Milwaukee – BMO Harris Bradley Center
Monday: Mar 21, 2016
It’s a notable aspect of the WHO that they are so casual about things. The band members stroll onstage slowly, check the gear, make noise, sometimes chat with the audience. You’ll note the stage set is a lot of amplifiers and equipment – all things to get the job done. (Some bands – or set designers – insist that no amps be seen, even water bottles and cups are not allowed!) It’s a lot like the Who Are You album cover; cables and cases. It’s a working band with working conditions, not a movie set or dance floor. On a typical night’s WHO show, you’ll see a number of the road crew members out onstage (mainly between songs, but often during songs) taking care of business. We generally don’t run (which looks bad and makes the band more nervous) as we do belong there. When something needs fixing, it gets done asap, the band don’t mind having a crew member walk out and handle a situation. Some of the crew are often sitting right behind the amps or the drumset during a song, to be closer to the action when it’s time to move. If you’re up on the sides of the stage, you’ll see this a lot clearer, a bird’s-eye view of the work we do.
1967 – Pete mentioned how the band always sought to “crack America” in the early days, to break into the market as a visiting English group, as few others had. Oddly enough, Happy Jack was the first “hit” in America, and in only one city – Ann Arbor, Michigan. Just after, I Can See for Miles came out and became the first widely-accepted WHO single.
Milwaukee brought out maybe the highest percentage of women for the show tonight. Not just wives and girlfriends coming along, but these were THE fans, singing all the words, wearing the shirts, etc. Nice to see, although oddly enough this was a show with almost no kids out there. Usually there’s a decent amount of kids of all ages, but this was the older crowd for sure.
The noisy set of fans off to the side of the stage yelling “Pete Pete Pete” amused Mr. Townshend a bit. He laughed and noted that in recovery programs he’d heard the phrase “Poor Pete, poor Pete, poor Pete – pour Pete another drink.” He dubbed that side of the crowd “the boys from the ‘hood” and noted they must be Irish. He thought they must be cops, or firemen, or… motorcycle makers! (a sly reference to the Harley Davidson factory of Milwaukee, who have a truly amazing museum we’ve been to several times.)
Soon enough, it was apparent that Pete was losing his voice. “Ah, we love the road!!” Roger exclaimed. “Yes,” Pete agreed “the rigours of the road. I get up at 3pm, have a cup of tea, come to the show, go back to the hotel and stay up til dawn… quite a normal life.” As it is, they have put in the years of hard road work. There are photos of the old band bus out there, a converted school van with webbed bunks for sleeping along the sides. Not so comfortable, and the schedule was much more punishing, with less reward. Things are better now, and they’ve earned it.
Still, that voice wasn’t behaving. Pete called for a cuppa of whatever Roger’s drinking. One crew member is (among many other things) in charge of tea and beverages for Roger. He brought out a cup for Pete soon enough, and it probably helped – a little. Going into I’m One, Pete mentioned that if it was Roger in equal shape, we would not have a show, his voice was that bad. He croaked (strongly) through the Quadrophenia acoustic guitar number. At the final verse of “I’ve got a Gibson, without a case” he sang instead “I’ve got a song, without a voice…”
Surprisingly enough, he also attempted Eminence Front soon after, although something could have been Substitute-ed (hint) in its place for Roger to sing. Still, the song went well as there’s a lot of new showy guitar happening in it nowadays. “Well done, Pete!” Roger threw in, seeing how he’d struggled to adapt his melodies to the new low voice. Pete commented that the It’s Hard album title wasn’t so much a pun or reference to anything naughty, it was just a HARD record to get made…
He noted the 1989 re-start of the band, “I think we even got better”. People do remember the highlights of the band’s career very well, but not all of it was so wonderful and strong, if one pays close attention, probably a lot of drama and issues the public may never see. Luckily, this year is one of the band’s best efforts, and ought to look quite good among the pages of History.
Many of us found out too late tonight was the birthday of our piano/organ player John Corey. Happy Birthday John!
Very funny ending tonight. Sometimes Won’t Get Fooled Again is extended, and today was no different. But the extra-ending itself evolves over nights, and Pete turned it into an unusual riff-rock section. At one point (he’d threatened it before) he started trading solo breaks with Pino Palladino on the bass, things not at all planned or rehearsed! This was not the usual, but refreshingly different.