The Who and friends played Oracle Arena in Oakland last night. Show was a sell out at 17,000 souls with a combined age over one million.
Roger Daltrey is 68 and cannot keep his shirt buttoned. Pete Townshend is 67 and as hard driving as ever -- the Lindsey Vonn of rock guitarists. Both Roger and Pete are castle-dwelling multi-millionaires with no ability to outspend their fortunes. So they dont "need" to reprise Quadrophenia -- but they have.
Super soul rockers Vintage Trouble from Los Angeles were a lively opener. Lead singer Ty Taylor is a combination of Al Green and James Brown -- look for Mr. Taylor to become a star. Here is the Vintage Trouble troupe in action.
6000footdrop saw The Who for $10 (4/14/80), and saw The Clash with The Who (10/20/82), and we have Quadrophenia on vinyl, so we have a frame of reference here. Sadly, we never saw The Who with belushi-inspiration polyphonic drummer Keith Moon (1946-1978), and have never seen The Who without boris-the-spiderman deep bassist John Entwistle (1944-2002). So what to expect with The Who thirty years later, in an era after Roger has been a television oddity and Pete has avoided jail for his methodical research skills?
Quadrophenia is Pete Townshend's most significant work, just above Teenage Wasteland. Deliciously complex, weaving leitmotifs, constantly winking. Pete was laughed-at by some for his 1969 operatic effort Tommy, but Quadrophenia silenced them -- showing how Pete could layer upon layer upon layer all with room for his own butt wiggles and windmills. The album issued in 1973 and the movie in 1979. The story of Jimmy is set in gritty England in 1965. Jimmy fights and scoots and tries to respect his mom. It rains a lot. They go to the beach which is not hawaiian at all. Vespas and a young Gordon Sumner have notable roles.
The Who includes long-time replacement members Pino Palladino as John on bass, Ringo's son Zak Starkey as Keith on drums, and Pete's much younger brother Simon Townshend on guitar. The ensemble included Frank Simes, John Corey and Loren Gold all on keys, and Greg Miller and Reggie Grisham on horns. All of the keys and horns of Quadrophenia were played. Here is Zak as Keith.
I am the Sea: Overturish.
The Real Me: "... I went back to my mother, I said I'm crazy ma help me..." "we're packed between the paving stones..." Peppy and punchy when Pete is playing, but hollow and sad when Roger sings.
Quadrophenia: Yes, Pete, you're credible. Our lovely club seat section hostess has done a wonderful job of inspiring the entire section to rise to its feet. Our seat neighbors are from San Francisco, Marin, Spokane, Washington and a notable local brewmaster.
Cut My Hair: "...zoot suit, white jacket with side vents, five inches long..." "just right, for a beach fight..." Bring the gang!
The Punk and The Godfather: "... i'm the new president..." Roger is the Punk, Pete is the Godfather? Roger has the torso of a chippendale, but it does not make up for the hollow vocals.
I'm One: "...every year is the same and i feel it again, i'm a loser...." Acoustic. Does Pete write the guitar songs on the piano? Simon Townshend on vocals showing up Mr. Daltrey.
Helpless Dancer: "...just like the lesbians and queers..." With The Kids Are Alright teases. It becomes clear that Roger has evolved into the Keith Richards of the band -- a shell of his former self; but Pete is the Mick Jagger of the band with just as much musical energy and talent today as ever.
Is It In My Head? "... I see a man without a problem..." "...is it in my head, or in my heart?..." Roger points at Pete as a man without a problem, but Roger has a few problems, notably sounding like he is in a well or calling on the phone.
I've Had Enough: "..."with a touch of searsucker and an open neck, i ride a gs scooter with my hair cut neat..." Bongoey. Building for the 5:15!
5:15: "...where have i been? out of my brain on the 5:15..." "out of my brain on the train..." "...dreadfully sorry..." "...sadly ecstatic, that their heroes are news..." The Who at their best. Phish did not invent use of the grand piano in rock and roll. Video tribute to John Entwistle showing his two handed bass plucking.
Drowned: "...let me crawl back to the ocean, let me get back to the sea...." "i wanna drown in cold water..." Not as stark as on the soundtrack -- tonight Pete tells us he wants to drown in love.
Bell Boy: "...a beach is a place where a man can feel..." "i don't suppose you would remember me but i used to follow you back in '63...." "... you should see me dressed up in my uniform..." "i gotta get running now.... carry this baggage out..." Good luck getting Sting to carry your luggage in 2013. With video tribute to Keith Moon and Keith on the cockney vocals.
Doctor Jimmy: "what is it? I'll take it..." " Dr. Jimmy and Mr. Jim... he only comes out when I drink my gin..." Is your name Jim, James? You know your cool friends -- the ones who call you Dr. Jimmy? Roger forgets most of the words.
The Rock: Epiloguey.
Love Reign O'er Me: "... only love, can make it rain..." "o God I need a drink, of cool cool rain..." Betty Levette's ripping, soulful version of this song at the Jazz Alley 2/2/2011 is something not to be forgotten, but this version was also a tasty burger. Pete takes the microphone and introduces the band and thanks the crew.
Who are You: Entire crowd is now on its feet. People all over the arena are asking each other "who the f*** are you?"
Behind Blue Eyes: Roger plays acoustic guitar and it makes up for his vocals. Roger takes the microphone and reminds the crowd he is "allergic to pot smoke" so please refrain ("eat it" he suggests) because it "closes my throat". Would have been a good excuse for the vocals if anyone had been smoking (Roger is unaware the Pax vape machine was invented in San Francisco.)
Baba O'Riley: It's only teenage wasteland -- but there are only about 10 people under 20 in the entire place.
Wont Get Fooled Again: Pete stays on his feet, but the windmill is spinning.