The Who brings classic rock opera hits to Austin’s Moody Center


Though they first made their mark in the 1960s with now-classic hits like “My Generation” and “I Can See for Miles,” The Who arguably cemented their future place in Rock and Roll Hall. of Fame with a dramatic turn to rock. operas. If that’s what you’ve always loved most about The Who’s music, then Tuesday night’s concert at the Moody Center was for you.

Backed by a 48-piece orchestra made up mostly of musicians from Austin’s jazz and classical communities, founding members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend rode a two-hour set that began with much of their 1969 opus “Tommy.” and ended with half an hour. -hour of material from 1973’s equally ambitious “Quadrophenia”.

The Who performs at the Moody Center in Austin on May 3, 2022.

The orchestra, Townshend explained just before the “Quadrophenia” section, was Daltrey’s idea. “I was skeptical” at first, he admitted, wondering exactly how they would manage to recruit dozens of musicians from each city on their tour to complement the extensive string, horn, woodwind and percussion crew. “But it’s been such a joy,” he concluded, adding that the extra musicians especially helped bring the “Quadrophenia” material to life.

Pete Townshend performs May 3 during The Who's show at the Moody Center.

It was clearly evident on the home stretch. Earlier in the set, the orchestra was often hard to hear on the core lineup of rock band The Who (which included Pete’s brother Simon Townshend on acoustic guitar, drummer Zak Starkey, keyboardist Loren Gold , bassist Jon Button and backing vocalist Billy Nichols). But strings and brass had their moment on “The Rock,” an extended instrument that filled the arena with precisely the kind of musical grandeur that made The Who’s era of rock opera so consequential.

Daltrey’s powerful vocal showcase “Love, Reign O’er Me” followed before a finale by fan-favorite “Baba O’Riley” from “Who’s Next,” a landmark 1971 album that spun off from another project by abandoned rock opera. Just before the “Quadrophenia” section, they had played the essential “Who’s Next” “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, the latter energizing the audience with Daltrey’s signature shout towards the end.

Roger Daltrey gives his microphone a signature whirl May 3 during The Who's performance at the Moody Center.

As was the case when The Who last performed in Austin at the Erwin Center in 2015, the gig did not sell out. After the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, The Who were arguably the next biggest rock band to emerge from England in the 1960s – but their draw in the 21st century doesn’t compare to that of Paul McCartney or the Stones. .

From the archive:Review of The Who’s 2015 concert at the Erwin Center

Nonetheless, Daltrey and Townshend seem grateful to still be on the road in their 70s. “It’s so great to see so many people coming to see us,” Townshend said at the start of the set, just after finishing a half-hour of “Tommy” highlights that included nearly all of the firsts from the double album. side.

He acknowledged the novelty of the Moody Center, which recently replaced the Erwin Center, site of the band’s only two previous appearances in Austin (the first was in 1980). “It sounds pretty good, I’m sure it will get better,” he added, correctly assessing that the room’s acoustics, while better than the Erwin Center, could still be improved.

After:A full look at UT’s new Moody Center arena

Townshend also acknowledged Austin’s reputation as a music mecca, though he drew a hearty chorus of cat-calls from the crowd when he added, “I think you probably could have done without Willie Nelson.” He quickly backed off saying “God bless the man!” (Whether or not Townshend is a fan of Nelson’s music, he would do well to follow Willie’s lead in showing how artists can keep touring not just into their 70s, but into their 80s.)

Touring violinist Katie Jacoby performs with local string musicians supporting The Who on May 3 at the Moody Center.  The Who recruited local musicians to play with their touring band in each city on the tour.

The orchestra – which included touring violinist Katie Jacoby and cellist Audrey Q. Snyder, as well as conductors Keith Levenson and Emily Marshall – left the stage for most of a midsection that gathered a purse of mostly 1970s and 80s hits, including “Join Together”, “You Better You Bet” and “The Seeker”. “You may have noticed the orchestra leaving, they’re fed up,” Townshend joked, but of course they came back a few songs later.

Related:5 Latin Music Shows to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Austin

Tennessee singer-songwriter Amythyst Kiah opened the concert with a well-received half-hour set that included songs from her 2021 album “Wary + Strange.” Kiah earned a Grammy nomination for a song she wrote on a 2019 collaborative album with Rhiannon Giddens, Allison Russell and Leyla McCalla.

Amythyst Kiah opens for The Who on May 3 at the Moody Center.

She played with a three-piece band that provided solid blues-folk-rock backing throughout, but kept the focus on Kiah’s impressive lead vocals. “Thank you for giving the opener a chance, I appreciate it,” she said before her final song, and the audience responded in kind with a warm cheer.

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