Longtime readers will have realized I never ever miss a Travel Tuesday post. Yesterday, I decided that rather than pre-scheduling, I wanted to talk about the trip I was actually going to be on when I was due to post (if you see what I mean). At 3am yesterday morning, I got back out of bed to go to Dublin to see The Who. I just got back at 11am when I started writing this post (yeah I got interrupted by something VERY important to do with our house’s roof). Tired now. I packed some other stuff into my 24 hours in Dublin, I’ll do a separate article each on Dublin and Newgrange in future posts.
Anyway, I digressed, so I’ve cut my digression into a separate article, and I haven’t had much sleep due to sleeping last night for about an hour, all on the cold stone floor of an airport, so I will keep rambling I’m afraid.
The Who concert didn’t start well for me: When you’ve flown abroad and spent time hiring a car, the absolute last thing you want to hear is “your tickets been declined” at three different doors. I did eventually get in to find out I was seated next to the lighting rig. In case you’re wondering, that’s a terrible place to sit because the sound quality is as shit as a tyrannosaurus with dysentery.
It’s a shame because I was actually closer to the front (at the back of this venue) than I was to Marilyn Manson 2 weeks ago at Download, and I could see and hear a lot better at Download because they’ve got sound engineers who know how sound waves travel, and know they need to angle the goddamn speakers to point at the crowd, not aim it all at somewhere in the middle. The high notes were painfully shrill and the bass was non-existent. I fashioned myself some earplugs out of toilet paper so I could overcome the distortion as best as possible in order to actually enjoy the gig.
At the beginning there was a slideshow of The Who pictures and trivia. I wrote some of the more interesting things down to share with you, because I can’t not take notes when someone puts words on a PowerPoint and plays it to me:
Apparently the proper name for their “target” motif is a “roundel” which is symbolic of Mod culture (I knew I didn’t like it for some reason, presumably because I inherited a dislike of scooters *cough*hairdryers*cough* in favour of real motorbikes – but then, I always thought the mod vs rocker thing was a bit of a non starter because they all dropped off the face of the earth when the hippie movement turned up and I think it was probably a lot of the same people wearing a different badge – psychedelia instead of “mod” or “rocker” but no-one seems to really know).
The drummer who’s been touring with The Who since 1996 is Ringo Starr’s son – Zak Starkey. Having seen him in action I can say he is an excellent drummer. There’s something that separates a good drummer from an outstanding drummer, and whatever it is, Zak Starkey has got it. I guess when your “Uncle Keith” (Keith Moon) buys you your first drum kit, you’re going to probably be inspired to become a great drummer. He has more than earned his unofficial membership as an honorary member of The Who. What’s bizarre is the photo above shows a figure with black hair and white face standing behind him, and I just looked for a picture of Keith Moon and he looked like this on Wikipedia:
I don’t know who replaced Moon from 1978 (when he died) to 1996, but John Entwhistle was replaced straight away when he died in 2002 by Pino Palladino. I found out by experience that he can pull out a canny bass solo when he feels like it.
I often feel like replacement members in a band as legendary as The Who have to be twice as good as the originals they replace. Taking Pink Floyd as a comparable example, Syd Barrett was replaced by Dave Gilmour, who is responsible for the characteristic sound of Pink Floyd as they were when they made it really really big. In fact, Gilmour was so good that his membership overshadowed Syd’s, and tragically, Syd was not welcomed back when his manager tried to arrange a “surprise reunion” at the recording of Wish You Were Here. Another example is Myles Kennedy, currently touring with Slash (of Guns N Roses) and I would say that their rendition of Anastasia (which gives me chills) must make Axl Rose green with envy that he missed out on being part of such a fantastic piece of music, not only that but Myles can cover all the old Guns N Roses stuff and you wouldn’t know it wasn’t Axl singing. I was very impressed by that. And I was very impressed last night in The Who Hits 50 in Dublin by Pino and Zak; certainly they are very, very good players and they are by no means a lesser substitute for John (E) or Keith. You’re not getting second best, you’re getting first best from people whose life path brought them here from a different place.
Apparently Keith Moon used Premier Drums. In 1967 they gave him a Pictures of Lily version (the famous Day Glow Victorian pictures of a similar style to the Monty Python’s Flying Circus animations). Keith Moon used this drum kit for 2 years, calling it something like (and I’m sorry if this is slightly wrong, the slide disappeared as I was scribbling it) “Keith Moon Patent Exploding Drummer Kit.”
The guitar smashing was apparently inspired by one Malcolm Cecil, a teacher at Ealing Tech, who did a performance where he sawed through his cello, inspiring Pete Townshend to think about the deeper artistic statement of it (yeah folks were all doing a lot of weird stuff back then). Pete smashed his guitars with the stated purpose of making an art statement about value and cost, as well as proving that there would be no encores after the guitar was wrecked. Apparently, because it’s become too commonplace and too many artists do it, he doesn’t smash guitars as a spectacle. Since 2000, 4 guitars have been smashed total – one in 2000, two in 2002 and one in 2004, although these were apparently because he was displeased with the performance of the instrument and wanted “to prevent a bad guitar from returning.”
The Union Jack jacket was inspired by Pop Art (the art movement) and David Bowie was inspired to get one for his 1997 Earthlings album as a throwback to The Who (also that year, Geri Halliwell made headlines when she wore to the Brit Awards a Union Flag dress which was very very short, but this wasn’t mentioned in The Who Turns 50’s slideshow, presumably because it’s less cool to inspire the Spice Girls than to inspire David Bowie, who was after all a contemporary of The Who).
Apparently The Who played at Woodstock. They didn’t like it because they had to leave the van miles away and one of them was carrying a tiny baby at the time.
The supporting band:
The supporting band were called The Last Internationale. The lead singer had a powerful voice but she was shrill despite not being high pitched, which was a distinct disadvantage. This was when I made earplugs because my ears were in pain and I guess it serves me right for going to a The Who concert with a migraine.
I wasn’t very impressed with them because they seemed to have no idea what to do with a crowd that big, and I think the best way they could have warmed the crowd up would be to leave. They failed to win me over, and I’m not sure that what they were playing classes as music, but they at least started to get my attention, from about their 3rd or 4th song, which was called something like “Wanted Now” and by their finale they were successfully demonstrating that it was possible to play and jump around at the same time, which seemed to be their party trick. Apparently they’ve just released their first single in the US so you’ll probably hear about them s’more soon unless they bomb on the charts. Not sure Wal-Mart will add them to the playlist though since they tend to avoid rock-y sounds, but you never know.
A very long wait during changeover while the stage is re-set:
I don’t want a sausage inna bun.
I don’t want a sausage inna bun.
I don’t want a sausage inna bun.
I should have had a second lunch before the show.
I don’t want a sausage inna bun.
Or a programme.
Yes, it will be a collector’s item in 20 years’ time but will the increase in value justify the space I’d need to keep it in my house just for that reason? Nope. Imagine if I did that with every potentially valuable item, I’d end up keeping millions of things just for the sake of selling them again at some point in the future. It’s hoarding, and it’s the complete opposite of minimalism.
Maybe I should distract myself with a sausage inna bun?
NO! I don’t want a sausage inna bun!
The trouble is, the snacks available are either full of sugar (eg skittles) or they are hot dogs. Which are also very bad for me as I cannot tolerate pork at all and I’d probably get more nutritional value from eating the programme than the sausage inna bun.
Half to two thirds of the attendees didn’t turn up until 5 minutes before The Who started – I think about 50 people in consecutive seats all arrived at once, presumably a late coach, but the others just seemed to have it sussed to avoid all the waiting. They’ve clearly been before. There was so very much waiting.
Here’s as much of the setlist as I managed to write down:
Song 1 and 2: ???
Song 3: Who are you?
Song 4: The Kids Are Alright [sic]
Song 5: I can see for miles.
Song 6: My generation. Which had a verse which was a drum-underscored bass solo. Excellent.
Song 7: Behind Blue Eyes.
Song 8: Bargain.
Song 9: I wasn’t sure at the time, thought it was “join the river” which was really confusing but it’s actually “join together.” I’d never heard it before.
Song 10: You’d Better You Bet.
Song 11: I’m one.
Song 12: Love Reign O’Er Me
Song 13: Eminence Front
Song 14: A quick one (while he’s away).
The heat was problematic, and the temperature control was non-existent. I was sat by the lighting rig. Lights get HOT at concerts. But I wasn’t the only one suffering. The band paused after a song to try and get someone to do something about the temperature. They weren’t precious about it though, and even made a bit of a song out of it while they waited for someone to put a fan on, the Air Con, or get them some water because it was far too hot.
Sadly, at this point in the concert, I was overcome with heat and listened to the next two from the doorway. I think if it’d been brought back with something I had wanted to hear after A Quick One (while he’s away) I would have stuck around, but the last one I’d actually heard before (and I’m not an ignoramus I just don’t know their whole back catalogue) was #8, and number 15 was nothing I recognized so I decided we must be nearly finished, and that I would just go back to the car hire place and return the car. When I looked up what I’d missed, I found that only two (Pinball Wizard and Baba O’Riley) of the five remaining songs were ones I’d wanted to hear. I know it’s good for a band to play what THEY want not just what fans want, but when you’ve got such a fabulous back catalogue I don’t know why you would pick below average pop-tastic songs unless they just can’t play the others any more or hate them so much that they can’t stand them. Who knows.
See what I did there.
I did it again there. Instead of a question mark, the full stop makes it a statement which answers the question which would be posed if there was a question mark.
Anyway, I enjoyed what I saw of The Who, despite the heat and stress of the two people in front of me being coked up twats and very tall and talking nineteen to the dozen with grand gestures and snogging (like, the gross kind that 15 year olds do to show everyone in the vicinity that they’re going out, not the passionate kind of snog that people in love do) and stretching whilst talking and snogging and basically doing as much as they could to ruin my view and then trying to feel me up (I shit you not), and despite the fact the sound quality was awful in that part of the 3 Arena, it was still a very good show. I was struck by how much interaction The Who had with the audience – literally, after every song they would talk for a bit and tell you a bit about the background to the next one. It was fascinating. I made brief notes because I didn’t want note-taking to get in the way of enjoying the show. But they didn’t short-change on the songs, either, and they played plenty (although theirs tend to be shorter than most other bands I listen to, because they were always more poppy when they were making big hits).
Afterwards I balked at how much parking had cost – my ticket came up as E30 when it should have been E12 for event parking, but I had to get the car out of the car park because it was a hire car so I just paid.
So lots of things conspiring to put a downer on the day, and I wasn’t necessarily in the right place to be as caught up in the hype as I would have been if I hadn’t needed to manage a migraine, but even though I left early I was happy with what I’d seen, felt it just about justified the effort and more than justified the expenditure (which was STILL cheaper and more convenient than going to London) and think I can definitely tick them off my Bands Bucket List. I should post that list at some point in its entirety.
More on Ireland, specifically Dublin and Newgrange, soon…
What do you think of those weird psychedelic photos? I was going to delete them until I saw that some of them looked very artistic, now I’m intrigued by the possibility of interference from the spiritual realm. Glad I bought a silver Virgin Mary medallion (it’s an Irish thing) earlier that afternoon!