Thursday, October 30, 2008

GMVW # 43: "Guitar and Pen: A Who Review"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 43:  Guitar and Pen: A Who Review
Song:  Baba O’Riley by The Who
(Songwriter: Pete Townshend)
October 30, 2008

I’ve always wanted to do a concert review, so here goes…..

Last Friday nite I went to see the Who at the Boston Garden with cousin Becca, Mac, and Pete Callahan.  I’ve seen plenty of Who shows over the years, so in terms of witnessing something new, this I no longer expect.  I now go to these shows to simply take in whatever is tossed my way.  On this nite, as with all previous shows over the years, I was not disappointed.  The Who continued to do what they do best: A live event that hits the ground running and that does not stop until all energy has been sufficiently tapped. 

For the 3rd time, I attended a Who show expecting it would be my last (which will one day be the Who’s choice, not mine).  This has been the case ever since John Entwistle died.  The original 4-piece band has been whittled down to ‘The Two’.  For the first time since that 2002 post-Entwistle tour, however, the entire six-piece ensemble on stage was on equal footing.  Where the last two tours, the Who were presented as Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, along with a supporting cast, this time everyone was front and center (including John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick on keyboards, Zak Starkey on drums, Pino Palladino on bass, and brother Simon Townshend on rhythm guitar), and all rose to the honor. 

As with most Who shows, a bulk of the music on this nite came from 4 distinct periods in Who history: The early years, ‘Tommy’, ‘Who’s Next’, and ‘Quadrophenia’.  I always hope to hear more songs from albums like ‘Who By Numbers’, ‘Who Are You’, and even ‘Face Dances’, which does happen, but infrequently.  Townshend and Daltrey seem to be convinced that the crowd is looking for songs from these 4 periods, and so I accept that and take in these great songs that I have witnessed so often, while enjoying the occasional surprise. 

We settled into our seats, which was the best vantage point I’ve had at any Who show (a stone’s throw from Townshend’s side of the stage… thanks Mac!).  The warm up band, ‘Inward Eye’ wrapped up their set (a young hard-rock brother trio from Winnipeg Manitoba) and then the Who took the stage.  Here’s a run through the set list, along with commentary and snippets of some of the best lyrics from each song:

I Can’t Explain:  It’s amazing that the band’s first single (1965) could still be such a superb rock song to hear live.  It was clear Zak Starkey was going to have a good nite:  “Dizzy in the head and I’m feeling bad”.

The Seeker:  A single from the early 70’s.  I thought of my brother Joe, who loves this song.  It was clear Roger Daltrey was going to have a good nite:  “I asked Bobby Dylan, I asked the Beatles, I asked Timothy Leary, but he couldn’t help me either”.

Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere: Another early single.  Townshend played a little feedback near the end of the song, and it was clear he was going to have a good nite:  “I get along anyway out there, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere…….”

Fragments:  A song from their 2005 Endless Wire album: Lot’s of synthesizer. 
Well done. “Are we breathing out or breathing in”.

Who Are You: This song is about an encounter Townshend had with 2 members of the ‘Sex Pistols’ at a bar in New York.  Towshend lashed out at them after they stated they enjoyed the Who’s music (he wanted them to rebel against it).  I thought of Dad, who gets a kick out of this song.  It’s always very well performed, as it was this nite: “Eleven Hours in the Tin Pan, God there’s got to be another way!”

Behind Blue Eyes:  Off of ‘Who’s Next’.  All 4 original members of the Who had blue eyes, which is not solely what this song is about, but intriguing when you listen to the lyrics.  One of the best performances of the night:  “And if I swallow anything evil, put your finger down my throat”.

Real Good Looking Boy: I recalled listening to this song for the first time in a small music store in downtown Baltimore 3 years ago.  First new Who song in many a year.  It hit me like a ton of bricks (both then and now): “Wise men say, only fools, only fools rush in”.

Baba O’Riley:  This song doesn’t really belong to the Who anymore… along with “Won’t Get Fooled Again” it belongs to these times, and was once more brilliantly performed:  “Don’t cry, don’t raise your eye…”

Gettin in Tune:  The first surprise of the night, a deep cut off the ‘Who’s Next’ album.  One of several songs Townshend has written about how he writes music (the other that comes to mind is ‘Guitar and Pen’):  “I’m getting a little tired of having to say do you come here often”

Eminence Front:  Always an appropriate song to play (about people ignoring their problems and putting up a front).  Townshend’s one contribution of the evening as lead vocalist: “Won’t you come and join the party dressed to kill”

Sister Disco: The second surprise song of the nite and one of my all time favorites, about a fictional character,  ‘Disco’ dying on a hospital bed and ‘Rock’ faithfully sitting by the bedside.  Townshend plucked away expertly at the acoustic guitar closing notes (which has always suggested to me that good music will carry on). “Goodbye, goodbye Sister Disco, now I go, I go where the music fits my soul.  And I, I will never let go, I’ll never let go, ‘Til the echo of the street fight has dissolved”.

Sea and Sand: Start of a 3-song Quadrophenia set, encapsulating this concept album.  “My Dad couldn’t stand on 2 feet, as he lectured about morality”

5:15: Zak again played phenomenally on the drums.  The song is about strange happenings on the London commuter rail: “Sadly ecstatic that their heroes are news”.

Love Reign O’er Me:  Daltrey belted this one out without a hitch: “On a dry and dusty road, the nite’s we spend apart alone, I need to get back home to cool, cool rain!”

My Generation:  Pino Palladino’s bass lines would have done Entwistle proud.  It’s the only song where Towshend always appears embarrassed to perform live:  “People try to put us down, just because we get around”

Won’t Get Fooled Again:  I thought of the Who’s performance of this song at the Concert for New York (after 911).  The Who stole that show with their set that nite, particularly with this song:  “I move myself and my family aside if we happen to be left half alive”.

Pinball Wizard:  Start of a 3-song ‘Tommy’ set.  Townshend no longer looks for Entwistle to blast the opening bass line.  “Ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver ball, from Soho down to Brighton, I must have played them all”

Amazing Journey:  Some experimenting with a jam session, leading into Sparks.  Very well done.  “Sickness will surely take the mind where minds can’t usually go”.

Sparks: …..Zak again!  Wow!  Thought it was Moon.  No lyrics here (all instrumental).  Townshend looked all of his younger Woodstock-days self on guitar: The Bird Man in action.

See Me Feel Me:  I longed for the Entwistle backing vocals to kick in like they used to….not to be.  I sang them myself as best I could.  Still a great song to hear live, though:  “Listening to You, I get the Music”

Tea and Theatre:  Off the ‘Endless Wire’ album: A melancholy reflective song, which seems to be at least partially about the 2 surviving members of the Who.  Daltrey holds a cup of tea in his hand: “Will you have some tea, after theatre with me?”

It was a great show and was enjoyed with some great company.  Since no Gem music video list should go without Baba O’Riley, I take the opportunity to present it here as this week’s Gem.  The footage is from the last live show Keith Moon played with the Who (1978).  I’ve also included the same song showing the Who at the Concert for New York in 2001, which was the last live event Enwistle performed with the Who.  Finally, I’ve included a great tribute to the Who from Adam Sandler at this year’s VH1 Rock Honors the Who show.

- Pete

Gem Video: Baba O’riley. 

Concert for NY version:

Adam Sandler


About the video:  clip from the Kid’s Are Alright movie

Video Rating: 1


Best Feedback: Joe

Pete will never forget who got him his first Who Album.  I think it was Pete's birthday some time in the late 70's...I was probably in Framingham at Strawberry's where I stopped many times up thru High School to build up a huge music collection...Warren Zevon, Clash, Joe Jackson, the Police, Talking Heads, AC/DC, U2, Bruce Springsteen, and many more were in my growing collection.  After an 8 Keg Party my freshman year at BC in my apartment in
Cleveland Circle
, my great collection disappeared...I suspect some Brighton thugs who crashed the party...I will never know.  Anyways - I had no idea the monster I created when I got Pete his first Who album.  The Monster lives on....or maybe it's the Monster in my pants that does a nasty dance.


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