Newark –  Prudential Center

Saturday: Mar 19, 2016

Peter Townshend came strolling out onstage quite some time after Roger and the band; he’d stopped to chat with the managers at the edge of the stage, then handed a book for longtime soundman Bob Pridden on the way up – eventually ending up onstage as everyone waited. “I’m in no hurry…” he explained. It was true, and proven by playing the longest show of this tour leg.

Newark, New Jersey. It’s only across the water from NYC, so a lot of people have come here from there, or the boroughs or other parts of the area. The WHO haven’t played here much, in Newark, aside from one previous recent show and Roger’s solo tour. Small things matter: We were very excited to see custom M&Ms backstage with a WHO logo on them; we know it’s possible, but rare to see! This show was literally packed to the rafters; they’d even moved the stage back several feet this morning, to accommodate a few extra rows on the floor – which sold out very quickly. Hint for concert-goers anywhere: shows usually hold back a few seats that only go on sale the day of the show. Some are held so that the placement of the sound and light boards in the middle of the arena have room. Others on the sides near the stage are held until we can determine what sight-lines are blocked by the hanging sound system and lights: once in-the-clear; those seats go on sale the day of the show, usually mid-afternoon. This is true not only for the WHO, but for most touring shows anywhere.)

Pete mentioned his fond memories of the nearby Capitol Theater in Passaic. Of seeing local lad Bruce Springsteen right by the stage, absorbing it all. (Bruce came to sing with us last year, and told a long story about seeing The WHO at Atlantic City where it changed his life – the video is on YouTube of that speech.) Pete gave thanks to those who waited so long for this show to happen, despite the delays, and was glad to be celebrating their 51-year Anniversary – truly more correct than the continuing The Who Hits 50! tour still rolling since last year. “It’s The Who hits 51 and three-quarters or something!…”

‘The Real Me’ is probably one of the surprises of the set for most people It’s not a “hit” nor even a big radio song, but anyone who loves the Quadrophenia album must consider it one of the WHO’s top songs ever. Before the song, Pete lamented the demise of the “album format” that the band had lived through. He said he didn’t mean to lecture people on how it once was, as he himself uses a digital playlist of favorite tracks. But he warned that the days of having time to listen to a full album in sequence, especially if there was a story, are now gone. He felt that if Quadrophenia, as strong as it is, came out today – it would never have the following it does, and not reach as many people as it has.

Roger and Pete discussed what ‘Pictures of Lily’ was about, and Pete suggested it was something (unprintable) to do with Rihanna. He also noted having a feeling of becoming slightly ill during the show, and he’d asked for something to take. He held up the white medicine brought out, and said “One little pill!? They don’t know who I am!!!” to big laughs. He cautioned any children present not to deal with drugs, “or you may not live to be 70!” And these 70-year-olds seem to have quite strong life force going still. It’s great that Rog and Pete have no trouble mentioning their age, even making a joke of it nightly. I can’t think of another similar act who does (McCartney, The Stones, Clapton, Beck?) Unlike others who die their hair, wear wigs or leather pants (any tricks to seem younger), these two are very comfortable being who they are. It’s cooler to be real and still have power and sensitivity, a bit of healthy ego and a self-deprecating humour that balances it. This makes this a VERY good time to be a WHO fan; it’s not at all uncomfortable to be here, thinking of the past AND enjoying the now as much as possible.

Roger has been responding well to the audience sing-alongs, and mentions it’s such a great feeling to sing. Pete recalled being still awake at 5:30 am, and singing was one thing he felt would alleviate it. It simply makes you feel better.

‘I’m One’ came, as it does, as the start of the little Quadrophenia section. In the quiet acoustic part that essentially re-starts the song for the final verse, Pete kept repeating the guitar cycle over and over. He then told the audience this was a “Springsteen moment” – which immediately was greeted by hundreds of people chanting “Bruuuuuuce” (as you do) and then PT started singing a little like The Boss for a bit (who is now a good and close friend.)

As Roger introduced ‘The Rock’ as his favorite PT instrumental, Pete asked him to keep chatting, as he was going to change his current coat (a dark blue, with red plaid lining) to “my Maestro Jacket”; a gleaming-white dinner jacket with red silk kerchief in the pocket. Very natty, but Pete actually explained it was because his first jacket was already soaked with sweat.

‘Listening to You’ is always a strong moment at each show, the closer of Tommy, and for the new tour the audience is seen up on the biggest screen. A camera pans across the faces fairly close-up and you can see people’s excited grins as they point to themselves and nudge their neighbors to see that they are actually up there. As mentioned before, the shows were supposed to be 90 minutes. This one went close to 130 minutes as the jamming just kept going, both Roger and Pete thoroughly enjoying themselves. The end of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ completed, then Pete began another version, with slightly different parts and feel. It was weird, yet somewhat successful gift to extend the show, and certainly brought everyone (even the band) that feeling of newness and enjoyable strangeness.