Friday night, October 11, 2019, legendary British rock band, The Who, reinvented themselves once again, this time with a full orchestra, still lots of passion and a loyal fan base that continues to carry the band into their mid-70’s, on what was the first of 3 nights at the historic Hollywood Bowl.
When it was first announced that The Who were going to be playing with an orchestra and using electronic drums, many in social media sites were not happy, many still can’t get over that fact that The Who and its music had to reinvent itself and evolve after the death of original drummer Keith Moon in 1978, and again after the death of bassist John Entwistle in 2002; now Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend continue to evolve as a live band and in the studio as they had been working on their upcoming studio album, but for the capacity crowd at the Hollywood Bowl, none of that mattered as the band received a standing ovation after the Tommy section of the show, they were mesmerized by the acoustic songs, they rocked when they played without the orchestra and were in awe again when the orchestra returned for the Quadrophenia section and if Pete had not said anything about the electronic drums, I doubt many in the crowd would have noticed the difference.
After a disappointingly short, but well received set by former Oasis front man, Liam Gallagher, The Who faithful were more than ready for the band to hit the stage and they did so with full force as they began the show with the overture to Tommy followed by 6 more selections from the 1969 rock opera, which included the classics “Pinball Wizard and “See Me Feel Me”.
Many were worried that having an orchestra might tame the strength of the music; but on the contrary, the orchestral arrangements elevated the music to heights that a 4-piece band (vocals, guitars, bass & drums) could never have achieved.
After the Tommy section, the band played a few more numbers with the orchestra which included “Who Are You”, a funky “Eminence Front” and an updated, beautiful and passionate version of the rarely played “Imagine A Man”.
With a new album coming out in November, Pete Townshend joked that this would be the cue for anyone who needed to go to the restroom, he said: "we don’t mind, we know how it is with new songs…” and when they played “Hero Ground Zero” and “Ball and Chain”, some people took Pete at his word, but the majority enjoyed the two new songs, which sound a lot more like the old Who than any of the songs on their previous album, Endless Wire.
At mid set, the orchestra left the stage and Pete announced that they were going to pretend to be the band they used to be and the band went into raucous versions of “The Kids Are Alright”, “Substitute” and “You Better You Bet” followed by an acoustic version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” performed just by Pete and Roger on stage.
As the orchestra came back, they launched into the Quadrophenia set which included a powerful version of “The Real Me”, an acoustic “I’m One” and magnificent versions of “The Rock” and “Love Reign O’er Me” and after band presentations, the band and orchestra went into the closing song, a brilliant rendition of “Baba O’Reilly”, for which the classic synthesizer part was masterfully elevated to another level by the orchestra and the ending was nothing less than spectacular with Katie Jacoby’s violin performance.
Watching Roger and Pete on stage, it is hard to believe that they are both in their mid-70’s, Roger may not be able to hit all the high notes anymore, but his voice Is still a force to be reckoned with, Pete is still windmillling like it was 1966 and the rest of the bank, which includes, Pete’s younger brother, Simon on rhythm guitar; Ringo Star’s son, Zak Starkey on drums; Loren Gold on keyboards; Jon Button on bass, Billy Nicholls on backing vocals and Katie Jacoby on violin, gave the music an urgency and strength that could be felt even in the last row of the gigantic Hollywood Bowl.
After a second show on Sunday night, The Who will return to the Hollywood Bowl for a third show October 24, 2019. The Houston, Dallas and Denver shows that were postponed due to Roger Daltrey’s bout with bronchitis, will be rescheduled when The Who come back to the U.S. next spring to play the New Orleans Jazz Festival and I just hope they add some more west coast shows
at that time.