27 August 2000
Reunion Arena, Dallas, TX
18 years ago, I said to myself, "I'll never be able to experience a Who concert." Luckily my brother was able to see them on their 1982 Farewell [It's Hard] Tour. Fortunately, both of us were able to travel to Dallas, TX and get together to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band long after group members had publicly stated that they would never tour again. We felt especially fortunate, since this event was not part of a huge, summer-long extravaganza, but rather a selected show from a limited date, limited city tour.
First, a few words about the opening act, a British band that calls themselves "UNamerican". In short, I believe the band better rests under a moniker like "UNmodeled Systematic". For me, "One man's Noise is another man's UNmodeled Systematic", and I think "Noise" is maybe a little harsh. I'm sorry, but I had a real problem identifying anything interesting, unique, or moving about this opening act. Given that popular bands such as The Clash, Traffic, and even Poco have opened for the main act, I must say that the choice this time around was a disappointment. A friend of mine who saw the Denver Who show a few days earlier made the same assessment. The one saving grace of UNamerican was that they performed a grungy version of a 1970 Neil Young song, called "Don't Let It Bring You Down." Sorry, it did, to some extent, anyway--If I want to hear an authentic version of that song I will attend a Neil Young (and sometimes Crazy Horse) show. And, by the way, I will be doing exactly that next week.
Without an opening word, the surviving original members and two supporting musicians casually walked out to enormous cheers from the 15,000 or so strong, mostly Texan, crowd. An instant later, Pete Townshend dramatically lit into his red-with-white-pickguard Stratocaster with the opening chords to "Can't Explain", a tune that has served to open countless shows for the band.
Next came "Substitute", still with the Stratocaster--I was expecting a Rickenbacker 330 that I had seen on videos of their 1989 tour. With one exception, Pete stuck to one of two Stratocasters, the red one, and a silvery, Eric Claptonish replica. This was a significant surprise to me, given Pete's 1989 press conference statements about his reluctance to play electric guitars, because of his severe hearing damage. You wouldn't have known it this evening. Pete was more energetic, quick, and musically proficient than I have ever seen or heard him, on film or on audio. His solos showcased more Eddie Van Halen-like hammer work than I'd witnessed before.
Prior to "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere", a second-row fan held up a sign that asked for Pete's pick after the song, to which Pete tactfully replied, "No, forget it, you're not going to get it. Put the sign down. Put the F@#$ing sign down. Now! I'm not giving you any F@#$ing pick. Forget it!"
Next came a song from his multi-decade-long-awaited Lifehouse project, called "Relay"--a likeable tune that belongs amongst the mix of songs that reside on Who's Next and Quadrophenia.
Bassist John Entwistle introduced his token contribution, "My Wife", by describing the song as something near and dear to his wallet.
Let's talk about Roger Daltrey. He was in SUPERB shape, both physically, and in voice. He didn't look a femtosecond older than he did at Live Aid in 1985. During "Naked Eye", he picked competently on a Gibson acoustic while Townshend roared away electrically.
On state, Roger and Pete were centered up front, and Entwistle held his 30+-year-long trademark stance on the left side of the stage. Pete's guitar antics, in my opinion, got the most attention from the audience. From a distance, it looked like both Pete and Roger were sporting combat boots.
Next came excellent performances of early 1970s material, such as "Bargain", "Getting In Tune", and "Baba O'Riley". Pete then took solo stage for an acoustic version of his "Drowned". I don't think I've ever seen an individual strum a guitar as fiercely, yet precisely, as Pete did during that song.
After "Pinball Wizard", their live version of my favorite song of theirs, "The Real Me" almost outdid the studio version. I think the addition of a brass section would have put it over the top. Roger's voice was very, very powerful during this selection. "Behind Blue Eyes" added one more tally to their almost mandatory Who's Next selection list.
Drumming this time around for the Who was Zak Starkey, son of Richard Starkey, a.k.a. the one and only Ringo. I believe that Zak more successfully fills part of the void left by the loss of original drummer Keith Moon in 1978, than Kenney Jones did between 1979 and 1982. With one exception, which was the 1981 smash hit, "You Better You Bet".
John "Rabbit" Bundrick, as he has for years, filled in on keyboards tonight, most notably on "Who (the f@#$) Are You", and "5:15".
I was a little disappointed at how far down the dials were turned down on the "thunderfingers" bass playing of John Entwistle. When you could hear him, the notes were very tinny. To his credit, he put on an impressive bass solo towards the end of the show, after which Pete bowed down in friendly mocking honor.
Make no mistake about it, Pete Townshend handed out a lifetime supply of "windmill" swipes on his guitar, on nearly every song! The light show consisted of, primarily, 5 2x4 ballpark-intensity light arrays. So, during "Won't Get Fooled Again", instead of a monstorous pyrotechnic explosion during Roger's "YEAAAAAHHHHH!", those light arrays completely illuminated the entire arena. At the end of this anthemic song, Pete extended his solo so long that even Roger cracked a laugh. In the end, Pete politely thanked the audience for showing up, and the Who left the stage.
For the obligatory encore, Pete introduced "The Kids Are Alright" by acknowledging how the song meant a lot to his generation back in the 1960s, but moreso how it relates to his children today.
After a great Who's Next outtake, "Let's See Action", Pete stated, "The next song involved no thought whatsoever," and madly pressed with "My Generation".
And then the show ended. It's tough to criticize the setlist on this one. I am familiar with about 50 or so Who songs, and no set list could possibly completely satisfy even the most loyal fan. I think their selection was wonderful, and told their 35-year story as best as time would permit. I was, to say the least, very pleasantly surprised by this Who concert.
[**** 1/2] - Steven T.
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