Brooklyn, NY – Barclays Center – May 26, 2015
The WHO and NY are old friends. Certainly most everyone will be familiar with two great televised shows from Madison Square Gardens: “The Concert for New York” in honor of the 9/11 disaster, and the “12/12/12” show for the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. Both shows showed the band at full modern strength, and forever cemented the hearts of the Big Apple to The Who.
The connection was born long ago, when The Who were first touring the USA in 1967, as part of DJ Murray the K’s revue shows. With many up-and coming bands on the bill, The Who were essentially opening up for Herman’s Hermits, the “about to be huge” band from England. With multiple shows every day, for day-after-day, the band struggled to gain a small foothold. Since those days, The WHO have played countless shows to NY audiences.
One cool New York note is the famous photo you’ve often seen: the great Art Kane (RIP) photograph of the group “sleeping” under a Union Jack flag? For the record, the staged shot was taken by the Hudson river at Riverside Park and 122nd Street. The setup is a rarely-noticed joke on the old query “WHO is buried in Grant’s Tomb?” If you can find the un-cropped photo online, you’ll see it’s even better, with two children peeking at the band (in color-matching outfits.)
Barclays Center in Brooklyn has been the home of our recent shows here, starting with the Quadrophenia tour before this. Back then we were one of the first shows in the newly-built center… and we HATED it. It was the worst loading in and out, poor management, labor Union issues, poor security, everything. So we were not looking forward to this one – yet we’d heard some positive things since then.
Much to our surprise virtually all the issues from before were gone! With many shows and events under their belts, they’d gotten their act together and ‘You Are Forgiven,’ as the song says.
The loading-in aspect is unusual itself: the location is great for many – right atop a subway stop, so easy in/out for the travelers (very much like MSG which is over Penn Station.) Our trucks come in streetside, and enter the building. Just inside they are suddenly in a HUGE elevator. This lowers them down to the loading dock level under the building. Once underneath they are rotated on a giant turntable to face the correct dock! A massive feat of engineering that allows trucks to move smoothly inside the small space allotted. (You can find films of this behind-the-scenes elevator stuff on YouTube if you like.)
The smoothness continued into the show itself. Without question, although the show was not perfect, it was probably the least-flawed of our shows this leg. Sure, small things happened, but basically it was solid throughout. Vice versa, it’s possible that there were not quite as many crazy heights reached, as well. Everyone had a good time, it seemed.
Someone brought balloons in their trousers, or hidden somewhere. The white orbs were inflated then launched, bouncing lazily across the sea of heads on the floor. This made the show look a bit like a scene from The Prisoner. Balloons are fun, and look great for the right kind of music, but soft bouncy things didn’t seem to match the hard rock numbers.
Pete and Roger are seemingly unafraid to talk about age. Other rockers of their generation rarely (if ever) break the taboo of rock and age mixed together. With the two original members constantly joking about it (as well as NOT trying to dress young and hip) it makes the whole thing comfortable. It also shows the boldness they have; to be who they are, how they are, what they are. Pete noted that many people weren’t born in time for many of these songs, and also proclaimed that for the older fans, wheelchairs and nurses would be available to assist them out after the show! Long Live Rock!
Speaking of age – many will have noted the talk about a “final tour” here. It’s been discussed at press conferences and onstage, although the official billing doesn’t seem to mention it. From what we have heard, there are no official plans to abandon all live performance, but long world-wide tours like this would be over after this run which may continue through 2016 worldwide. Others have complained about seeing the “Farewell” tour of 1982, but have seemed to have forgotten the meaning of that word – a word expressing good wishes on parting, or marking a departure. As heard in the famous Sound Of Music song: “So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight!” does not mean the Von Trapp children will never return!The WHO did indeed stay away for most of the next decade or more, only touring in 1989 and 1996/97 until a reformation began fully in 1999.
A sign on the Barclays backstage wall cautioned that there should be no more than 23,880 people in the building at one time. Certainly, we were far under that, and the promoter assured us that typically a concert setting can hold up to 18,000 but most shows have far less due to seating and staging placement. As the room really was intended for basketball, we are told that it’s acoustically designed to make the sound louder and surround you. When cheering started, it seemed true – the sound does surround you, and bounces back nearly as loudly as it is sent out.
At the end of the strong Brooklyn set, two kids down front had been asking for something – and Roger obliged by handing them two of his tambourines. Hopefully they’ll be treasured, as those rarely leave in the hands of the fans.
As Roger left the stage, someone tossed a pink bra up, which he picked up and laughed about a bit – although her number was inked inside, he left it behind; sorry, dear!