T-Mobile Park – Seattle, Washington, USA
An occasional post from your (far) North West corespondent here. It’s a long drive from Portland to Seattle – a bit shy of 200 miles, but these guys aren’t getting any younger and my step-daughter, at 16, is a big fan of late 60s-early 70s rock, and that is to be encouraged, so the pair of us made the trek north.
This tour was put together by Daltrey, using the theory that you could pick up a local orchestra, have them rehearse up the set during the day, and slap a rock band in front of them on the night. Townshend was skeptical and there seems to have been a certain amount of arm twisting to get him to come on board.
I’m getting ahead of myself. The venue was T-Mobile Park, which is where the Seattle Mariners play “baseball”, which I’m informed is some sort of cricket/rounders like game. It must be quite popular as the stadium is huge. Being “up North” the climate is challenging, so the building has a retractable roof, and mercifully, it’s fully extended tonight, covering about half the stadium. The stage is set up in the middle of the field, and the audience is in a cone in front of them, in three tiers of seating. The place is rammed.
Opener, surprisingly to me, is Liam Gallagher, and he swaggers on for some new (I think) stuff which sounds like Oasis, and closes with Champagne Supernova and Wonderwall, which is well received. He’s lost almost all the top of his range and frankly doesn’t sound great. He does take the opportunity to have his son accompany him on drums for one track, and seems to enjoy himself, though. 30 minutes and he’s done. At this point, the lady behind me tells me how much she loves Oasis (“Can’t remember any of their songs, though), squeals on finding out I’m English, and invites me back to hers. Her husband, sat next to her has seen it all before. Luckily, I point out that I was always more of a Blur fan (“You know the “Woo Hoo” song you hear at sports games”? is the best way to explain who Blur are over here).
The orchestra take 10 minutes to assemble and around 8:35, on come Roger, Pete, Simon Townshend, Zac Starkey and Jon Button on Bass and launch straight into Overture, which starts a sequence of songs from Tommy. Pete has a lovely red boiler suit on but the chilly, and dropping by the minute temps have him keep a suit jacket on throughout. It’s an interesting look. Daltrey has a scarf on throughout, and even Zak, who is a frenetic, mesmerising drummer, wears a heavy quilted thing.
It sounds really good. I know you think I’m saying that, and the Who haven’t been good since 1974*, Entwistle, Moon etc, but trust me, they are on form. Daltrey is still a remarkable singer, and a poster child for someone who has taken care of his voice for 40 odd years, unlike many of his peers. Townshend is bounding around, windmilling, (gently) jumping and playing some really tasty guitar. He takes vocals on Eminence Front (IMO a terrible Who song, but bafflingly popular in the US) and I’m One, and while still clearly Pete, he favours the shout/sing style now. I notice that younger brother Simon is actually doing a lot of the Pete harmonies. The orchestra adds a huge amount of dynamics and for the Tommy (and especially later on the Quad) instrumentals it sounds, frankly glorious.
Seemingly aware of the fuller sound and feeling the need to prove they are still a band, the middle of the show switches to band only, and although the bass is sadly lacking – it’s under mixed and the guy is no Pino, let alone John, they run through a series of classics, including a brutal I can See for Miles and a substitute in which Simon misses a cue, resulting in some ribbing from his big brother to paraphrase – “We have this quiet bit in that song, where Simon comes in, and he missed it. It’s my favorite bit, you c*nt” – all done with a wry smile, naturally. Again, Zak Starkey is a wonderful drummer and just lifts the rest of the band, pounding away on his gold double bass kit. This section is closed out with a Rog and Pete only “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, and while Pete has certainly slowed down, he still has a killer right hand. The orchestra rejoin for Behind Blue Eyes, and for me, they didn’t add anything to it, in fact were rather distracting.
The last third of the show was given to Quadrophenia, which has always been open to a real orchestra, and the Rock was a highlight of a very high point in the show, which included 5:15, Can You See the Real Me, Love Reign O’er Me and Punk and the Godfather. For the latter song Roger introduces a special guest “As we are in Seattle” – anyone hoping for Krist Novoselic would have been disappointed – it was Eddie Vedder. Resplendent in a Union Jack coat, he added some grunt as the punk and was greeted by the local crowd with a standing ovation. (It is, of course, on You Tube if you are curious)
Throughout the show, Pete was on his usual form as Master of Ceremonies/class clown. He looked genuinely thrilled to be playing, and was full of his typical brand of self depreciating humour – a lot of it at his and Roger’s expense. “We aren’t a touring band, we are a touring nursing home. Roger even has a nurse with him on this tour…..his name’s Gordon”, “I’m thrilled to be playing up in front of this amazing orchestra, cos I can bumble around on stage making lots of mistakes and you won’t hear them” and so forth. He was very appreciative of the crowd, and the band certainly paid back the energy we fed into them.
It was a long show – 140 mins – I had to skip the last track, Baba O’Reily, which I’m sure had a kick ass violin solo (the touring party includes a lead violinist), as ..well.. I had to drive the three hours back to Portland as my Step had a sleepover to go to – I dropped her off at 1:45 am – this is perhaps the only downside to having your kids like this music. As for the band? She loved it, and is sporting a Who T-Shirt (famous shot of band draped in Union Jack) from the event.
*I have seen them a few times, though never before Entwistle died. I would put this show in the top two of “Who shows that I’ve seen since 2004”
Boisterous, enthusiastic. Unable to decide on T-shirt style despite having queued for upward of 30 minutes staring at available options. One lady was so startlingly drunk by half way through that she was unable to negotiate the stairs without the aid of three people. I like a drink, but what a waste of $100.
Talking of beer $10.50 for a can of Rainier or similar, which is a hair better than Bud. $5.50 for water. Ouch. Food – stadium fare which is some permutation of the Hot Dog.
It made me think..
It took 50 years and a 50 piece orchestra, but dammit, Townshend and Daltry seemed to be having a blast up there. They certainly aren’t getting any younger though, so if yo uhave any interest, see them while you still can.