9 May 2016
The Who Hits 50! Tour: SaskaTel Centre, Saskatoon, SK, May 6, 2016
Saskatoon is not a usual stop on tours for The Who. It’s a lovely town, situated among the very expansive prairies across Canada. When looking for previous shows in the area, we were unable to find something relevant. Until . . .
Our representative for the Teen Cancer America project forwarded an email that a longtime Who fan was donating her original memorabilia from the 1968 concert appearance in Saskatoon. She had kept the original promoter’s poster promoting the show, her ticket to the event, the 1968 tour programme, the local newspaper review – and her own photos taken from the front of the stage. The generous donor was Michelle Wilsdon, who brought the pieces in just before the show opening. Backstage, the crew and band were excited to get a look at the items. Longtime soundman Bob Pridden also took a look through the items, having been the only one (beside Rog and Pete) who had been there back in ’68.
We were able to get the pieces photographed for our slideshow on the big screens. The artefacts were put out on display at the TCA table where Simon Townshend meets and signs before each show, so many people were able to see them in-person.
Once onstage, Roger mentioned that Saskatoon had changed over the years “. . . just a bit!” (it is one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada.) They had memories of it as a simpler town back then, and they were traveling on a bus across the country. Certainly The Who have changed, too – some members gone, and the shows are longer than the 45 minutes they played back in 1968!
The room is an arena, the typical multipurpose hockey / basketball / concert venue of most major cities. This one, being a little more remote for us, was about half the size of the last few events. This is good, though, as the intimacy of the audience to the performers is generally a good thing. What one loses in size, it returns in intensity. As the band finished opener “Who Are You” this smallish crowd was as loud and enthusiastic as most of the other shows have been at the very end. Not an easy thing to do.
Without question, this was an unusual show. For the most part, it was still business as usual. But there were quite a few obvious slips; ‘The Kids Are Alright’ was started, and then stopped within a minute. Without much fanfare, it began again and then proceeded well through the end. During the song, some of the big screen behind the stage started blanking out as well, soon fixed by clambering video crew. No one can predict these unexpected faults live, but the least one can hope is that it’s fixed quickly.
Pete told the crowd that ‘My Generation’ was written when he was 18 years old. “I don’t know what my problem was then, but whatever it was – I don’t have it anymore.” Certainly ‘My Generation’ was one of the key songs in that previous Saskatoon show of 1968. Back then “when we finished it, we were finished!” said Pete – alluding to the destruction that concluded each show in those years.
‘You Better You Bet’ also proceeded along for a while – then was halted mid-song and restarted again, with better results. Again, an unusual night of odd happenings.
The recent massive fires in Alberta have certainly caused visible smoke in this area; we could even smell the fires that were hundreds of miles away. Some of us even had a bit of a cough from it, and it may have been part of why the show had some issues. Roger appeared to have some difficulties toward the end, and mentioned it to the audience. He thanked the crowd for hanging in with him, and the band (especially Pete) were pulling hard to make the show a big success anyway. It seemed to be, as both ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Wont’ Get Fooled Again’ received enormous noise from the crowd. Alan Rogan, Pete’s guitar tech, showed us the blood on Pete’s guitar as he put it away – certainly a sign of some exertion going on.
At the end, Roger announced the kind donation of the 1968 show momentos, and that they will be featuring them as a group, to be auctioned for the Teen Cancer America charity. Keep an eye out, it’s quite a cool set. (We’re sure they’ll welcome similar donations of cool Who things, if you have something that may help a worthy cause.)
Onward . . .
Tonight’s Set List
Who Are You
The Kids Are Alright
I Can See for Miles
Behind Blue Eyes
You Better You Bet
Love, Reign O’er Me
See Me, Feel Me
Won’t Get Fooled Again