Leading up to Wednesday’s Who concert at TD Garden, I wondered what kind of show we’d get. Like many, I felt a sense of declining energy from the band on recent tours. It’s somewhat understandable of course, with original members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend well into their 70’s.
Well, I’m happy to report, “The Kids are Alright.” Backed by a 48-piece orchestra, The Who was “full-on” Wednesday, May 18, rocking hard through a two-hour set. Daltrey’s voice was robust and effective, and Townshend’s guitar work was top-notch as always, complete with his signature windmill.
The core band was tight, an ensemble of veteran players including guitarist/backup singer Simon Townshend, keyboardist Loren Gold, second keyboardist Emily Marshall, bassist Jon Button, drummer Zak Starkey and backup vocalist Billy Nicholls. Behind the steady baton of Conductor Keith Levenson, the orchestra, (who appeared to have more fun than anyone), was comprised of touring musicians and local artists. Soloists Katie Jacoby (Violin) and Audrey Snyder (Cello) took center stage on more than one occasion.
The concert was loosely divided into three parts. The band opened with songs from the rock opera Tommy, backed by the full orchestra. They then moved into some of their greatest hits, and ended with the orchestra back on stage for selections from Quadrophenia, before the epic finale “Baba O’Riley.”
Highlights were numerous. The Tommy portion was well-orchestrated, peaking with “Pinball Wizard,” the crowd singing along word for word. The biggest hits appeared mid-show, featuring a boisterous “Who are You,” a supercharged “Relay” and the timeless classic “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” The selections from Quadrophenia that followed were equally strong. Predictable, engaging, and appreciated, especially after a two-year lockdown – many concert-goers were at their first large show since the pandemic began.
The night ended with a spirited sing-a-long. It was the eve of Pete Townshend’s birthday, so 15,000+ joined in for a rousing version of “Happy Birthday to You!”
Some random thoughts … as “My Generation” ages, many classic rock artists struggle to maintain relevance. And although The Who is best known for music released in the last century, these songs are undoubtedly still relevant. Tommy’s narrative of abuse could be taken from the headlines and Quadrophenia’s tales of teen angst and conflict never get old.
Sure, they’re old and not as nimble on stage and haven’t smashed any guitars in a long time, but Townshend can still wheel up a nice windmill or two and Daltrey can still shout “eeeYeahhh” louder and longer than most.
“Smile and grin at the changes all around …” The spirit of rock and roll has no age restrictions. No doubt, fans young, middle, and old went home satisfied. “Love Reign O’er Me” indeed.
Check out some photos of the show from WUN Lifestyle Editor/Music Critic Ken Abrams.