The Who Cause a Big Sensation with Symphonic Show

The Who at Rogers Arena, 10/21/19Photo by Peter Ruttan

The Who join the ever-growing list of 70’s rock icons whose post-farewell-tour careers seem to last longer than most bands entire lifespans. After witnessing their two-and-a-half-hour symphonic performance on Monday, October 21 at Rogers Arena, it’s clear why: they rock like it’s their generation.

The Moving On! tour, which will be wrapping a 29-city tour at the Hollywood Bowl on October 24th, was as unique as it was nostalgic. Lead singer Roger Daltrey and lead guitarist Pete Townshend, the two remaining members of the original lineup, provided the crowd with a healthy dose of classic hits, windmill guitar playing, and enough energy to make you forget the pair have been touring since the early ’60s.

Part of what made the experience special was the accompaniment of a full orchestra for most of the show. The evening opened with a selection of songs from the classic concept album Tommy, including classics like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “Pinball Wizard.” Die-hard Who fans were treated to some orchestra-free alone time with the band, and even an intimate moment with Daltrey and Townshend sharing the stage for a stripped-down version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Photos: The Who : Moving On Tour | Rogers Arena
Photo by Peter Ruttan

Townshend’s effortless charm made for quality banter and storytelling between songs. At times it felt like you were in your own living room listening to an old friend, not just one of thousands sitting in a stadium. He shared a number of memories about playing with Hendrix, or the after-show antics the band used to get into. One of the more compelling elements was the duo’s unabashed admittance that they were getting older. Townshend admitted that his post-show ritual now consisted of a warm bath and a good crime novel.

Fans were treated to an unexpected mid-show visit from none other than Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam has made no secret of the band’s admiration for The Who, frequently covering songs like “Baba O’Riley” at their live shows. Vedder and Daltrey belted out a high energy tag-team rendition of “The Punk and the Godfather.”

Photo by Peter Ruttan

While it’s apparent that age has brought on certain limitations, (perhaps that’s why no Stratocasters were harmed during the production) the pair’s humorous acknowledgment of that fact made it feel more like a blessing than a curse. Despite both being in their mid-seventies, Daltrey’s voice remained relatively unshaken after years of abuse, and Townshend’s guitar solos were as frantic as ever.

The supporting band, which included Townshend’s brother Simon, was excellent. Of note was drummer Zak Starkey who did an impressive job filling the exceptionally large shoes left by the legendary Keith Moon. The vocal highlight came towards the end of the concert when Daltrey belted out the classic “Love, Reign o’er Me,” arguably the most vocally demanding in their catalogue, resulting in a hard-earned standing ovation.

You can check out The Who’s first album in thirteen years titled Who, which drops December 6, 2019. You can give it a listen whether you’re new to the band or a decades-long fan. Or, as Townsend suggested, “the millennials can buy it for their grandfathers.”