knew I had a keeper. Tonight I took our nine year old daughter to see my favorite band. Our family tradition continues.