In 2018, The Who’s singer, Roger Daltrey, toured and performed the bands’ legendary Rock-opera, “Tommy,” in its entirety with assistance from orchestras that were in the areas in which he was playing. Since there is a good amount of orchestration on the original “Tommy” album (which were all performed by the groups’ now-deceased bass player, John Entwistle), it is not surprising that the results of the shows were quite superb.
With that in mind, The Who (which also includes other surviving original member and guitarist, Pete Townshend) decided to use orchestras on their current jaunt, labeled the ‘Moving On!’ tour, which performed on September 13, 2019 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts (this is the second leg of their American tour, as the band did several live dates earlier this year).
Quite similar to the set list on the bands’ 25th anniversary tour in 1989, The Who opened with a chunk of “Tommy.” The “Overture” (where Daltrey bashed away on two tambourines) and “1921,” slowly led to the frantic build of “Amazing Journey” and “Sparks” before Townshend (who was donning a red jumpsuit) began the most iconic guitar strumming in Rock history on a feverish “Pinball Wizard.”
The “Tommy” set ended with, “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” which concluded with the emotional “See Me, Feel Me,” as Daltrey and Townshend seamlessly blended voices on the “Listening to You” coda of the song (one of the most moving sections to witness live).
After putting “Tommy” to rest, Daltrey donned a guitar and tore off a vehement “Who Are You,” followed by their synthesized 1982 hit (concerning phony personal pretenses), “Eminence Front.”
The biggest addition to the groups’ repertoire this year has been “Imagine a Man,” a deep-track ballad from the criminally underrated 1975 disc, “The Who By Numbers.” Daltrey’s voice sounded celestial on the cut, and the hardcore Who fans at Fenway were elated to witness the rarely performed (the song was never played live until the ‘Moving On!’ shows) nugget.
After a new track, “Hero Ground Zero,” (a song from the groups first new album since 2006, called, “WHO,” which will be released on November 22, 2019), the orchestra was given a recess, and a stripped-down Who tore off a pair of early classics with, “Substitute” (before the song began, Daltrey stated that “Substitute” includes the best line ever in Rock with, “I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth”) and “I Can See For Miles,” before returning to their ’80s era again with, “You Better You Bet.” The rest of the musicians, except for Daltrey and Townshend, then absented the stage, and the duo did an acoustic “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (which is akin to what they did on their “Quadrophenia” trek in 1996-’97, except that Entwistle would join them mid-song on that tour) and “Behind Blue Eyes” (although the string section returned to back the pair on this selection).
With the orchestra fully returned, another new cut, “Ball and Chain”, made way for five tracks from their “Quadrophenia” Rock-opera. Commencing with “The Real Me” (where Townshend played possibly his most killer power-chords of the evening) and “I’m One,” the band then reached near euphoric levels on “5:15.” After the instrumental, “The Rock,” Daltreys vocals stunned, as he pulled off the high notes on a torrid, “Love Reign O’er Me.”
The show finale of “Baba O’Riley” was extra impressive, as violinist Katie Jacoby thoroughly recreated the electric violin epilogue of the song (which was performed on the studio version by Dave Arbus), consummately ending the stellar show.
During the night, Daltrey referred to the vocal issues that plagued him a decade ago, and acknowledged Boston-based surgeon, Dr. Steven Zeitels, for saving his voice (which all fans of the group are quite grateful for as well).
The band’s career has always been a guessing game. Their “on again, off again” status in the later ’80s and ’90s ended in 1999 when the band unexpectedly regrouped. And if you want evidence of how hot they were in 1999, search out the band’s DVD, “The Vegas Job,” which features an uncut performance of their set at the infamous Pixelon concert that year in Nevada.
With a new record on the horizon, (and just-announced additional tour dates in 2020, which will take place in the UK and Ireland), the group’s activity level continues to surge.
by John Reed, for Music-News.com
The Who Boston 13 September 2019 setlist
Overture (from Tommy, 1969)
1921 (from Tommy, 1969)
Amazing Journey (from Tommy, 1969)
Sparks (from Tommy, 1969)
Pinball Wizard (from Tommy, 1969)
We’re Not Gonna Take It (from Tommy, 1969)
Who Are You (from Who Are You, 1978)
Eminence Front (from It’s Hard, 1982)
Imagine a Man (from The Who By Numbers, 1975)
Hero Ground Zero (from Who, 2019)
Substitute (single, 1966)
I Can See for Miles (from The Who Sell Out, 1967)
You Better You Bet (from Face Dances, 1981)
Won’t Get Fooled Again (acoustic; Roger & Pete only) (from Who’s Next, 1971)
Behind Blue Eyes (with violin & cello accompanists) (from Who’s Next, 1971)
Ball and Chain (from Who, 2019)
The Real Me (from Quadrophenia, 1973)
I’m One (from Quadrophenia, 1973)
5:15 (from Quadrophenia, 1973)
The Rock (from Quadrophenia, 1973)
Love, Reign O’er Me (from Quadrophenia, 1973)
Baba O’Riley (from Who’s Next, 1971)