Here’s Part 2 of my mini-series recalling musical highlights from the Live Aid concert that took place on July 13, 1985. Like in the first part, the footage in this post was all captured at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The next installment is going to feature clips from John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, the second stage of the music marathon.
One of Live Aid’s definitive moments was the performance by Queen. Freddie Mercury once again vividly illustrated he was a born live performer and showman, and the rest of the band was on fire as well. Here’s We Are the Champions, the closer of Queen’s mini set. Written by Mercury, the tune combined with We Will Rock You was the lead single of the band’s sixth studio album News of the World. Both appeared in October 1977, with the single predating the album by two weeks.
It kind of must have sucked having had to follow Freddie Mercury, especially after that performance. The Who, who had reunited for Live Aid following their breakup in December 1983, proofed they were up to challenge. Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and John Entwistle, together with Kenny Jones and John Bundrick on drums and keyboards, respectively, were in decent shape. Here’s the mighty Townshend-penned Love, Reign O’er Me from Quadrophenia, the sixth studio album by The Who released in October 1973. And, yep, the chap announcing them is Jack Nicholson, who I guess was so excited he literally read everything from a piece of paper. 🙂
Let’s wrap up this second part with some Elton John. Bennie and the Jets, composed by John with lyrics from Bernie Taupin, first appeared on his seventh studio album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road that came out in October 1973. The song was also released separately as the record’s third single in February 1974. Nice performance by John who had staged a comeback in 1983 with his great album Too Low for Zero, though seeing him without flashy glasses is unusual.
Every time I do another installment of this ongoing series, I’m amazed how many dates I still have left to cover. November 17 turned out to be one of them.
In case you see one of these posts for the first time, the idea is to highlight things that happened on a specific date throughout rock history. By no means are these posts meant to be a comprehensive list of events. Instead, I select stuff I find interesting, mainly focusing on the ’60s and ’70s, my two favorite music decades. With that little disclaimer being out of the way, let’s get to November 17!
1964:The Beatles recorded a session for the BBC radio program Top Gear, which at the time was still a new show that only had debuted four months earlier. In addition to an interview with host Brian Matthew, who by the way worked for the BBC for a whopping 63 years from 1954 until 2017, The Beatles recorded six songs: I’m A Loser, Honey Don’t, She’s A Woman, Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby, I’ll Follow The Sun and I Feel Fine. The program first aired on November 24, 1964. Except for I’ll Follow The Sun, all recordings from the show were included on the compilation album Live At The BBC released in November 1994. Here’s I Feel Fine, a song with a great guitar riff I’ve always dug. Credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the tune first appeared as the A-side of the band’s eighth single in the UK. The track hit no. 1 there, as well as in the U.S. and many other countries.
1966:The Beach Boys topped the UK Singles Chart with Good Vibrations, the first of only two no. 1 singles they scored in that country; the second one in 1968 was appropriately called Do It Again. Unlike these days where Britain makes lots of waves, I suppose back then the waters were calm and folks there didn’t care much about surfing and cruising in cars. While I enjoy The Beach Boys’ surfing and car songs, although they all sound very similar, it was always their fantastic harmony vocals that attracted me the most. If I could only choose one song, it would be Good Vibrations. Composed by Brian Williams with lyrics by Mike Love, the tune was recorded in Los Angeles at various studios over a two-month period. Songfacts notes the making of the complex track included 17 recording sessions and many top studio musicians, resulting in an approximate cost of $50,000, making it the most expensive pop song ever recorded when it came out. Widely recognized as one of the most important compositions and recordings of its time, Good Vibrations was ranked no. 6 on Rolling Stone’s500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2011 and included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
1971:Faces, an excellent British band that was always a bit undervalued compared to contemporaries like The Who and The Rolling Stones, released their third studio album A Nod’s As Good As a Wink… to a Blind Horse. Faces’ second record that year and their second to last album became their best-selling release worldwide, hitting no. 2 in the UK and no. 6 in the U.S. on the Billboard 200. The record also featured the band’s highest-charting single in the U.S.: The excellent Stay With Me, which reached no. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. The tune was co-written by Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood. I said it before and I’ll say it again: Stewart once was a smoking hot rocker!
1973:Quadrophenia, the sixth studio album by The Who, entered the British charts at no. 2, a position it held for another week. It was the band’s second rock opera after Tommy from May 1969. Among the record’s distinct features are Pete Townshend’s use of multi-track synthesizers and sound effects, as well as John Entwistle’s layered horn parts. While Quadrophenia was received positively in the UK and the U.S., the supporting tour was impactd by technical issues with taped backing tracks. These tapes provided the album’s instrumentation The Who could not replicate on stage. Perhaps foolishly, Roger Daltrey insisted that the band stick to their four-piece line-up and not add any supporting backing musicians. After various setbacks, the tour ended early in February 1974 . It would take 22 years before Quadrophenia was revived as a live show in London’s Hyde Park in June 1996. Instead of The Who, the performance was credited to Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle. The show also featured actors and other musicians who among others included David Gilmour and Zak Starkey, marking the beginning of the drummer’s ongoing association with The Who. Here’s the album’s powerful closer Love, Reign O’ver Me. I still get goose bumps each time I listen to Daltrey’s crazy vocals on that tune.
1980: The last item in this list of events shall belong to John Lennon, who on that day released Double Fantasy, the final album during his lifetime. The record marked Lennon’s return to music after a five-year break during which he had mostly focused on family life. While I’m admittedly not a fan of Yoko Ono’s music, Lennon’s songs still make this record a great listening experience. After a less than stellar initial reception, Double Fantasy became a huge international success in the wake of Lennon’s murder in New York City three weeks after the album had come out. It’s kind of idiotic how people oftentimes suddenly “discover” musicians after their death, especially if it involved tragedy. Here’s one of my favorite tunes from the record: Watching The Wheels.
Sources: Wikipedia; The Beatles Bible; This Day in Music; This Day In Rock; Songfacts; YouTube
Singer-songwriter Leslie Mendelson opens with captivating set
Last year, I read several stories about Roger Daltrey being pretty candid about aging, saying he’d stop performing if he realized his voice was no longer up to par. While other music artists haven’t followed through on similar retirement talk and The Who previously suggested their 50th anniversary tour could be their last, Daltrey’s above comments felt genuine to me. When I learned about Moving On! tour, I got a ticket right away, thinking this may well be my third and last time to see one of my favorite British bands. But there was one detail that I somehow had completely missed. Apart from traditional touring musicians, Moving On! features local symphonic orchestras backing Daltrey and Pete Townshend. Frankly, I’m not sure I would have jumped to get a ticket, had I known that.
In general, the thought of combining a rock band with a symphonic orchestra gives me mixed feelings. One can easily picture that the former gets drowned out by the latter or that the music becomes overly massive and feels overproduced. On the other hand, The Who are known for a grandiose sound. So did the combination work Monday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City? For the most part it did for me, so my initial ignorance about the details of the tour wasn’t a bad thing after all.
Before getting to The Who, I’d like to say a few words about New York singer-songwriter Leslie Mendelson, who performed a captivating opening set. In 2009, following the release of her second album Swan Feathers, Mendelson was compared to Carole King and Rickie Lee Jones, and her record was nominated for a Grammy. Then a series of setbacks stopped her upward trajectory, but things seem to look more promising again for Mendelson these days. A new album, If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…, is almost done. She’s currently raising money through Kickstarter to support promotion for a planned autumn release.
Monday night, Mendelson was accompanied by her longtime collaborator Steve McEwan, a British songwriter and musician, who played a vintage-looking electric guitar and provided backing vocals. Since I wanted to conserve my aging smartphone battery, unfortunately, I didn’t take any footage, but here’s a clip of The Hardest Part, a single from the new record, captured last December at a much smaller venue. The guy in the clip is McEwan. I’m pretty impressed with Mendelson and plan to do a separate post on her in the near future.
After a short intermission it was time for The Who! The first section of their show was with orchestra and mostly focused on songs from Tommy, The Who’s first rock opera from May 1969 – an appropriate choice, as the album nears its 50th anniversary of release on May 23. It started with the record’s first five tracks: Overture, It’s A Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey and Sparks. This was followed by Pinball Wizard and We’re Not Gonna Take It. The remainder of the first section featured tunes from various other albums, including Who Are You (Who Are You, 1978), Eminence Front (It’s Hard, 1982), Imagine A Man (The Who By Numbers, 1975) and the non-album single Join Together (1972). Here’s We’re Not Gonna Take It, the final track from Tommy, which like most Who songs was written by Townshend.
The middle section of the concert featured The Who only. Daltrey jokingly pointed out that union rules required the orchestra to take a break and now it was only the band, “so we can fuck up things even more.” The section consisted of five songs: Non-album single Substitute (1966), I Can See For Miles (The Who Sell Out, 1967), Won’t Get Fooled Again and Behind Blue Eyes (both Who’s Next, 1971) and Tea & Theatre (Endless Wire, 2006). Here is I Can See For Miles.
Perhaps the highlight of the section was an acoustic rendition of Won’t Get Fooled Again. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture it, in part to conserve battery, but here’s a clip from the tour opener in Madison, Wis. Even though the camera person was much closer to the stage than I was, the MSG performance felt more dynamic, so I feel the footage doesn’t do it full justice. Or maybe it was the excitement of the moment!
The third and last section of the show, which saw the return of the orchestra, almost entirely focused on Quadrophenia. The Who’s second rock opera perhaps is the album that best lends itself to the use of symphonic orchestration. It’s the band’s only record that was entirely composed by Pete Townshend. Here’s section opener The Real Me, one of favorite Who tunes.
Other tracks from Quadrophenia included I’m One, The Punk And The Godfather, 5:15, Drowned, The Rock and the mighty Love, Reign O’er Me. Of course, I couldn’t resist recording the last track, so here it is.
By the time I had Love, Reign O’er Me in the can, my phone battery was on life support, so I couldn’t capture the show’s finale, Baba O’Riley, another tune from the Who’s Next album. Luckily somebody else who was there did, so I’m borrowing their clip – thanks, “ForgottenNYC”! Check out the solo by amazing lead violonist Katie Jacoby, which starts at around 3:40 min – that woman stole the show from Townshend, at least temporarily!
Monday night saw Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend in excellent shape. Daltrey still commands the stage, singing with a strong voice and swinging his microphone like a mad man, while Townshend continues to be a kickass windmilling rock guitarist. One could almost forget these guys are in their mid-70s! I think they also deserve credit for continuing to push the envelope at this stage in their careers, when they could have played it safe instead of bringing in a symphonic orchestra. The fans including myself would have been perfectly happy with a “regular” performance.
I must also mention the great backing band: Simon Townshend (guitar, mandolin, backing vocals), Pete’s younger brother; Zak Starkey (drums), son of Ringo Starr, who has been The Who’s touring drummer since 1996; Loren Gold (keyboards, backing vocals), and one of the standouts in addition to Jacoby; and Jon Button (bass).
Upcoming dates for the Moving On! tour include Noblesville, Ind (May 18); Tinley Park, Ill (May 21); St. Louis (May 23); Philadelphia (May 25); and Detroit (May 28). The full schedule is available here.
Sources: Wikipedia, setlist.fm, Leslie Mendelson website, The Who website, YouTube
North American Moving On! Tour to feature band with symphonic orchestras
When The Who came to the U.S. the previous time in 2017, I was really tempted to see them again. After all, they remain my favorite ’60s British Invasion band next to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. I didn’t and then sort of regretted it. Should have, could have – well, not this time, especially given this could well be The Who’s last big tour. Plus, three make a charm!
On Monday, Roger Daltrey and his longtime partner in crime Pete TownshendannouncedMoving On!, a 29-date North American tour, and a new studio album to be released “later this year” – their first of original material in 13 years. Is it going to be called Moving On!? At this time, one can only speculate, since the announcement didn’t say anything else.
Perhaps Daltrey and Townshend are taking a page from the playbook of Paul McCartney. Last year, Sir Paul showed the music world how to create anticipation ahead of the release of his most recent studio album Egypt Station. From posting visual clues on his Instagram to telling Jimmy Fallon about a concert in New York at an undisclosed location to coincide with the release, saying it would be big and cheerfully reminding the audience of the album’s title, Macca masterfully executed a few tricks to create buzz.
You could argue there’s something odd about a man, who by the time the tour kicks off will be 75 years old, to sing I hope I die before I get old. Whether My Generation will be included in the setlist remains to be seen. And 75 today isn’t what the age used to be when Daltrey shouted out the verse for the first time in 1965. More importantly, age first and foremost is how you feel inside, not some number – that’s what I keep telling myself as well! 🙂
Daltrey seems to be pretty aware of his current life stage. TellingRolling Stone recently this may be his last tour, he added, “I have to be realistic that this is the age I am and voices start to go after a while. I don’t want to be not as good as I was two years ago.” In other words, he knows when the time comes to stop. Until then, fans should continue to enjoy who I believe is one of the best rock vocalists.
One aspect of Moving On!, which escaped my attention until after I had purchased my ticket yesterday, is the symphonic format – a setup I feel can easily become overwhelming. Here’s Daltrey’s take he shared with the Los Angeles Times: “One mistake rock bands make is when they just have orchestras playing “pads,” as I call them, music that could be played on a synthesizer…Another mistake people make is taking the rock out. When Pete did “Quadrophenia” with an orchestra but without the rock band, well, taking the rock out of “Quadrophenia” was, to me, an anathema. It didn’t make sense. But you put the two together, it becomes huge. I was really bowled over by it. It’s triumphant.”
Daltrey and Townshend also addressed the tour’s symphonic format in their above announcement. “Be aware Who fans! Just because it’s The Who with an orchestra, in no way will it compromise the way Pete and I deliver our music,” said Daltrey. “This will be full throttle Who with horns and bells on.” Added Townshend, “Roger christened this tour Moving On! I love it. It is what both of us want to do. Move on, with new music, classic Who music, all performed in new and exciting ways. Taking risks, nothing to lose.” Let’s see how they put it all in action. I’m certainly intrigued!
In addition to sharing the stage with orchestras, Daltrey and Townshend will be backed by their familiar touring band: Townshend’s younger brother Simon Townshend (guitar, backing vocals), Loren Gold (keyboards), Jon Button (bass) and Zak Starkey (drums), the oldest son of Sir Richard Starkey, aka Ringo Starr.
The tour’s line-up is listed at the bottom. I’m going to join together with band on May 13 at New York’s Madison Square, where I saw them first, the only time with John Entwistle. I just checked on setlist.fm, and I now think it must have been in October 2000. My previous recollection was it happened as part of the 2002 tour and only a few months prior to Entwistle’s death in Las Vegas in June 2002. To celebrate the upcoming tour and The Ox and Thunderfingers, here’s a clip of one of my all-time favorites: The Real Me from Quadrophenia, The Who’s sixth studio album from October 1976. Entwistle may have been stubborn like an ox, but he was one hell of a bass player!
2019 North American Tour Dates
May 7 Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI
May 9 KeyBank Center, Buffalo, NY
May 11 Jiffy Lube Live , Bristow, VA
May 13 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
May 16 Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN
May 18 Ruoff Home Mortage Music Center, Noblesville, IN
May 21 Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, Chicago, IL
May 23 Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre St. Louis, Maryland Heights, MO
May 25 Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA
May 28 Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
May 30 PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
June 1 Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON
Sept 6 Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN
Sept 8 Alpine Valley Music Theatre, Alpine Valley, WI
Sept 10 Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
Sept 13 Fenway Park, Boston, MA
Sept 15 Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater, Wantagh, NY
Sept 18 State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA
Sept 20 BB&T Center, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Sept 22 Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL
Sept 25 Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Sept 27 American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
Sept 29 Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Oct 11 Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA
Oct 13 Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, CA
Oct 16 Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
Oct 19 T-Mobile Park, Home of the Seattle Mariners, Seattle, WA
Oct 21 Pepsi Live at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC
Oct 23 Rogers Place, Edmonton, AB
Sources: Wikipedia, The Who website, Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, setlist.fm, YouTube