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Live Review and Photo Gallery: The Who at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre

| May 26, 2019

The Who

Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre

Tinley Park, IL

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

When the Who booked an outdoor show at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park as part of their Moving On! Tour, fans and band alike anticipated a great night of classic rock in fine spring weather. Ticketholders on the lawn encountered soggy seats, and everyone felt the chill of the 50-degree ambient temperature that was cooled further by a steady breeze. “I hope we can warm it up a bit for you,” said guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend as he welcomed fans from the stage. “They tell me tomorrow’s going to be 80 degrees!”

Chicago-area fans are a hardy bunch, so attendance was strong and spirits were high despite the chill. It wasn’t a show any Who devotee wanted to miss. The British rockers certainly weren’t the first veteran act to present their music with an orchestra, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a band with a repertoire as perfectly suited to the format.

The principal players have tested the waters on their own. Last summer, singer Roger Daltrey toured a symphonic version of seminal 1969 rock opera Tommy that visited Ravinia. Townshend brought his Classic Quadrophenia to the Rosemont Theatre in 2017, in support of Teen Cancer America. The Moving On! Tour, however, is the first such excursion under the Who banner.

The show leaned heavily upon those two influential rock operas, featuring abridged versions of Tommy and 1973’s Quadrophenia. The marriage of rock band and symphony on dramatic instrumental pieces like Tommy’s “Overture” and “Sparks” or Quadrophenia’s “The Rock” was so natural; it’s a wonder that the Who never attempted it in the past. Daltrey and Townshend let their enthusiasm show during “Amazing Journey.” Townshend tore at his guitar with furious windmill strokes. Daltrey slung his microphone in twirling arcs along its cable, eventually scoring a direct hit onto his drinks placed on a small table in front of Zak Starkey’s drum set.

Well-seasoned rockers like the frenetic “Pinball Wizard” didn’t require the extra orchestral majesty, but nor did they suffer. By contrast, the already-powerful crescendo of 1978’s “Who Are You” punched a hole in the sky with the heightened symphonic energy under Keith Levenson’s direction.

The band was clearly thrilled by the powerful accompaniment. Townshend stopped to thank the expansive 52-piece ensemble more than once. He praised the classically-trained players’ dedication and craft, stating that not one of the experienced rockers on stage could match skills against the symphonic musicians.

The guitarist led a lashing version of “Eminence Front” from 1982’s It’s Hard, allowing himself to channel the moment inspired by the symphony’s measured precision by trading agile Richard Thompson-styled guitar improvisations in place of some of his lyrics.

The barrel-chested Daltrey was in fine voice, hitting high notes with power and precision on full-throated rockers like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “The Real Me.” Daltrey dug deeper for the stirring “Imagine a Man,” relishing his emotive character-acting role on the rarity from 1975’s The Who by Numbers. Daltrey also brought the crowd into the act, hanging his microphone over the heads of the first rows and conducting a singalong during the choruses for “Join Together.”

Afterward, Daltrey took the opportunity to speak his mind while zipping his puffy black jacket to the neck. “How do you do it?” he asked, comically. “How do you live in this place? Hasn’t anybody told you? It’s f—ing May! It’s almost summer!”

Townshend came to audience’s defense. “Roger has somehow made it your fault,” he said, before joining with tongue-in-cheek. “You dirty, f—ing, thieving, filthy bastards – can’t even get the weather right!”

The symphonic segments bookended the show, with a more conventional rock set in the middle that leaned upon the current touring line-up of the Who. A rollicking version of “The Kids are Alright” and brash “The Seeker” gave Starkey focused attention and a chance to shine, although his show-stopping piece came later amid the symphonic thunder of “The Rock.” The middle set also provided Daltrey and Townshend with time alone on stage, as the two surviving original band members played a stripped-down but intense version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Townshend’s acoustic guitar accompanied the voices of Daltrey and the audience with Spanish guitar strumming and flamenco flourishes. The duo was joined by cello and violin for “Behind Blue Eyes.”

Before continuing, Townshend paused to talk about the Who’s new album-in-progress. “We’ve nearly finished it,” he said, then proceeded to gripe about the cycle of recording, touring and recording. “What a f*cking life,” he said in mock exasperation. “And you know, the f*cking money’s rubbish!”

Fearing that the audience was taking him seriously, Townshend came clean. “I don’t know how I get away with it,” he said. “You should be booing me!” Naturally, the crowd took the hint and gave Townshend a spirited booing. “Thank you,” said Townshend with a satisfied smirk.

Daltrey and Townshend finished the middle set with the intimate “Tea and Theatre,” a memorable and moving song from 2006’s Endless Wire.

The symphonic Quadrophenia segment followed with favorites including “5:15.” Townshend led “I’m One” and “Drowned” with his gruff vocal and nimble finger-picked acoustic guitar. Daltrey powered through “The Punk and the Godfather,” and gave a spine-tingling version of the magnificent “Love, Reign O’er Me” to conclude the Quadrophenia cuts.

“We really appreciate you giving us such a warm welcome on such a cold evening,” said Townshend. “It’s hard to keep your instruments in tune [in the cold], but I think we’ve managed pretty well.”

The show-stopper was “Baba O’Riley,” heightened by the dervish violin of concertmaster Katie Jacoby, who returned to Chicago after her Ravinia performance of Tommy with Daltrey last summer.

Area fans have a chance to experience the Moving On! Tour without their parkas and ski caps in early September, when the Who stops for two nights at Alpine Valley Music Theatre.


– Review by Jeff Elbel; Photos by Curt Baran


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Category: IE Photo Gallery, Live Reviews, Stage Buzz

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