This was a life changing concert for me. I know that sounds dramatic, but it is true. Seeing this show got me big into The Who and that lead me to punk rock which lead me to even more and varied styles of music. At the time I was listening to mostly crap. Journey, Styx, Foreigner, Boston, yuck! (Although, I must admit a soft spot for some of that crap to this day.)
I wasn’t much of a Who fan at the time. I knew who they were, knew a few of their songs. I knew Pete Townshend had some solo stuff out. The Who’s new single ‘Athena’ was getting some airplay. I thought they were ok and that was all.
In fact, I hadn’t planned on going to the show at all. I was even downtown St. Paul right next to the Civic Center (now the Xcel Center, home of the Minnesota Wild) that afternoon. I was at a comic book shop getting my monthly comic book fix. I hopped on the bus to head home. The bus stop was located right in front of the Civic Center. While on the bus I was accosted by a pothead who worked at the same restaurant at which I was working.
“Hey, Man! Are you going to The Who concert tonight?”
Well, I got home and my mom told me to call John right away. I did. It turned out John had bought three tickets to the show, but he hadn’t anyone to go with. He did get one friend, Eric, to go and I would make it three if I wanted to. I did.
I called the restaurant I was working at and told them I might be a little late for my shift that night. I was working the graveyard shift and I did end up being only about 10 or 20 minutes late. No big deal.
This was The Who’s North American Farewell tour and I was glad to risk being a little late for work to see them, because they’d never tour again. Riiight.
This was also the tour that saw The Clash opening some of the shows, but not this one. We got T-Bone Burnett. We had no idea who he was or what he was doing. He did a guitar solo consisting of him plucking one note at one part of the stage and then walking to another part and pluck another note. He did that a few times.
John and I have talked about how we regretted not getting The Clash as the opening act, but if we had seen Burnett after we’d begun exploring and appreciating new kinds of music we might have enjoyed his act more. In doing some research for this blog I found that it was likely Mick Ronson (who had played with David Bowie during the Ziggy Stardust days) was with Burnett’s band at the time. I saw a legend and didn’t even know it until now.
Speaking of legends, there was a headlining act, the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world, The Who. As I said, this was to be their last North American tour and they were promoting their latest album, ‘It’s Hard’. Not a perfect album, it’s no ‘Quadrophenia’ or ‘Who’s Next’ and it does lack the maniac Keith Moon, but it’s not as bad as the critics were making it out to be.
I attended the first night of a two night concert stop in St. Paul. And it was loud. It may be the loudest show I’ve ever seen or, certainly, one of the loudest. Both shows were sold out, packed with boisterous Who fans and I got caught up in it. I found myself shouting and whistling as loud as I could. Cheering for Pete in particular. I’m not sure why, but a connection to Pete Townshend was formed that night and it has never been broken.
I wondered if they would play any of his solo material. They didn’t. It was a Who concert after all. They also didn’t play ‘Athena’, their minor hit at the time. They did, however, feature four or so other songs off ‘It’s Hard’. They played the great song ‘Eminence Front’ and Roger played guitar on this tour. Something he hadn’t done since he took over lead vocals back in the days when they were The Detours.
Their light show featured three sets of spotlights. One set on either side of the stage and one at the back of the main floor. Aimed straight up, they would twirl around and open and close, casting bright white beams of light to the heavens (well, the ceiling of the Civic Center anyway).
Another fun feature of the show was the glow sticks that were sold to the fans. People starting tossing the green glowing objects over the audience’s heads. They looked pretty cool as they sailed over us. Even better was when some fans realized that if they used a lighter (a must have item at concerts) to melt a hole in the plastic container and then throw it high above the crowd, the glowing liquid would sprinkle out. This made for a very fun effect.
John remembers a very lame attempt by me to throw one of the melted glow sticks, spilling the liquid on myself and him. I don’t recall that, but that’s what John remembers.
The Who concert weekend was a pretty big event judging by the excited talk at school that following Monday. It was truly a major event in my life. I was transformed into a monster Who fan. I bought all their albums and bought and read books about them. I was all about The Who and Pete Townshend.
I’ve mellowed some, but not much.