Thirty years later, I got to see The Who again. Keith Moon is long gone, and John Entwhistle as well, but Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend are still having a go at it and performed their rock opera Quadrophenia in its entirety.
I have not been that high in the Schottenstein Center since Roger Waters did The Wall. This time, we were even higher, five rows from the back of the arena and no Sherpa guide to usher us to our seats.
After a friend linked to a band called Vintage Trouble performing on Letterman last year, I became an instant fan and was excited to see they were the opening act. They did not disappoint, doing a very high energy act and they won the entering crowd over with the strength of their hard R&B songs and the charisma of lead singer Ty Taylor, who gyrated and did spin moves their whole set. He even ran into the crowd on the arena floor to keep the joy going. The band exited through the crowd also, distributing high fives and making new fans along the way. In another move of marketing strength, the band did a meet and greet after The Who’s performance in the concourse. A savvy band you’ll be hearing more of.
After a short break the projection screens on top of and to the sides of the stage came to life and the strains of Quadrophenia were heard. All night long Daltrey’s voice was hit or miss. When he was on, he was on and rather good. The next verse though, he strained to maintain the flow. There were some cringe worthy moments but despite the inconsistencies Roger had the crowd on his side and they helped by singing along where he could not. Quadrophenia is tough to sing, Daltrey did not embarrass himself.
My respect for Pete Townshend increased a thousand fold. He was magnificent all night. No jumps but he windmilled all night and did more than a few guitar solos that absolutely shredded. He sang in a gruff staccato most of the night and sounded great, even if he had to read a lyric sheet off a music stand a few times to know where he was in the show. That said the one two punch of the Punk and the Godfather right into I’m One is one of the best live segues I’ve ever witnessed.
The band had some great support by Pino Pallodino several keyboardists and horn players and the amazing Zak Starkey on drums. Pete’s Brother Simon provided guitar support and sang a worthy rendition of the Dirty Jobs.
The band also paid tribute to Entwhistle and Moon by adding a projected bass solo that Starkey played along with nicely and a proud Daltrey watched as images of Moon were screened during Bell Boy. The staging was quite well done. One moment that was a bit odd for me was a historical montage during The Rock that had a climax with the explosion of the World Trade Center. An odd cheer came from the audience that had me a bit unsettled.
After Quadrophenia was finished, the audience was finally acknowledged, with Townshend introducing the band and saying, “We know times are hard, now we’re going to play some stuff.” As they broke into a ripping Who Are You, this was the first time in the evening I could see the band loosen up a little and smile.
After that it was Behind Blue Eyes, Baba O’Reilly and Won’t Get Fooled Again and that was it. In other shows they’ve played Pinball Wizard and closed with Tea and Theater, for some reason Columbus did not get those songs. For the length of the show there was little contact between Daltrey and Townshend that seemed to extend to the group bow at the end. I did not see Pete and Roger touch, this was as close as they got. Are they in a hate stage of their love/hate relationship this week?
Then Pete was off.
And the lights came up. Night over.