Monday, March 28, 2016

The Who and rare songs

IF YOU SEE your favorite band and you sing along with every song, well, how can you not think it's the greatest thing ever?

So there you have it. The Who blew my mind Saturday night in St. Louis. My brother and I were on the floor and we sang along with every song, even the ones many didn't know.

If you want an unbiased and fair review, go here, but don't keep reading. The Who is my favorite band and if you want to argue about the greatest rock album of all time (Who's Next), go ahead, as long as you agree.
Before the show started.

We had a blast in St. Louis. Cheeseburger drummer Kirk Gibbler and his better half, Susan, made a spur of the moment decision and joined us. My brother flew in from Phoenix with his son, Riley, who sat with Sheryl for the show while we rocked it on the floor. Kirk is a bit picky when it comes to sound critique but even he agreed they put on a good show and the sound itself was excellent.

There were empty seats in the Scottrade Center's upper bowl. The Who canceled two St. Louis shows last year due to Roger Daltrey's vocal and health issues (he spent nearly a month in the hospital with meningitis) and I think some fans gave up. Or, as Sheryl says, maybe they died. My floor seats were worth every penny.

Daltrey was in excellent form. This guy is 72 years old. Repeat ... SEVENTY TWO FREAKING YEARS OLD. He hit many of the high notes and wisely stayed away from others. The most demanding song, Love Reign O'er Me from Quadrophenia, was spot on. At the end, with the crowd going crazy, he had a huge smile on his face and he simply seemed overjoyed to be singing before a big crowd and having a blast. He bantered with the crowd between songs and made sure to plug the Teenage Cancer Trust project, a worthy endeavor.

Pete Townsend still windmills and blasts out power chords, but he's also 70 years old now and knows it. Still ... nobody plays guitar and stirs up a crowd like this guy. He invented angry rock. He had a bout with the flu a few days earlier, joking that he sounded like Kermit The Frog, but he soldiered through it. His vocals on Eminence Front were different but his guitar snarled throughout the song and took it to a new and interesting place.

Pete also had guitar trouble - at one point he lifted his Fender Custom Strat (Eric Clapton model) and eyeballed the neck, like it was fretting out. His inner ear monitors were also not working, but he kept the breaks between songs short and it got better as the show wore on.

Most people knew Baba O'Riley and We Don't Get Fooled Again and Who Are You and You Better You Bet. To me, the best songs were The Kids Are Alright, Join Together, The Seeker, The Real Me, and an incredible version of Bargain. And yes, I got teary-eyed during Behind Blue Eyes and Love Reign O'er Me. It's hard to cry and sing as loud as you can at the same time, you know.

Pete sang I'm One from Quadrophenia and it stood out because most Who Songs are massive blasts of power chords and in your face rock and roll. This one featured Pete on acoustic guitar and his plaintive vocals. Beautiful. What? The word "beautiful" in a Who review?

Then there was The Rock, the instrumental from Quadrophenia, as powerful a piece of music as The Who have ever done. Simon Townshend (Pete's brother) and Pete blended lead licks and drummer Zak Starkey kept it from careening off the rails.

The Who wisely has some incredible musicians touring with them. Simon carried the load on guitar and vocals. Pino Palladino and Zak Starkey are powerhouse musicians, just like the men they replaced, Keith Moon and John Entwistle. It makes sense to have Loren Gold, John Corey and Frank Simes in the back on keyboards and vocals - they added a ton of energy and layered the vocal sound very well.

We walked back to our downtown hotel after the show and my feet never touched the ground. Two days later I'm still getting chills and I haven't slept in two nights - the songs keep going through my head.

That is a great rock concert. That is the power of music. The Who is a great band, and it was the best time.

What? They are in Kansas City next month?

Hmmmm .....

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