TAMPA, FL – Amalie Arena – Wed Apr 15, 2015:
First show in the USA, and our second tour in a row to start in Florida. ‘First shows’ are often a bit rough. However, this one was an exception, as the band’s been on tour recently, having done a string of UK dates and some very recent make-up shows at the huge O2 Arena in London. Therefore, not much rehearsal was needed, and the band hit the stage in fine form. What was unexpected was such an incredible audience reaction, which was a great boost for the show.
Starting at Joan Jett’s storming set (she has a looong history with The Who, more later…) the Tampa audience ended up singing along for good portions of her show, which is quite unusual for any opening act. It was a return to form tonight as Joan opened for The Who here on the 1982 tour! We love Joan and her people, she’s got a really great team, and we’re really looking forward to sharing this tour with them.
Instantly, The Who felt the usual American energy (a bit loose and crazy) plus the Floridian wildness of this particular crowd. Throughout the show, there was greater response to each moment than we usually see.
Roger showed serious vocal powers at the recent O2 shows, and is maybe even stronger now in the USA. Pete had just returned from some sailing/racing adventures in Antigua (So he now has both a Gibson with a case and an even-tanned look on his face!) Both were in fine form, clearly feeding on the responsive crowd. Simon, Pino and Zak have done enough Who shows since 2002 to make a highly-functional machine. And with Frank, John and Loren constant since the 2012 Quad tour, everyone is comfortable with each other’s roles musically; there are no surprises here, which makes the shows more confident from the get-go.
VIP-ticket members are allowed into the band’s soundchecks the afternoon of each show. Previous to these last two tours, the band never did come early to check the gear and sound – they used to arrive and just play the concert. Now, time is given for the VIP soundcheck experience daily – which is wholly done to generate revenue for Teen Cancer America, and it is a significant amount of money raised – thanks to you VIPs! Each day, the band discuss and work out how to play certain moments: Unlike some staged events, this is very real. It’s a very candid and intimate thing, sometimes showing great affection, arguments, or musical discussions rarely seen by the public. And usually quite funny…
One would think that The Who know how to play these old songs perfectly by now; think again! They are still changing the versions almost daily – deciding between recorded, or “Live at Leeds” or later live versions of each tune – hoping for maximum effect that night. Yet, despite the rehearsal, this can still lead to confusion – as there are decidedly un-decided moments in pieces like the My Generation we heard tonight… as band members try to recall which version is being played this evening! Yet the Who are never worried by onstage trouble – they are competely the opposite of those who seek a “perfect” show. Wild and rough moments – are simply a moment of awakening; this is real, different than tomorrow’s show, and an opportunity to turn a bad thing into a great one – and they are always up for the challenge! And there will always be some higher and lower moments during any Who show…
Magic Bus – “For years and years people used to scream out for this song, and we would never play it” said Roger. Well, it’s in the set constantly now. This version moves fully into the old PYE Records single that inspired Pete to write the song – as Roger blows a dirty blues harp melody hard through the section.
Pino seems to have a new stronger bass sound, and more “up in the mix” which many fans have noted. It certainly helps drive the songs, as it’s always good to hear and feel what he does under the rest of it.
Pete made special mention of The Seeker tonight, one of the great non-hit songs in the set. It was written in right in nearby St. Petersburg, where his old schoolmate Tom Wright’s father lived. The stomping Slip Kid returns tonight, which the band had not rehearsed or played in some time, and it caught Pete a bit off-guard, but he and the others played well.
As the Quadrophenia tour covered the entire album, only a bit of Quad is currently played. Hard to pick just two, but I’m One goes into Love Reign…, a choice pair of tunes from that great album. The Tommy medley also climbed beautifully, especially the heavy Captain Walker segment leading into Sparks. John Coury’s excellent organ work really lifts the Tommy songs… swirling and bringing the church-ey feel that helps Tommy feel so spiritual and lifting.
Most enjoyably – Pete and Roger celebrated onstage the birthday of Bob Pridden; their Master of Sound since 1966! Very few bands are as loyal to their people, and Bob (who just turned 70) is proof. As Bob stood beaming from behind his mixing desk, the massive screen above showed a modification of the “WHO HITS 50!” logo that said “BOBBY HITS 70!” to great cheers.
All in all, Tampa was a fantastic night for the band and the audience. A strong beginning…