The Who Bring their Legendary Rock ‘N’ Roll to San Diego

Review and Photos by Brady Cooling

The Who have been my favorite band for as long as I have been listening to music. The original four (Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Keith Moon and John Entwistle) are some of the best at their craft imaginable. They embody the term ‘rock star’ and the epitome of the rock and roll phenomenon that swept the world in the Sixties and still lasts to this day. Their raw energy, lyrics, rock opera thematics, and pure musicianship has stood the test of time 50+ years later.

In what may be one of their last huge global tours, The Who embarked on their “Moving On” tour and hit sunny San Diego at the Viejas Arena. The idea for them having a full local orchestra at each show to accompany their music was developed from Roger Daltrey’s tour last year that had a similar concept. The orchestra added so much extra sound and layers to their already multi-leveled sound. The fact that each orchestra on the tour is local certainly strengthens the tie in with the local music community.

After Liam Gallagher from Oasis opened the show, the nearly three hour set from The Who was broken into three distinct groups. The first being songs from Tommy such as “Overture”, “1921”, “Amazing Journey”, “Sparks”, “Pinball Wizard” and “We’re Not Gonna Take it.” This first set was a masterful opening to the show with impressive instrumental interludes, moments of tension and soul with the backing of the SD Symphony Orchestra keeping the backbeat and adding depth to the music. It was such a beautiful display of musicianship with unique renditions of the classic songs at played different tempos.

Some of their new material was on display as well, including from their cleverly-entitled Who album to be released December 6th. Newer compositions included “Ball and Chain” and “Hero Ground Zero”. Neither of these songs took away from the flow and nostalgia of their entire set, and it actually augmented and enhanced  the entire experience. The quality of the originals proves this band has not lost a step five decades after they originally formed.

Their second set just included the band with no orchestra accompaniment. It was a wonderful way to see the band onstage bringing an old school and intimate feeling to it to the multi-pronged set dynamic. Running through classics such as “Substitute”, “I Can See For Miles”, “You Better You Bet” brought fans to their feet at every turn. One of the highlights was just Daltrey and Townshend on acoustic guitar doing “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” This was a moving display of the skill set of these two and their range and ultimately how well their voices and playing complement each other. The crowd was on the edge of their seats and sang along to every word, fully engaged. As the band went into “Wont Get Fooled Again,” a small orchestral piece came in to join the fun.

The final set featured material from Quadrophenia such as “The Real Me,” “I’m One”, “5:15,” “The Rock,” and “Love Reign O’er Me” with a full orchestra coming back for this portion as well. The show closed with their arguably most famous track “Baba O’Riley.” The synthesizing music in front of the orchestra gave such a beautiful version of this truly timeless track. It is difficult to express enough how impressive the orchestra sounded with The Who’s catalog. It would be interesting to see the band do the same set with or without one and compare, but it really augmented the entire experience in an itinerary positive way.

I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to see and nonetheless shoot and write these words about my favorite band, The Who. This whole experience is one of my favorite shows I’ve ever seen, and one that will be in my memory for years to come. The Who will stand the test of time, and seeing the diversity among this crowd shows their music will live on forever. Children taking their parents to this show, who most likely may have had the reverse happen years ago, and parents taking younger kids for their first time as well. Such a beautiful thing to see in any crowd and concert.

Long live rock and roll and The Who!

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