February 14, 2013
By Jeb Wright
I Am the Sea | The Real Me | Quadrophenia | Cut My Hair | The Punk and the Godfather | I'm One | The Dirty Jobs (Simon Townshend lead vocals) | Helpless Dancer | Is It in My Head? | I've Had Enough | 5:15 | Sea and Sand | Drowned | Bell Boy | Doctor Jimmy | The Rock | Love, Reign O'er Me
Who Are You | Behind Blue Eyes | Pinball Wizard | Baba O'Riley | Won't Get Fooled Again | Tea & Theatre
The Who took the stage in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the beautiful BOK Center, and proceeded to ‘wow’ the audience from the opening notes of their classic album Quadrophenia to the final acoustic pluck of the string of “Tea & Theatre.”
Sure, the Who has done Quadrophenia in it’s entirety before, but so what? This is a classic album, much stronger, beginning to end, than their other rock opera, Tommy. Pete Townshend’s epic is a grand masterpiece of concept album songwriting and on this night the Who stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park.
The band took the stage after a fun, and rousing performance from openers Vintage Trouble…think Al Green with a blues/rock band and you get the idea. They were a fun band, but would be much more effective in a smoky club than in a large arena.
The real show started with “I Am the Sea.” The graphics behind the stage featured a colorful ocean with crashing waves, as several other screens portrayed the band onstage, as well as filling the venue with vintage photos of the Who. “The Real Me” was a hit, as bass player Pino Palladino paid homage to John Entwistle with amazing low end runs.
Absent, due to illness, was drummer Zak Starkey. Replacing him was Roger Daltrey’s solo band drummer Scott Devours. This kid was playing like Keith Moon reincarnated. He bashed the skins and added tons of flavor to the show.
As Quadrophenia rambled on, some in the audience sat dumbfounded, as they probably didn’t realize what was happening. The hardcore fans, however, were eating up “Cut My Hair” and “The Punk and the Godfather.” By the time “I’m the One” came around, the crowd began waking up.
Pete’s brother, Simon Townshend, took over vocals for ”The Dirty Jobs” and delivered a spot on performance, just as he did when he jammed on several of his brother’s classic guitar licks.
The crowd got on their feel when the band went into “5:15.” The horns, guitars and vocals were all kickin’ on this classic gem. Even more special was John Entwistle appearing on the screen from beyond the grave and performing an amazing bass solo that featured his two hand tapping technique. He may be gone, but his musical legacy and his reputation as one of the fiercest bass players in the history of rock and roll will live on forever.
On “Bell Boy” Keith Moon came to life on the screens and sang the tune in his quirky, yet loveable way.
The most musical and powerful live moments of the Quadrophenia performance were “Doctor Jimmy,” “The Rock” and “Love, Reign O’er Me.” The video presentation and the light show enhanced the performance, but did not overtake it, making the music remain the most important part of the show.
After introducing the band members, drummer Scott Devours sitting in for the Zak Starkey, Simon Townshend on guitar and vocals, Pino Palladino on bass guitar, John Coury on keyboards, Loren Gold on keyboards and backing vocals, J. Greg Miller and Reggie Grisham on horns and Frank Simes on keyboards and backing vocals, the Who wasted no time in finishing the evening performing several of their most classic songs.
When “Who Are You” began the crowd cheered loudly. The song featured great musicianship and the crowd ate it up when Daltrey bashfully smiled and belted out his famous, “Who the fuck are you?”
“Behind Blue Eyes” and “Pinball Wizard” kept the momentum going, but when “Baba O'Riley and “Won't Get Fooled Again” were performed, back to back, the energy in the event center reached an all time high.
Roger allowed the crowd to sing a few verses and choruses during “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and at the end of the tune, when he nailed the famous scream, the crowd responded with one of the evenings many standing O’s.
After the energetic song, Daltrey addressed the crowd and said, “Tulsa, Oklahoma…right in the middle of the America. What the fuck is wrong with you people? It is flat here and it gets really hot…why do you live here? I can tell you this, you love to rock and you’re a great crowd.” Laughter and applause ended the set of classic hits.
The band left the stage, leaving only Daltrey and Townshend behind. Pete strapped on an acoustic guitar and the duo performed the poignant “Tea & Theatre” from the band’s last studio effort, Endless Wire.
As Daltrey sang the bittersweet song, he held in his hand a Who mug, presumable full of tea, as he and Pete made eye contact and had many smiles during the tune. The two rock icons then walked arm in arm, kicking their legs and smiling, as they left the stage.
The Who are one of the most important rock bands of all time. This evening’s performance was masterful and magical. Sure, age has taken a toll on the vocals of Daltrey, but, by and large, he made it through the show no worse for ware. Pete Townshend, whose vocals are gruffer than when he was a youth, still sounds and plays amazing.
While Moonie and the OX are no longer among the living, Daltrey and Townshend did all they could to make sure their spirit, as well as the spirit of the Who, came alive in Tulsa, Oklahoma on this very special Valentine’s Day performance.
The bottom line is go see this show if it comes to your area, as the Who are not only one of the most iconic rock bands to ever grace the stage, they are living legends performing their unique blend of music at a masterful level. The fact that we get Quadrophenia in it’s entirety is just sweet bonus.
Check out all tour dates at http://thewho.com/tour