THE WHO: MOVING ON! at FENWAY PARK
Concert Review by Clay N. Ferno
Photos - Jason Greenough of Snapcore Photography for Do617
"I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth" — “Substitute,” The Who
Midway through The Who: Moving On! at Fenway Park, lead singer Roger Daltrey—the vessel through which Pete Townshend's ideas are transformed from waveforms into a well-taped microphone with 55 years of experience in the taping part—declared that that line was the best line in rock’n’roll from his generation. It’s hard to argue with that sentiment, as that one line encapsulates everything. It describes the snark of Londoners in the 60s, straight through to the attitude of the punks that would come later. Partying Punks, Mods, and Rockers since have definitely been influenced by The Who's art school swagger and complicated antics of The Who’s Keith Moon and John Entwistle. Sadly, Moon and Entwistle weren't at Fenway Park on Friday; they're likely dumping Lincolns into pools in the afterlife while Entwistle is ordering custom shoes from some heavenly cobbler.
Regardless, this reviewer has fulfilled a lifelong dream by seeing The Who at Fenway Park, with Moon and Entwistle or not.
Zak Starkey, a man with a legacy, has been charged with recreating Moon's mathematically impossible fills to provide the backbeat, with bassist Jon Button filling out what "The Ox (Entwistle)" made sound like three or four other instruments at the same time! Pete's younger brother, Simon Townshend, also backs his brother up with another six-string. (Note that attempting to introduce the other dozens of musicians on the stage, though, would take some time)!
Pete Townshend took Quadrophenia to Tanglewood, MA in 2017, and Daltrey took Tommy there in 2018; continuing the tradition, he brought many of the same musicians with him to Fenway. While the weather was temperate and pleasant, the orchestra did need to take time to tune because of the cold that night. Violinist and musical director Katie Jacoby lead the violin solo in “Baba O’Riley," a moment in the concert so incredibly moving that a quiet took over. Soon enough, the sold-out Fenway crowd’s silence moved to gasps, and then to all-out cheers, as, in an arena like this, audiences are used to having their breath taken away by activities near the Green Monster. Keith Levenson is the conductor for the tour and Audrey Snyder is on Cello.
In the middle of the set, the band played 5 songs (including “Substitute”) without accompaniment from the other musicians; it was just the core members of the rock band, including Loren Gold on keys.
Below, please find the setlist courtesy of Setlist.Fm, a resource that, frankly, we couldn't make this review without!
As an art school kid myself, much like Pete, I spent my days only blocks away from Fenway at MassArt in the 90s; there, my friend Jeff brought me down the dark path toward an obsession with The Who. He handed me a well-worn copy of David Marsh's "Before I Get Old - The Story Of The Who" and, though failing academically, I read it cover-to-cover.
Jeff later explained the concept of Quadrophenia to me and I promptly did an impression of Jimmy with an oversized army coat that was handy for nicking and grabbed a copy of the Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B boxset from Tower on Newbury (along with a handful of other CDs).
We didn't have the beach or the sea, but we did have the MBTA, and a desire to go back to times that we wouldn't be able to without a time machine. We could never square being the 'Face' (because Mods were supposed to have worn the fashion of the time and it would be anachronistic to recreate the uniforms of the Mods vs Rockers without, of course, breaking the bank to be at the height of 90s fashion).
As friends, we eventually grew apart, but I still value that crash course in The Who he gave me more than the diploma I received. Years passed and Jeff started a band, wore a skinny tie, practiced out of a furniture store in Brockton. He was quite talented, probably still is, and we both grew out of our pop art obsession (in a way, but also in another way, it never really left me).
The days I struggled with addiction, drinking, and living dangerously were scored by “5:15” and imagining myself at the different points each of the distinct characters from the rock opera was in. I was always a fan of Tommy, but the punk in me needed Quadrophenia, and there were plenty of times I was out of my brain on the train or found myself sleeping where no man should.
But I digress...these are fleeting memories and we're here to talk about the show! Unusually, I'm also a fan of 80s-era The Who, where Pete was learning and mastering the then-new synth technology. “Eminence Front” was a highlight of the set, a not-so-deep cut, as it had lots of radio play from the days of The College of Classic Rock Knowledge". Still, it was moving to hear Roger and Pete sing the song with full orchestration; my ears hung on every syllable of the cocaine-fueled song about masking your true intentions.
The layered harmonies of this chorus always do something funny to me—I hear different words that aren't there, and I watched Pete's face on the monitor for every subtle change from the recordings I'm familiar with. It was amazing.
The last third of the show was filled with Quadrophenia tracks (I've bored you enough already) with full orchestration; it was nothing short of magical.
Roger took the time to thank the Massachusetts surgeon that got him his voice back and saving his life from the stage. Pete teased Roger about whether the doctor made the right call! His jokes, teasing his bandmate and business partner for 50+ years, made it seem like there is still a chasm between the two bandleaders, but one that, in their twilight, don’t need to be resolved. They get along just fine and that's all it needs to be!
Pete is still a master songwriter, and hours before they took the stage in Boston, they revealed their latest album is coming in November, entitled simply, WHO. They played “Hero Ground Zero” (and like in my college days, I anticipate staring at the lyric sheet on this one to see if there is a political message or another meaning) and released a decidedly political song, “Ball and Chain” with a pop art lyric video about Cuba, Guantanamo Bay, the prison there, and smoking cigars. This The Who song came out in 2019 but maybe could have been on 1978's Who Are You.
The Who: Moving On! at Fenway was a concert that I have been looking forward to for nearly 25 years and I still can’t believe it actually happened. I had always been jealous of my high school friends in their Dad’s faded Maximum R&B shirts, and I got a long sleeve with the former Detours Logo on it: Bullseye and all, with an arrow pointing toward my face, the face of a frontman that got all of his moves from Roger Daltrey and his idea of being a cool rebel from the musical genius of Pete Townshend. As someone that grew up in a suburb before moving to Boston proper in the 90s, I think maybe I, too, was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth.
He's right, that's the best lyric in rock.
Please enjoy this brand new The Who lyric video below for "Ball and Chain" from their forthcoming album WHO (November 22, 2019).
9/13/19 Set List - The Who Moving On! at Fenway Park
Photos: Jason Greenough of Snapcore Photography for Do617.