Wednesday, May 6, 2015

This Blog is Back in Town: 2015 Live Music Mania



After a two year break, Pop Goes The Babble is back! As I've been going to a lot of concerts lately, and have more coming up, I thought I'd update this long neglected blog by babblin' about them.

2015 is shaping up to be one hell of a rich year of live music by some of my favorite artists. However, at first I wasn't planning on attending The Who's 50 anniversary tour, as it was at a venue I don't care for - Raleigh's PNC Arena - and I had seen them not long ago (in 2012 in Greensboro). But as the April 21st concert date approached last month, I felt the lure of one last go around with the iconic British band.

Now, they’ve been billing tours as their swan songs for decades (they appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone with the caption: “The Who: The End” in 1982!), so I take all the farewell tour hype with a grain of salt.

I also toss aside the complaint that it hasn’t really been The Who since drummer Keith Moon died in 1978, and that since bassist John Entwhistle’s death in 2002, guitarist /songwriter Pete Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey have even less right to carry on under the name.

So they are really “The Two” as many fans call them, but when Roger screams and swings his mike, while Pete is shreds and does his windmill thing, they can still satisfying summon the power of old. It helps that they have a killer backing band with Ringo’s son Zak Starkey channeling Moon on drums, Pino Palladino, who’s been brilliantly bringing the bass since Entwhistle’s passing, Townshend’s brother Simon on rhythm guitar, and Loren Gold, Frank Simes, and John Corey on various keyboard, percussion, and backing vocal duties.

This was my fourth Who show - my first was on July 27th, 1989 at Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh (very close to PNC), during a tour that Townshend has referred to as “The Who on ice.” The next two I attended were performances of their 1973 rock opera masterpiece “Quadrophenia” in 1997 and 2012, which were dream shows as that’s one of my all-time favorite albums.

This show though was an all hits affair as its title stated: “The Who Hits 50” (This is also the name of a new compilation album that was on sale at the show). Daltrey and Townshend bashed their way through 22 songs touching on a batch of their ‘60s singles, tracks from “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia,” and even a couple of songs from their post Moon ‘80s period. The setlist:


“I Can’t Explain” / “The Seeker” / “Who Are You” / “The Kids Are Alright” / “I Can See for Miles” / “Pictures of Lily” / “My Generation” / “Magic Bus” / “Behind Blue Eyes” / “Squeeze Box” / “Join Together” / “You Better You Bet” / “I’m One” / “Love, Reign O’er Me” / “Eminence Front” / “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” / “Amazing Journey” / “Sparks” / “Pinball Wizard” / “See Me, Feel Me” / “Baba O'Riley” /“Won’t Get Fooled Again”

“A Quick One (While He’s Away)” was the rarest song performed, and, despite it feeling a bit rushed, was a delight. It was funny to hear Townshend suggest that folks look up the version of it on “The Rolling Stones Rock ‘N Roll Circus”on YouTube in his intro.

The closer, “Who Get Fooled Again” was a little thrown off by Daltrey flubbing a line but I disagree with Raleigh News & Observer music critic David Menconi, who wrote that it was “a blow from which it never quite recovered.”

All in all, a great, and extremely worthwhile show. Joan Jett and the Blackheart’s 45 minute opening set was a lot of fun too. Jett had just been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two nights previous and was apparently still on a major high. She and her band, the current lineup of which includes Thommy Price (drums), Dougie Needles (guitar), Enzo Penzzotto (bass), and Kenny Laguna (keyboards), tore through these songs:

“Bad Reputation” / “Cherry Bomb” / “Do You Wanna Touch Me” / “You Drive Me Wild” / “Light of Day” / “Love Is Pain” / “Fragile” / “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” / “Crimson & Clover” / “I Hate Myself for Loving You”

Jett has been called “the original riot grrl,” so it was fitting that the next night, Wednesday, April 22nd, I saw the torchbearers of the feminist hardcore punk movement that started in the ‘90s: Sleater-Kinney. 


It was my first time seeing the trio, made up of Corin Tucker, Janet Weiss, and Carrie Brownstein, who have re-united after an absence of a decade to put out a great new album, “No Cities To Love,” and to once again tour America and Europe. 

It was also my first time visiting the Ritz since it had been re-modeled, but it looked pretty much how I remembered it. Seattle hip hop duo THEEsatisfaction comprised of rapper Stasia “Stas” Irons and singer Catherine “Cat” Harris-White opened the show. They were a little offbeat and quirky but their passion was endearing and the audience responded well. Not as well as when Sleater-Kinney hit the stage, but that was expected.

With fiery energy, the three 40something-aged ladies blazed through the following songs:

“Price Tag” / “Fangless” / “Oh!” / “Words and Guitar” / “No Cities to Love” / “The Fox” / “Youth Decay” / “Surface Envy” / “A New Wave” / “Get Up” / “All Hands on the Bad One” / “Hey Darling” / “Light Rail Coyote” / “One Beat” / “Bury Our Friends” / “Entertain” / “Jumpers”

Encore: “Gimme Love” / “Call the Doctor”/ “Dig Me Out”/ “Let’s Call It Love” / “Modern Girl” /“Turn it On”

One of the highlights of the show was when Tucker mentioned the cover story of the previous week’s Independent written by Sleater-Kinney superfan and Nice Price Books and Records’ owner Brian Shaw. Shaw’s piece ran under the title “What it's like to be a grown man whose favorite band is three women,” so it got a sizable response when Tucker asked: “Why wouldn’t we be his favorite band?”

Okay, that’s all for now. Coming soon: I discuss my 22nd time seeing Bob Dylan, and I fret about whether or not I’ll actually be seeing the Replacements on May 8th (they’ve cancelled a couple of shows due to illness so there’s some concern).

More later…

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