Palacio de los Deportes – MEXICO CITY, MEXICO
Oct. 12, 2016
WOW! This was the first-ever WHO concert in Mexico – that’s something to note right away, and significant enough in itself; a whole country of people who have not have the chance to see this band in-person.
¡THE WHO LLEGA A MÉXICO!
Imagine the devoted fans who have listened to radio, LPs, CDs and cassettes thousands of days of their lives. They’ve seen the film clips, DVDs and television broadcasts. And finally a night comes when you get to be IN the audience to see and hear it for yourself.
That’s gotta be some experience. What a luxury, but the experience of a first-time crowd is quite unique. We’ve seen it really once before, on the first WHO trip to Japan ten years ago: A wonderful mix of original 1960s teens grown up, right alongside modern teens and twenties.
We’d originally planned to be here in 2008, I believe, which was canceled due to Roger losing his voice. Sadly, those dates were not replaced, and so this night was a welcome sight listed between our few Fall dates. This show Sold-Out in record time; a capacity crowd of nearly 18,000! The floor was open concrete, and these General Admission tickets mean that the most die-hard fans will be down in front. That always brings better energy than just more-wealthy people seated all across the front. Tonight, the front rows earned their places, and it looks like they would not have missed it for the world.
This dome-shaped building was home for some of the Olympic Games in 1968. The seats around the floor are a perfect circular ring, covering about 270-degrees around the floor. There are multiple levels, as in most big arenas, but the notable difference was a massive chain-link fence separating upper and lower levels! They seem to have dealt with riots here before, and this will likely stop most rushes toward the front, at least at our show.
At soundcheck (yes, we did one) the sound was immensely echo-ing and boomy. Not a bad sound, as the band noted, just loose and cavernous to an extreme. “I’m feeling confused and dizzy” Pete said, to no one in particular, and laughed that people used to pay good money for that. Roger pointed out we’d all seen this situation before: The hard flat floor, the curved plastic seats, and the rounded roof were all reflective surfaces that would be obscured soon with warm bodies, soaking up much of the reverb we hear. (True, it did happen just as he said.) Not much can be done until then. One small worry: Mexico City is at a rather high altitude so oxygen is more scarce. It’s not really noticeable unless you’re doing something physically demanding. We had oxygen tanks on-hand, just in case, and Roger was feeling odd, thinking he might not make it through this one…
Then came nice surprises: As the audience filed in over the next 90 minutes, they kept yelling and cheering whenever anything came on the big screen pre-show slides. Normally, we’ll hear a cheer or three in an hour of slides. Tonight any damn thing set them off, which was a welcome relief; this crowd will be more than receptive. Second surprise; our opening act was none other than Simon Townshend, who performed a strong set that had the audience clapping along and cheering Simon along. His Spanish-language skills were remarkable. Well done, ST!
And then the big moment came. The house lights went out and BAM – the massive noise of this crowd drowned out any sense of normalcy. Music had not begun and it was already a HUGE response. What a great feeling for all (onstage and off) to have it start so well! Roger’s doubts were almost fully-erased immediately: It’s amazing what 18,000 faces showing “we love you!” can do for your well-being!
Pete stated clearly he would not attempt speaking any kind of Spanish tonight, and the crowd laughed and understood. “My Generation” had a longer ending, with lots of unexpected twists and turns. As you may know, extending the ending to this short song is a long WHO tradition. “Behind Blue Eyes” hit with hard power, maybe boosted by the loud singalong of the audience. “Join Together” was another singing success, and Pete applauded the audience after, “You did good! But a lot of you didn’t sing the right words. It’s not ‘Join Together IN the Band!’”
Without question, this audience was younger, although people of all ages were everywhere. But the common ground seemed to be those between 20 and 40, shoving aside any “old music” criticism of the Desert Fest bookending us this week. Without question, this show was “sold out to the max” with wall to wall humans, and many more outside wishing they could get it. No doubt we could have played many nights here with similar success.
“Amazing Journey” started the TOMMY set, to an audible “Ohhh!” from thousands of mouths. They don’t need to be told this is the Tommy music. And when the “Baba O” famous backing organ/synthesizer started up, the roar was undeniable – they’d been waiting for these moments for years. As this place was at a high altitude, making breathing, moving and singing a bit harder, Pete turned it around to a positive, saying “Thank you – We got HIGH in Mexico City!” as did about 18,000 people tonight. Pete also commended Roger particularly for making it through the show at the great altitude.
(A note from post-show: our merchandise booths were completely sold-out tonight. That’s incredible; the merchandise manager has only seen this happen twice before in his 30 years in the business. We were nearly sold out in Japan, where the average spender dropped $250 per person on merchandise! I guess it pays to not play…)
To show this night was special, something cool happened. After leaving the stage after “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the band returned for an encore (maybe the first I can recall since 2008 or so?) and played “Eminence Front” and “Substitute” to a clearly ecstatic crowd. After the show, some people asked our crew in front if this was normal – they were quite pleased to hear they’d earned such a lovely honor from their favorite band.
Wow! Such a great sight to see so many ecstatic faces, singing along to every word as if their life depended on it (maybe it has in some ways…) This is THEIR band, you could tell. It seemed cathartic to be in a give-and-take that was the perfect example of the long discussion of the band/crowd cycle.
This may be thought of as the music of certain years, born from certain locations far in England, but that cannot take away the fact that tonight’s music is really this audience’s OWN music, the music of this country and this time – The WHO simply brought it to them.
What a magic night.