The Who Hits 50 (or so)
March 1, 2016, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Who’s “long good-bye” tour was extended even further when Roger Daltrey came down with viral meningitis last year, forcing all fall 2015 shows to be rescheduled for spring 2016. For my Toronto show, this meant attending a year and four months after I bought the tickets. So I think the Who were really hitting 52 or so…
But age is just a number, and Roger Daltrey’s changed to 72 on the day I saw him, March 1. They didn’t do anything especially special to mark that during the concert, other than mention it. And the fact he shared his birth date with “great Canadian” Justin Bieber (who turned 22). They then went on to dedicated “The Kids Are Alright” to Bieber.
The previous two Roger Daltrey / The Who shows I attended featured complete performances of Tommy and Quadrophenia, respectively. Much as I love both albums, it was fun to this time get more of run-through of their “greatest hits and B sides”. They came out swinging to “Who Are You,” then launched into “The Seeker” (which I suppose earns inclusion by being another CSI theme).
They then addressed the crowd, with Daltrey joking about this being yet another “final” concert for them (“but we’re back in April”) and Pete Townshend making this cheeky comment:
I don’t know about Roger but a lot of good women have happened to me in Toronto. And a lot of good men … quaffing a beer in a pub. That was 22 years ago now. Anyway, we love your city.Pete Townshend
They then featured a series of early singles that highlighted the great harmony vocals by their extended backup band. “My Generation” was especially fun, and played entirely without irony.
We got a bit of Lifehouse material then, with the expected (but gorgeous) “Behind Blue Eyes” and the more surprising “Bargain”. How did Daltrey handle the especially high note in that? Via backup band, crowd singalong, and… just hitting it himself, once. The singalong continued with “Join Together”, then we got the Face Dances hit, “You Better You Bet”.
Of course, there’s no ignoring the rock operas, and each got a mini-set. Townshend sang lead on “I’m One”, and that was followed with the instrumental “The Rock” (complete with the “world events” background from their Quadrophenia tour, only now extended to include Paris), giving Daltrey a rest before he launched into “Love Reign O’Er Me”. He totally nailed that one, following up the very high note at the end of that with a vocal fill down to the very low end of his register.
He got a standing ovation for that.
“Eminence Front” (first time I hear that live, I think) made a break before the Tommy set, that done in a rather excellent Live at Leeds fashion, featuring some serious microphone twirling.
The evening ended with the two-fer of “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The show was about two hours.
I had actually managed to get floor seats for this performance. As a not overly tall person, I wasn’t sure how that would be.
Fortunately, my view was not blocked, except by the occasional filming cell phone or raised beer. We were in the 27th row, dead center. It seemed to me the seats in the first 20 rows or so were actually set lower than ours, which helped. People in the section do tend to stand the entire time, which I didn’t overly mind, though I did take a little sitting break during “The Rock”.
Of course, there’s always the big screens, too, but being closer, I found I didn’t attend to those as much as the actual people on stage. And it seemed a bit harder to get a good feeling of the crowd when you can’t really see them around you so much, because you’re all on the same level. Nevertheless, I sensed that Toronto gave The Who the usual warm reception.
This was the set list:
- Who Are You
- The Seeker
- The Kids Are Alright
- I Can See for Miles
- My Generation
- Pictures of Lily
- Behind Blue Eyes
- Join Together
- You Better You Bet
- I’m One
- The Rock
- Love, Reign O’er Me
- Eminence Front
- Amazing Journey
- Pinball Wizard
- See Me, Feel Me
- Baba O’Riley
- Won’t Get Fooled Again