In 1982, when I was in high school, the Who went on a farewell tour. My gorgeous but strict mother, BarbaraB, wouldn’t let me go to the New Jersey show. I cried and cried because, after all, it was a FAREWELL TOUR! My last chance EVER to see The Who!
Last chance, that is, until 1985, when the group reunited for Live Aid. Another reunion took place at the Brit Awards in 1988. By 1989, The Who was back on a real tour, but I didn’t see them that year. In fact, I didn’t see the band live until its set at the Concert for New York City in 2001. I finally caught them on a big tour in 2006. The not-so-great seats I had for that show didn’t make up for my 1982 trauma, so, last October, when I saw the Who was going on tour to celebrate the group’s 50th anniversary (I can’t resist a big anniversary!), I got fancy-schmancy VIP-package tickets to the May 26 show at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
By the time the concert rolled around, I had forgotten what benefits came with the ticket package, so my concert-going friend Jessie and I were baffled by an email that instructed us to get to Barclays by 4:45 p.m. We didn’t think anything special was going to happen but we dutifully showed up, and it was a good thing we did! We were two of about 60 people — ticket-holders and press — who got to sit in on the Who’s soundcheck. I was so thrilled I finally forgave BarbaraB for keeping me home in 1982. Then I found out that my idol Joan Jett, who is opening for the Who on this anniversary tour, had also opened for them on the ’82 tour. I missed Joan the year that “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” was a huge hit! I hate to tell you this, BarbaraB, but you are …
Jessie can testify that I actually discussed these issues OUT LOUD with her — while we sat in our awesome sixth-row seats waiting for the show to start, and after I had my photo taken with Simon Townshend, the guitar-playing young brother of Who guitarist/composer Pete Townshend.
Anyway, it was a thrill to finally see Joan Jett live, especially right after she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As you can see, she looks and sounds great!
I was so obsessed with her cover of “Do You Want to Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” back in the day, especially the part in the video when she yanks open a black trenchcoat to reveal a bikini. Hawt! Here she is performing the song at Barclays — there’s no bikini action, but rocking a red glittery jumpsuit at age 56 is fucking impressive.
Click the photo of Joan below to see all my best pictures of her on Flickr.
Pete Townshend turned 70 a week before the Barclays show and he’s rocking hard too, as is 71-year-old singer Roger Daltrey. People always think they’re very clever when they make fun of the Who for the “I hope I die before I get old” line in 1965’s hit “My Generation” (written by Townshend when he was just 19). Like we’ve never heard that joke before! Pete himself was a good sport and much more entertaining in his introduction of the song. Noting that the band had played “My Generation” at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, he said there were “special buses, wheelchairs and breathing apparatuses” for anyone old enough to have caught that performance. The audience, by the way, was made up of all ages. At the end of the show, Roger handed his tambourines to two pre-teen kids in the front rows.
The things you see at a concert when you’re really up close are incredible, even if no one gives you a tambourine. This is why I’ve gotten so addicted to the front few rows, even if I have to stand for 10 hours at a general admission show. For instance, two weeks before the Who’s performance at Barclays, Pete told Rolling Stone something he has said before: “People don’t really believe me. But I don’t enjoy performing. I don’t feel uplifted on the stage.” But look at his little smile in this short video I took a the beginning of “Pinball Wizard”!
Pete, you can’t deny having a little bit of on-stage happiness. I have evidence!
As for Roger, maybe his voice doesn’t soar quite as easily as it did in, say, 1982, but it was still impressive. He killed “Love, Reign O’er Me.”
And Pete blew us all away. He had walked into the soundcheck a little late, having been delayed by traffic, according to Roger. Jessie and I loved the way Pete eventually strolled on stage where everyone was already set up, picked up his guitar and started churning out power chords like it was no big thing. He still has his windmilling guitar moves too. And it might be hard to see in this photo, but I caught him mid-leap during the concert itself.
Admittedly, he caught more air in 1973.
Jessie was hoping Pete would go old-school and smash a guitar, but no luck. He hasn’t done that in years. He did tell a funny story about how the Who didn’t make much money at first because the guitar-smashing habit was so expensive.
If you’ve never seen a Pete Townshend guitar smash, this edited clip from a 1967 performance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour is the classic, to me. Not because of Pete, but because crazy drummer Keith Moon (who died of an overdose in 1978) put extra explosives in his drums. He normally blew up his drums, as well as hotel toilets, but he decided to go really big this time. Oh, and he didn’t tell anyone in the band to brace for a bomb going off. Roger and Pete were pretty much blown off the set.
The uncut version of the Smothers Brothers appearance is here. Another great video is from the Who’s notorious 1973 Cow Palace concert, during which Moon passed out on his drums due to a mix of tranquilizers and brandy. He was revived once, but the second time he was out for good, so Pete asked the audience, “Can anyone play the drums?” and a 19-year-old kid named Scott Halpin got up on stage and sat in on the drums for the remainder of the show. If you love wild rock and roll stories, Keith Moon — aka Moon the Loon — is your man and I recommend this book.
Finally, you can see all my best Who photos here.
I’ve got more music posts to come. And, yes, I have been on my feet for 10 hours at a general admission show very recently.
P.S. Don’t worry, Mom. I’m kidding! Mostly.