June 14, 2016 – ZENITH – Toulouse, France
Toulouse is beautiful, Southern end of France, legendary for food and relaxed living. The perfect place for a WHO show… Our last show in France was in Paris (also called Zenith!) just following the Hyde Park concert. Back then, Paris was a sweltering hot night in a non-airconditioned building. Not likely tonight; it’s a proper modern venue and a sense of normalcy compared to the last three shows we’ve played. It’s a smallish room and quite a contrast to these huge Festival audiences which have tens of thousands.
Most-notable today was… the soundcheck! Although we don’t have a VIP event at these shows, the band still want to do soundcheck. Today, without an audience to see, the band turned in probably a world-record soundcheck, as it became more of a rehearsal/band discussion that has been seen before.
In fact, the next 90 minutes were spent analyzing, reworking, and playing songs for the show. Nine songs total were run through, some several times, others only partially completed. “My Generation” – you’d think by now they know how to play it? Not so, as it evolved over time. They tried to move it back toward the original style – Pete even mentioned he’d used a guitar tuned down to “D” for the end part on the original record. This was tried, but didn’t work as well as hoped. “I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute” were attacked; the band had inserted these old standby tunes into the setlist to please a more general audience, pulling back on things like “Pictures of Lily” as too obscure. A transition between the two songs was invented, something unique for the show tonight…
Roger left toward the end of soundcheck, saving his voice as the players worked on. He missed a few things they did, which affected the show later on. Anyhow, the band is not “just phoning it in;” they pay attention to the performances and seek to better they show when/where they can. It’s a good sign, and one of the reasons the shows still have fire and power – each show is still an attempt to maximize the moment.
Our opening act today? Simon Townshend! Our very own, and he did well – the audience seemed to love it. Many people have discovered Simon’s music over the years, it’s quite recommendable if you’re a WHO fan; he has a great sense of pop and rock writing. Maybe it’s in the family genetic makeup?
The band came out and launched into “Can’t Explain” – the opener on so many WHO shows, but not very often on this tour. Roger had missed part of the rehearsed changes, and the band didn’t realize, so there were some odd moments of confusion that then went in unusual directions and left some puzzled looks on their faces. French audiences are not known as a sing-along type, but they were for this show: The classic songs like “Join Together” and “Who Are You” bring out that feature in nearly every crowd we meet.
Late in the show, a power failure onstage affected keyboards and rhythm guitar. As soon as it happened, Binky (Roger and Simon’s guitar technician) ran out onto the stage to sort out the problem. Standing beside Simon Townshend as the band played on, Binky was looking for clues as to what had happened. Meanwhile, Mr. Daltrey came over to that side of the stage, singing to the crowd. Not knowing what was going on, Roger came over to the pair and pushed Binky right out of the way; so much for handling the emergency! Eventually it was found a circuit breaker had tripped and lost power to those amps and some keyboards.
The setlist was slightly trimmed, compared to some recent shows. “Acid Queen” was removed from the Tommy medley, however “The Rock” and “I’m One” were kept on as the deeper album material – and to give Roger a momentary break from constant lead vocal duties.
Someone threw a Union Jack flag onto the stage – Roger had it for a bit, then threw it back (he probably has his own.) All in all, a fine show, despite the issues. The band seemed to have fun, and the audience moreso!
PS – thanks to Anna Donarski and Michael Kaye for photos today.