Chicago Now, 27-06-2018
It was the summer of 1971. The Who's anthem "Won't Be Fooled Again" started getting play on FM radio. I've loved this song from the first hearing til now. It would be in my top ten all-time favorite songs. I wanted and needed to hear the album it was on.
At the time, I was living in Highland Park, Illinois so I headed to a record store in nearby Highwood to pick up the album. The owner told me it hadn't been released and he wasn't sure of the drop date...although that term was still decades from being used. So like the obsessive eighteen year old that I was, I went to that store every day. Even though I became friendly with the owner, he must have got sick of seeing me in his store, not buying anything and asking the same question. It turned into "Howie, I'll call you as soon as it comes in. I promise. You'll be the first one. See you then."
Okay, okay...I get the hint. A few weeks later, I get the call.
I borrow my dad's car. Drive to the store. Give the man some money (less than five bucks) and the classic album "Who's Next" is mine!
Next stop is Skokie, about a half hour away to listen to the record with some friends. I'm driving on the Eden's Expressway, going about seventy MPH, when a wheel flies off the car. Not a tire being blown. The entire wheel is bouncing down the highway. I'm trying to control the car, watch where the wheel is going and thinking "Fuck!! I'm never going to get to hear this album."
Well kids, it's forty-seven years later. Since you're reading this, you probably have figured out that I've survived and yeah, I did get to hear the album....just a couple of hours later than planned.....and loved it. Every. Single. Song.
I was a big fan of The Who before this but this was the record that locked that fandom in deep. I'm guessing that I've heard the record more than two hundred times over the last four-plus decades and it just doesn't get old for me. It's still one of my go to albums.
As for The Who themselves, I admit I gave up on them awhile ago. Keith Moon died in 1978. John Entwistle died in 2002. Sure Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey were still around but I moved on without them.
In 2012, The Who toured doing the rock opera album "Quadrophenia." I passed. Not that interested. In 2016, they played in Milwaukee. Again, I passed. I've heard from friends that both of the shows were sensational. Maybe it was time to get back with Pete, Roger and the new boys.
I have since seen concert videos of The Who in London and also at the Desert Trip concert (yanno the weekend with the old people's bands/music/concert goers). Both were brilliant. The music and the stage show rocked. The musicians that have replaced Keith and John are awesome. They include Simon Townshend (Pete's bro) and Zak Starkey (Ringo's son).
No more passing up these dudes when they come to my town.
That finally leads us to last night's show.
Roger Daltrey decided that he wanted to tour again. He's on the road doing their original rock opera, "Tommy." Peter Townshend is not on this tour. It's said he's taking a year off but the rest of the new Who band is there and they're playing with a full orchestra behind them. The concert brings a circle together for me. They're doing two shows at Ravinia, in Highland Park...my old home town.
"Tommy" is far from my favorite piece of music in "The Who" catalog; but it's either seeing that or nothing. It's that!!! Let's get to the show itself:
We start with Daltrey, himself. He's been at it for more than fifty years. Five-plus decades of singing, screaming and being on the road. Considering all of that, he sounds great. Sure his voice isn't what it used to be but whose is? He also looks pretty damn good for age seventy-four. He's still doing that swinging microphone cord trick and again it's not as good as it used to be, but it's good enough. Plus for a guy who can't hear much anymore, he's still on key. Amazing how he does that. And oh yeah, he remembers all the words. There's a lot to be said for that.
Next comes the music. IT'S LOUD!!! More on that in a bit.
This band is brilliant. Don't tell anyone I said this, but Zak Starkey may be a better drummer than his dad. He's not Keith Moon but even Roger and Pete say he's the best fit for The Who since Moon died. (Btw, can you believe Ringo's little boy is fifty-two years old?) Simon Townshend isn't his brother but he does a great job doing filling in those guitar and vocal parts.
I loved the combination of a full orchestra working with the rock band. The sound was luscious and filled up the theater. You could really hear it in the opening "Overture." The next highlight and my favorite song in "Tommy" was Townshend's version of "The Acid Queen." Towards the end comes a great version of "I'm Free" followed by the finale of "We're Not Gonna Take It", which got the entire crowd up on their feet.
The performance of "Tommy" takes about seventy-five minutes, so there's time for a few more songs. They finish with classics "Who Are You" and Baba O'Reilly", which keeps the audience on their feet. It becomes an singalong "Teenage wasteland....and I'm wasted."
The final song is from Daltrey's upcoming album, "Always Heading Home." And then the audience did head home.
Let's chat about the audience for a bit....it looked like they were involved and liked the show but rarely did they get to their feet until the end. Yeah, there was the one guy who stood for "Pinball Wizzard" but it was only one guy. C'mon man, standing for that song....amateur.
Next was the guy who said to his friend, "Do you think it's a little loud?" I hate to say this but that guy was ME!! I love loud music and yeah this was a loud concert. It's the type of music that you turn up the sound as loud as you can stand it. There's a saying that says "if it's too loud, you're too old." After Monday night, I sadly need to reevaluate this.
Then, as we were walking out, a few people were singing "Who Are You", which is a song written about The Sex Pistols. They We were singing the part that goes "Who the fuck are you?" and the question was asked if this was the first time anyone dropped an F-bomb at Ravinia. Hmmm....no idea of the answer to that question but keep in mind that Janis Joplin played at Ravinia in 1970. Just sayin'.
All in all, a pretty great night at Ravinia. Great weather, great music, great company. If this show comes to your town, go see it. I look forward to when Pete rejoins his compadres and and they play some more classic music. I'll try not to complain about the noise level.