Rosemont/Chicago IL – Allstate Arena – May 13, 2015
The famous “music cities” of America are well-known; Detroit, Nashville, Los Angeles, NYC, San Francisco. But the Chicago area (certainly known for its namesake blues) ought to be better-known as one the true greats. For nearly 100 years, the city was a great source of mail-order catalog musical instruments, as Chicago’s location made it ideal for products that shipped by rail and boat all across America. Those catalogs were the amazon.com and the ebay of commerce in the late 1800s and early 1900s, so Sears/Silvertone guitars and accordions, Lyon and Healy pianos, Montgomery Ward band instruments – all came from Chicago. Poor Southern blues artists were sometimes owners of a cheap Stella guitar from a catalog – like Muddy Waters.
Aside from London (where a young WHO would start their career), Chicago seems to have been the site of more WHO shows and solo concerts than almost any other city in the world. The VIP ticket holders get to watch our soundcheck, and today this was a large group. Unknown to them, they would be treated to an extra-special experience today, as we were rehearsing for tomorrow’s special Teenage Cancer America charity event. In addition to The WHO’s normal band, guests Eddie Vedder, Joe Walsh, Rick Nielsen and Joan Jett were here working on songs with the band. You never know what will happen during a VIP pre-show event, this one included not only the special guests working on things, but a full WHO rehearsal too.
Even though the coming show needed rehearsal, Roger was kind to point out we were infringing on Joan Jett’s setup time for the main show. Most headlining acts don’t care about their support bands; in fact, it’s common to see many artists treat opening acts badly, not wanting to be “upstaged.” Not true for The WHO – who want the audience to have a great time all night long. For the same reason, Joan is allowed use of the large video screens during her show – something many headliners would forbid. She and her people are great, it’s a total pleasure to have them around.
Then the main event: The Allstate Arena has been the site of quite a few past concerts, and it’s a huge, wide space – great for sightlines of the band and the audience. Plus, it sounds good!! Starting with Joan Jett’s band set, most people were on their feet, singing along and having a great time. This boded well for The WHO set coming up…
We needed a strong show tonight, to help us all past the interruption of a week ago. Pete started by literally leaping onstage, and the night continued to be a healthy one. Energized by all the good musical energy of the rehearsals, the band played really well. Roger still looking really cool with his slight beard, it’s a good rough look.
We miss a few of the older tracks, like ‘Pictures of Lily’ and ‘So Sad About Us’, but it’s wonderful to have ‘Bargain’ back in the set. A classic track from ‘Who’s Next’ which disguises a pure spiritual quest inside a muscular and powerful rocker. Chicago loves to sing, and this chorus was the perfect example. It was a good reminder that a sports event and a rock concert are one of the few times you’re allowed (even encouraged) to go crazy in public; it’s ok, good group therapy.
Lots of young people at the show today, especially groups of young girls having a great evening out together. Always cool to see the mix we get – families with kids in WHO shirts, couples of all ages, groups of teens coming along together.
At one point, Roger pointed out that someone was smoking pot in front of him. No, Pete said, it was someone near HIS side. They both felt they were right – so Pete asked whoever was indeed smoking pot to please raise their hand. (It seemed to be a few more than two…) Roger soldiered on. Pete said that the afternoon rehearsal seemed to bother him in a different way – the volume of the OTHER guitarists was almost too much for him. He claimed he’s not loud anymore. Roger agreed (a noted rarity!) and Pete explained that he’d also just taken a “couple of tablets” of something and so now he felt much better – right into ‘You Better You Bet’.
Watching from the side of the stage were Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, Joan Jett (one of the very first Cheap Trick fans in the world, true…) and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, all rocking out and taking photos like the rest of the crowd. The surprise moment of the night was Eddie, a really close friend of The WHO, who emerged onstage to a huge ovation toward the end of the show. The band launched into ‘The Real Me’, and the place erupted. Look for it online somewhere, it was indeed a great moment. Not to be topped, the band climaxed even higher with ‘Won’t Get Fooled’ and ‘Baba O’…
See you tomorrow, we hope, for the extra-special Chicago event… and for a good cause; Teen Cancer America.