Review by Burton Anderson
I had been concerned that The Who might "phone it in" as this performance was between extended runs in Chicago and Madison Square Garden. It quickly became apparent this would not be the case. Nevertheless I 'd judge this night's show as "above average" due to a few glitches and flubs and maybe a little wear and tear. The encore set list remains unchanged from previous shows.
The Nashville audience was noticeably old. (I'd forgotten about walking canes as a rock fashion accessory item decorated with bright paint schemes and Christmas lights - which I'd last seen so prevalently displayed at a Fleetwood Mac concert in Dallas a few years ago.) The Nashville audience was also very vocal, and Roger enjoyed leading a few sing-a-long's.
There were two distracting - albeit funny - glitches. The 3 circular video screens are used to both visually aid the narrative of QUADROPHENIA as well as provide close up views of the band. At one point the center circular screen went dark. Then there was a scrambled digital blurb when it rebooted followed by a guy in a hard hat and harness descending from the screen on a rope behind Zak on drums, but it was working again. The second glitch was the end of 'Baba O'Riley' where Zak was left performing a drum roll on his own after everyone else had stopped playing. Pete laughingly explained how the pre-recorded synthesizer track had gone awry which left Zak looking like a dork, no, he thought the rest of the band looked like dorks, then he concluded all of us were dorks. Lyrically there were a few missteps but nothing to impede the flow or the performance.
This is just my opinion - like everything written here - but I on the final scream for 'Love Reign O'er Me' I think Roger backed away from hurting himself or missing it. As usual (for this tour) he started with a high falsetto, but on this night that high note merely faded into the crescendo of music rather than descending into a guttural howl. However, he definitely gave it his all and delivered the best roar in rock music on the final signature scream for 'Won't Get Fooled Again'.
Being about 15 rows back, I was able to take in more of the stage show. The screens work well. The art work used for 'Pinball Wizard' is brilliantly beautiful. The video montages of John Entwistle and Keith Moon are well done, classy, and remain emotionally charged. (I still get a kick watching the response to these montages from the biggest Who fan in the room: Roger Daltrey.)
Again, this is an opinion: I'm not sure about the efficacy (or the thought process) behind the effort to "update the story line" by introducing a montage of historical and pop cultural images from the 1960s to present day. I think it detracts from the personal story behind QUADROPHENIA. (My theory is that it's a misguided attempt to copy what Roger Waters did so successfully in updating the message of THE WALL or a feeble attempt at adding 'relevancy' for a younger audience.)
I was able to really enjoy the work by the horn section as well as Pino and Simon.
At the end of the show Roger expressed his love of Nashville and specifically the joy he had performing at the Ryman Auditorium (former site of the Grand Old Opry - a legendary country music radio show).
Review by Suzanity
Free to Roam
The desk where I write this looks out on a pristine rock-bottomed creek, water clear and pure enough to live on, forty foot bluff on the other side making a stage for pre-history in all its layers as it gives way to growing trees. Light rain, gentle if a little chilly. The house has a deck and a screen porch and everything else I want except happiness. But that’s in the eye of the beholder, as is so much else, and any place becomes routine once you live there.
Routine doesn’t kill happiness, of course, but can often put it in a coma.
So I was a little nervous to see what repetition might do to my perception of further shows on the Quadrophenia tour. Experience from previous tours, including Roger’s Tommy where the bulk of the setlist was of equal necessity cast in stone, led me to believe the difference in travel and venue would be enough to sustain interest, while familiarity with the show and the comfort with specifics it brought allowed a deeper focus; all those questions about how will they handle this, and what will it sound like when they do that, and how will I feel when I see this other thing have been well answered, and my mind is free to roam.
Had a good feeling about this show going in; three hours straight up the interstate, good weather, easy drive. Midscale chain hotel providing just the right sort of simple luxury, impersonal but accommodating; had about an hour to relax before heading out for preshow.
Ended up at sound check instead of Bailey’s, sitting next to a couple of high school friends who drove up separately. Good to see them; it’s been a few years and we caught up a little before things got started. I knew they were coming, but didn’t know if we’d see each other or not, so this was a welcome surprise.
Sound check itself also welcome, if not entirely surprising. Good reminder of show as working environment, of how many serious and unglamorous hours go into making those two shining hours on stage. Got to hear large sections of a couple songs, The Rock, Who Are You, I’m One, and snippets of others. Nice to see how well they work even without the videos; sometimes in concert it’s hard to tell if I’m actually responding to the music itself or the show around it. There’s very little show at sound check, so that answers that.
Like hotels, VIP ExperiencePackages must tread a fine and shifting line between expectation and possibility to be successful. Can’t speak for anyone else, but this one succeeded. My expectations tend to be low, more from rueful self-knowledge than cynicism, so I’m easy to please; parking was an issue for some, but I’d walked from the hotel. Food was upgraded to a sit-down dinner for all, including complimentary beer and wine. With the exception of a vegetarian option, not really a problem for carnivorous me, dinner was good, varied, and plentiful, served buffet style to the accompaniment of a vintage Who mix. My high school friends, two sisters from a large Italian family, had a lively, entertaining debate about the source of the mix, cheerfully settled as were all other issues by Michaela, the event coordinator. Pleasant and low key, one of the best VIP parties I’ve been to, though I’m no connoisseur.
Vintage Trouble great as always, and mentioned they’d be playing across the street at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge after the show. Doesn’t get much more Nashville than that, and an obvious plan for post-show.
Maybe because it was The Who’s first show in Nashville (though Roger has played here twice that I know of, once opening for Clapton and once blowing the roof off the legendary Ryman), maybe because the show was taped for use on the Grammy Awards, but there was a special energy this night, good and bright and completely committed. This is very much and very proudly a music town; that can make it difficult to play, but also adds something quite special when a band gets it right. This was one of those times.
Lots of happy blur to my recall, but each song had standout moments:
I Am the Sea: The initial growl of “Can ya? CAN YA?" from tape. No attempt to sing or synch, Roger standing with his back to the audience, turning around to start
The Real Me: As sound check version had already revealed, tonight this didn’t have to rely on good bones; fierce and solid from the start.
Quadrophenia: Pete has joked about fans who say “Quadrophenia saved my life,” but hey, it’s true, and the years when that happened for me took place in Nashville. As I told one of my high school friends during sound check, in the wildest dreams of those very wild years, I could never have imagined this night. Her response: well, probably neither could they! Since I lived here for most of the 80s, this got a chuckle from both of us; the wonder, pain, humor, and pity of all that come to life with a vengeance during the show at this point, only to be folded into awareness of the present moment.
Cut My Hair: Pete full-on in character here, though later in the show he relaxed into his own charming self. Either way, both he and Roger really getting the emotions across, fully acted and drawn, at times mannered and even bordering on absurd, but never crossing over: an appropriate and necessary approach for both arena and film. Lots of depth, too. Roger in particular really went over the cliff in a good way at times, and I gladly went right with him. Very intense show, without damaging.
Some trouble with the video screens starting here and extending through the next few songs; fixed in plenty of time for the crucial moments of 5:15 and Bell Boy. No worries.
Punk and the Godfather: Did miss the screens here, but only because they add layers, not because their absence diminishes. On a night like this, the guys could play by candlelight and still kill it.
I’m One: Pete and my long ago friend of the handsome damage not competing in my mind this time, but merged. Hope he was in the arena somewhere. Miss being able to talk the show over with him later. Damage or no, and despite all that went down, he was One. Not The One, but certainly one. If you’re reading this, man: no need to contact. Just thought you should know--love always survives.
Dirty Jobs: Simon in fine form. I finally noticed, when Roger comes in he’s not just singing along, they’re harmonizing, and it’s really beginning to work.
Helpless Dancer: The lesbians and queers have now completely disappeared—but only from Pete’s vocals, of course. A Nashville audience can be a fierce, tricky beast and good for a lot of things, but they didn’t pick up the singing on this one.
Is It In My Head: Fine version, Roger clutching his head and projecting deep confusion, so in character it hurt a little to watch.
I’ve Had Enough: Fierce and just a tiny bit funny; Roger seemed about to goof but dodged it, laughed it off with his eyes but only that. Nice moment of regained balance and carry-through with full commitment.
Went on FOREVER and I never wanted it to end.
The best of some incredibly good versions heard on this tour: Pete slamming his hand into the guitar strings like a hammer, making the thing scream, leading me to realize: you don’t have to actually smash things to destroy them. Roger’s improv keeping pace, which you’d think would be impossible for flesh and blood, but not during this show.
Whole band on fire. Indescribable.
Sea and Sand: Remember what I said about Roger never hitting that last “Nothing is planned/by the sea and the sand”? Well, forget it. He fucking nailed it, then took over “I’m the face” as well. Hell yes.
Drowned: More holy shit, and again indescribable. Despite some sound problems, what I could hear of Roger’s harmonica sounded great, and Pete—well, at one point he said “bring on the tide” and I know he was talking about the ocean, but it’s never just about the surface with him, or even the top two or three layers, is it? I know he probably also meant several different things about the “ocean of love,” but I also heard “Tide” with an initial cap, as in Crimson, and it sounded, in the moment and in character, as if he felt he could take on the whole damn team.
(Note of realism: sorry, but no. Not even well armed and back in the day. Beautiful to hear him say it, though.)
Bell Boy: You’d think I’d have gotten used to seeing Keith up there and this time those huge sad-crazy eyes wouldn’t destroy me. But no. The combination of pathos and humor remains just the right amount of too much. What really did me in was when Roger gave “Keith” his signature salute at the end of the song, then made a beautiful little speech about how the video is only meant to show how much joy Keith took in performing. Things got even more gorgeously unbearable with the slight and just barely dangerous edge that developed as Roger said, “oh, he loved it when you gave him a microphone…” Also, a verbal riff about the Beach Boys:
Roger: “If [Keith] had been in the Beach Boys, life would have been perfect.”
Pete: “Except for the Beach Boys.”
Roger, laughing then serious: “And maybe he’d still be here.”
(pause) “Maybe not.”
Doctor Jimmy: pure scary joyous thunder, and yes, it was uncomfortable to be in a crowd all singing “I’ll rape it.” It should be.
It may have been here that Roger dropped into a very impressive pose, sideways to the crowd, one leg out behind him, the other bent in a sort of exaggerated hurdle stretch, mic stand braced in both hands, outline of muscle in his legs visible through his jeans as he maintained it without losing a bit of power to his voice. Must confess to swooning a bit.
I should mention here that mic swings were accurate, powerful, and mostly gotten out of the way early for the camera. This show was about singing, not showboating. That said, Pete sent up an impressive flurry of windmills about the same time Roger stretched it all out for us; showing off is never far away with these two.
Not sure how much all this had to do with filming; it seemed spontaneous and maybe was just a product of something breaking free. After this point, Roger starting backbending to an extent I haven’t seen in years. Shirt open, of course, and plastered to his back with sweat; questions have been raised in some quarters about botox and even surgery, but all I can say is it doesn’t matter. None of that could account for the way the man moves.
The Rock: You might think an instrumental would slow things down, let you take an emotional step back, allow for some resolution and regroup. Right. Think again.
Love, Reign O’er Me: No point even worrying about the technical end of the spectrum; sheer grandeur of emotion eclipsed everything else. Everything, contained in eclipse. Tonight this was not the cigarette. It was a climax of cosmic proportions.
Who Are You: This was the cigarette. Or, more accurately, a good sweet stretch after one hell of a workout. Pete: “this is the ‘more’ part.” Roger, mock gasping (okay, maybe not entirely mock): “MORE?”
Behind Blue Eyes: Damn, there is still some emotion left in the tank. And this is where it went.
Pinball Wizard: Think I may have gotten over being Tommied out, because I really enjoyed this one this time. Took a better look at the video, too, and loved how it was sort of a mashup of elements from the Tommy tour visuals, birds and all. Especially affected by the sinister-cheerful smilie faces on the pinball machine posts. Brrr.
Baba O’Riley: The sound board finally located Roger’s harmonica! Sublime, right up to the end, when Pete cut off early and left Zak “looking like a dog.” Pete’s gradually hilarious explanation, as well as the fact he owned up to it, more than saved the situation, and was capped off with him saying to Roger, “but you always end up looking like a dog.” The response: “Yes, and I don’t give a shit that I look like a dog.” The humor of pure truth.
Won’t Get Fooled Again: Not sharks on the video. Not surveillance cameras. Wind farm blades. Can’t even begin to make political sense of that, but they were pretty. Roger mocking Pete’s windmills, that dynamic played out so visibly again: Roger loves Pete, Pete responds with sarcasm that both subverts and expresses equally great love; then reverse and repeat. They really are a pair, those two, though a pair of what I can’t say. Good savage version, heckuva scream, though both old and new bosses seem to have gone the way of all things lost in passion. ‘Sokay. We’ll get along without’em.
Extended and playful band introductions, including Pete’s description of Zak playing with “two broken ankles, two broken wrists, and broken ribs.” Eventually,
Tea and Theatre: I wouldn’t have traded a moment of the wait, or of the banter with just the two of them; seems no one wanted this to end. Pete turned his sarcasm on Roger’s Ryman gig, saying he was sure it was “a nice little show—but I wasn’t there!” to which many in the audience, me included, replied, well, I was! Roger talked about the soul of the Ryman, that it has its own special spirit, and though of course Pete was skeptical, I agree.
Strongest version of Tea and Theatre I’ve heard yet, though it's always a Golden moment, with or without Pond.
I respect the wish for more variety in the "more" section, enjoyed the sign one fan held up saying "Play Johnny Cash," and have been known to make joking, wistful reference myself to, say, Naked Eye or Relay. That said, IMO this section is for casual fans who just want to say they've seen The Who and heard the most obvious hits, and they have a right to it. My first show wasn't that long ago and I still remember the gutwrenching thrill of hearing Baba O'Riley or The Scream live for the first time; no matter how much I might enjoy something rarer, I would never take a moment like that away from someone else. Standards are standards for a reason, and I'm not too proud to enjoy them one more time. As Roger said: they're old'uns but good'uns.
After, a brave and restless two of us ended up at Tootsie’s, where for an hour or so Vintage Trouble turned that honky tonk into a juke joint. In the almost unbearably intimate venue upstairs they could really cut loose, with an even more fiery sound and salacious set list than at the arena. Best post show ever, and a great bunch of guys.
A happy but uneasy night at the hotel, too tired to think, too keyed up to sleep. Out to my friends’ house the next day where I ended up helping winterize the garden. Nothing restores the spirit so well as playful flirtation and hands in the dirt.