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Concert Review: The Who – Bell Centre, Montreal, November 20 2012

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The Who were one of the last remaining bands on my “To See” list. But, for some reason, I wasn’t going to catch them last night. Nevermind the fact that they haven’t played Montreal since 1973 (if my research is right), and that their planned 1989 concert at the Olympic Stadium was cancelled for lack of sales (my friend Phil and I had travel plans ready to go for that one). I’d decided to skip them. Why? I’m not a big fan of “Quadrophenia“, which is featured in its entirety on this tour. Despite the critical acclaim this album gets, I’ve always found it a little generic, with too few bright spots. I’m definitely more of a Tommy guy, and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Roger Daltrey play it last year. And, let’s face it, in 2012, The Who (or as they’re know in certain circles The Two) aren’t exactly the wild and dangerous band they once were, and are missing 2 important members (at least their main songwriter is still there).

For those reasons, I’d decided to skip this show. Until Monday, when a friend asked me “Are you guys free tomorrow? We’ve got free tickets for The Who”. That tipped the balance for me. (Thanks again Stephanie and Dom!)

During the day, I revisited Quadrophenia quickly, and found more to like that I used to (my last listening must have been in the early nineties!). Maybe I needed to re-assess my opinion of the album.

The stage was rather simple, with 3 giant circular screens alternating between historical footage (of major events or the band’s history) and the musician’s on stage. Townshend and Daltrey were backed by a very capable band featuring Pete’s brother Simon Townshend and Zak Starkey (Godson of the late Keith Moon, and son of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr). Pete Townshend was in fine form, not betraying his 67 years at all. His playing was sharp and precise (although his lead work is always a little sloppy) and he delighted the crowd with his trademark windmill moves. Roger Daltrey‘s voice isn’t as strong as it used to be, and he struggles at certain parts, but considering he’s 68, that’s not surprising. One of the nicest parts of the show was the presence, on screen and in the PA, of late members John Entwistle (for an amazing bass solo during 5:15) and Keith Moon who sang during Bell Boy. It was very well done from a technical standpoint, and a very touching gesture towards their fallen comrades.

The band went through Quadrophenia, culminating in the fan favourite “Love Reign O’er Me“. The crowd was into it, but reactions were subdued, especially compared to the DaltreyTommy” of last year. The band avoided the traditional “get off the stage while people cheer” setup for the encore (kudos for that), with Townshend presenting the band instead. They then kicked into a hit filled encore that featured crowd favourites like “Who Are You“, “Baba O’Riley“, “Pinball Wizard“, “Behind Blue Eyes” and of course, “Won’t Get Fooled Again“. As a coda, Daltrey and Townshend played “Tea & Theatre“, from their Endless Wire album.

Overall, I’d say it was an excellent show, despite the fact the Quadrophenia is not their most exciting material. Did this show change my mind about it? Yeah, in a way. I still prefer the deaf, dumb and blind kid, but I “get” Quadrophenia, and now enjoy it more than I did. And I can finally scratch The Who off of my must see list. True legends of rock, I’m so glad I didn’t miss this show. Who knows if they’ll tour again? For a band that once sang “I hope I die before I get old”, they’ve aged much more gracefully than you’d have expected. And they prove that growing old is done in your soul, not on a calendar.

Setlist

  • I Am the Sea
  • The Real Me
  • Quadrophenia
  • Cut My Hair
  • The Punk and the Godfather
  • I’m One
  • The Dirty Jobs
  • 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

Encore:

  • Who Are You
  • Behind Blue Eyes
  • Pinball Wizard
  • Baba O’Riley
  • Won’t Get Fooled Again
  • Tea & Theatre
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Editor-in-Chief
By day, Jean-Frédéric is Head of Development Services at videogame developer Behaviour Interactive. Rock journalist by night, Jean-Frédéric fills every waking moment of his life with music. Diary of a Music Addict is the little corner of the Internet he's claimed for himself to share his passion with the world. He's also a regular contributor at the excellent news site <a href="http://www.montrealrampage.com">Montreal Rampage</a>

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