The Who — Oklahoma City Paycom Center
Until Tuesday, I’d only seen The Who perform one time, way back in 1982, on their first final tour. My old man took me, and if he’d told me back then, “Dave, you’re going to see these guys again in 40 years,” I’d probably have silently chuckled, smiled and said I hope so. If dad had also told me that those guys, who seemed like old farts at the time to my invincible 12 year old self, would sound every bit as good as they had (stadium sound notwithstanding) that night way back when, I’d certainly have laughed in your face. Yet here we are. The Who brought their “The Who Hits Back” North American tour to Oklahoma City’s Paycom Center this week, and it was just about as perfect a night as it could have been, though I sure wish my old man could have been around to see it.
The Who’s current tour obviously features founding members, iconic rock and roll frontman Roger Daltry along with guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend touring with a full band comprised of, guitarist/backup singer Simon Townshend, keyboardist Loren Gold, second keyboardist Emily Marshall, bassist Jon Button, drummer Zak Starkey, and backing vocals by Billy Nicholls. Additionally, The Who are touring along with orchestra conductor Keith Levenson, principal violinist Katie Jacoby and principal cellist Audrey Snyder, and an orchestra of local musicians from each tour stop.
Using the word “Hits” in the name of your tour, well that creates a bit of an expectation doesn’t it?
A lot of bands just fail to live up to that expectation, but then again, The Who have never just been another band, right? Well, let me tell you, they nailed it. We got the Hits; hits from Tommy, Quadrophenia, Who’s Next and more. One after another, after another all night.
Even the newest song, “Ball and Chain” from the eponymous 2019 release, sounded “right” among all these heavy hitters. They played a standard set list, which seems reasonable considering the guest musicians, of 21 songs divided into three portions running just over two hours. Joining the already assembled orchestra, the band first delivered a brunt of Tommy with six songs beginning with the “Overture”, and concluding with “Pinball Wizard” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Continuing with the orchestra in this first portion, Daltry and Townshend delivered “Who Are You,” “Eminence Front,” the aforementioned “Ball and Chain” and a rousing “Join Together” before letting the orchestra take a well deserved break.
This next portion, comprised of just the touring band, delivered my personal highlight of the evening, “The Seeker.” It’s always been a favorite cut for me, and it was neat to hear Townshend talk about the rarity of the song in set lists over the years. “You Better You Bet” brought the audience to their feet, with a “Relay,” and a powerhouse “Won’t Get Fooled Again” wrapping up this finely executed middle segment.
The orchestra’s return was immediately rewarding, as Daltry delivered a powerful “Behind Blue Eyes” and followed with a soaring “The Real Me” before Townshend snuck a vocal in with a gritty “I’m One”. Pete and Simon’s harmonies on “I’m One” were just wonderful, sweet even and the song just got better and better. Roger followed with “5:15” for a Quadraphenia one-two punch that was another notable highlight of the show for me. The orchestra was simply sublime on “5:15,” rising to every epic peak of the song. Perhaps the best song of the night. Building on that energy, Townshend lead the ensemble through a lengthy “The Rock,” before Daltry’s “Love, Reign O’er Me” and the show ending “Baba O’Riley.”
Throughout the night I was blown away. Blown away with how good they sounded, and with how well they performed. These “old farts” as I referred to them all those years ago, are out here kicking ass right now. Townshend is 76, and Daltry 78. You can’t tell. They rocked hard all night. Townshend windmilled and sonically assaulted us when needed, while Daltry did what he does best, command your attention, swing a microphone and sing. Holy crap, the man can still sing. I wish I have a sliver of their energy when I’m officially an old fart myself. The Who will be touring the US into November with Daltry performing some solo dates in the UK in June and July. Don’t miss an opportunity to see this legendary band when they come close. Find out more information and all the tour dates here: https://www.thewho.com
Opening a handful of these southern dates was another old favorite of my Houston days, San Angelo Texas’ Los Lonely Boys. A trio of brothers, Los Lonely Boys is guitarist Henry Garza sharing vocals with JoJo Garza on bass and Ringo Garza on drums. Good ol’ Texican rock-n-roll. The band’s self titled debut came out during my record store days, and the boys played in H-Town a bunch. Always a good time, they’ve only managed to get better with age. I saw a couple of friends at the show, and both mentioned that they were pretty impressed with Los Lonely Boy’s set. If you love good bluesy guitar rock in the vein of SRV, you should check out more about Los Lonely Boys right here: https://loslonelyboys.com
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