The Who have a new album coming out, their first in 13 years. They've been performing their Moving On! tour since the beginning of the year, and it highlights the spark that moved them to create new material. They performed at T-Mobile Park on October 19 after rescheduling a previously planned show, delivering a couple of the stellar new tracks from the eponymously titled "Who" as well as a fantastic bevy of songs across their vast catalog.
The stage was positioned just beyond 2nd base in the stadium, so virtually all of the seats felt relatively intimate for a stadium show. The band played much of the show with a full orchestra; many members were sourced from Seattle, with lead violinist Katie Jacoby and conductor Keith Levinson touring with the band.
The songs were grouped in sets primarily. The first portion featured tunes from "Tommy", with the orchestra leading the way on "Overture" as the band took the stage, and providing a key part of the sonic texture of classics "Pinball Wizard", "We're Not Gonna Take It", and "1921". Despite the roof on T-Mobile Park being closed to support the stage rigging (which partly hung from it), the crowd's voices must have been echoing in the surrounding blocks for the next tunes including "Who Are You" and "Eminence Front". The band introduced their first new song, "Hero Ground Zero", to a warm reception before the orchestra took a break.
Now it was just The Who for a bit. Today the lineup consists of original members Roger Daltrey on vocals and Pete Townshend on guitar and vocals, Pete's brother Simon Townshend on guitar, Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey on drums, keyboardist Loren Gold and bassist Jon Button. The punchy classics "Substitute", "I Can See For Miles" and "You Better You Bet" shifted the crowd into a higher gear. Roger and Pete then gave the audience a collective thrill with an acoustic version of "Won't Get Fooled Again" featuring just the two of them. A rising and falling "Behind Blue Eyes" featuring a beautiful string accompaniment of violin and cello came next, prefacing the return of the full orchestra.
With the stage once again full, first order of business was another new track, "Ball and Chain". The show then explored the magnificent "Quadrophenia" with the orchestra. The audience, in fine voice, supplemented the swell of the music on "The Real Me" and "I'm One" before Eddie Vedder joined The Who in a leather Union Jack jacket for "The Punk and The Godfather" in 3-part harmony.
Pete Townshend windmilling on his guitar and Roger Daltrey swinging the microphone high and far, the band tore into "5:15" and "The Rock". The swell of strings on "Love Reign O'er Me" was sincerely moving, and served as the penultimate song of the night. Over two hours after it started, the show finished with a gigantic bombastic version of "Baba O'Reilly", complete with a note-perfect solo from Katie Jacoby on violin.
It's a gourmet feast to see this performance. Beautifully crafted, wonderfully curated, funny, warm, and - for those who know the words - a chance to sing along with thousands of others until you're hoarse and happy. If you have a chance, go see this show.
KEXP's Emily Slider reports on this rare treat of a show as a part of Town Hall's Global Rhythm Series