Thursday, May 23, 2019

Who by Symphony: Pete & Roger, Masterful Songs Remain Eternally -- and Blissfully -- Joined Together ... Chicago Concert Review

All photos by Seth Arkin
Concert Review

The Who
w/ opening act Reignwolf
Hollywood Casino Amphitheater, Tinley Park, IL
May 21, 2019
also seen May 9 at KeyBank Center, Buffalo
w/ opening act The Arkells

On the Who's 1965 single, "My Generation," singer Roger Daltrey famously exhorts, as written by the band's guitarist, Pete Townshend:

"Hope I die before I get old."

Daltrey is now 75.

Townshend just turned 74 on Sunday.

On a chilly Tuesday night, The Who's Moving On Tour--coming 37 years after the band commenced their initial "Farewell Tour"--rolled into the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Tinley Park.

With an orchestra.

Daltrey and Townshend are the only surviving original members of The Who, with bandmates Keith Moon (in 1978) and John Entwistle (in 2002) having died before they got old.

Of 25 songs performed--I count "See Me, Feel Me" as its own tune even if it's officially lumped into "We're Not Gonna Take It"--only two were from fewer than 40 years ago. (See the setlist here)

Already on this tour, as on recent ones, The Who are getting social media attention--and some guffaws--due to Daltrey complaining onstage about audience members smoking pot (he's allergic), and not without good reason, he repeatedly whined about it being quite cold out on Tuesday, even donning a heavy coat at one point.

So for those prone to snark--and that seems to be what powers the internet--it would be relatively easy to snicker at the notion of a Who tour in 2019, especially as the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater was far undersold and pavilion seats could be had on StubHub for less than the price of a movie admission.

Or to believe that the show was OK at best.

Obviously, anyone can perceive what they want, but here are a few things I believe to be true:

- The Who's body of work is among the Top 5 in rock history, perhaps higher; I will never tire of hearing their songs.

- Pete Townshend is a songwriting genius and brilliant guitarist, and Roger Daltrey is among the best singers and frontmen of all-time.

- There will almost certainly never again arise a rock band as good as The Who.

- The Who would've been more amazing to see live in say, 1970 or 1975, when the original quartet was the loudest rock band ever recorded. But I was too young then--I first saw the Who in 1989; this was show #12--and to this day, Pete & Roger don't step onstage without taking it seriously. On Tuesday in Tinley, despite the cold, Townshend was energized and Daltrey's voice sounded strong.

- Including Townshend's brother Simon on guitar, Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey on drums, Loren Gold on keyboards and others, the two Who legends have long surrounded themselves with quality musicians, including on this tour.

From the May 9 show in Buffalo
- It was truly glorious to hear classics from Tommy and Quadrophenia--plus "Who Are You," "Eminence Front," Who by Numbers track "Imagine a Man," "Join Together" and "Baba O'Riley"--backed by a 50-piece or so orchestra

- Even with the uncomfortable cold, Tuesday's show was fantastic enough that I would happily go again, although it actually already represented going again, as I had seen The Who on May 9--indoors at KeyBank Center--on a brief trip to Buffalo.

Certainly I can give you a few more specifics, such as how I got chills in hearing the Townshend brothers play the complementary guitar parts on "Pinball Wizard," how "The Kids Are Alright"--coming during a 5-song set sans orchestra, which seems to vary a bit from city to city--reminded me how the early Who singles remain as transcendent as any besides the Beatles,' how powerful and poignant "Won't Get Fooled Again" came off as an acoustic rendition with just Pete & Roger on stage, how amazing Pete sounded on "The Rock" instrumental from Quadrophenia, how Roger's vocals still dazzle on "Love Reign O'er Me," how violinist and concertmaster Katie Jacoby sounded brilliant at the end of the closing "Baba O'Riley," etc., etc., etc.

But either you already get it or you presumably won't.

So I'll simply thank Pete & Roger for continuing to give their all onstage, even as they have gotten old, doing service to The Who's incredible catalog with promise of a new album before year's end.

Daltrey's idea of an orchestral tour--prompted in part by his touring Tommy with a symphony last year, sans Townshend--works well, in part because the music has brilliant depth to begin with.

Say whatever you want, but it just sounds swell.

I believe most of the orchestra members are local in each town, supported by concertmaster Jacoby, conductor Keith Levenson and the arrangements by David Campbell (who happens to be Beck's dad).

I'm sorry that I can't provide more specifics on who played with the Who in Tinley Park--their Chicago stop, though they also play Alpine Valley on Sept. 8--or in Buffalo for that matter, but as did Townshend from the stage, I give effusive kudos.

To learn the material, rehearse all day and--particularly in the cold--keep instruments in tune and fingers from slipping, well, that's quite impressive.

Hence, although this review is about The Who and how great they are--in the present tense--having an ad hoc orchestra "join together with the band" is pretty incredible in its own right.

I've long shared how I don't much care for the oft-renamed outdoor venue in Tinley Park.

It's far from home, coldly utilitarian, $30 for a bad burger and beer, often acoustically subpar and a pain to get out of.

But on a night that was silly chilly for late May, in the company of three close friends the evening made for--per a Tommy tune--an "Amazing Journey" in pretty much every way.

And for Pete's sake, The Who still rock.

Roger that.

This is a clip of "Baba O'Riley" from the show I saw in Buffalo:

1 comment:

Hemingway1955 said...

This is one of your finest argued reviews. I especially enjoyed the introduction.

I agree with your assessment of the Who. Over 50 years they've been a part of my life too.

I have to acknowledge Brad's comment as apt..."we lived in a time when giants walked the earth"