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November 4, 2017- by Steven E. Greer, MD
I have seen The Who play on the biggest stages over recent years. One year ago, I saw them in Indio, California play before 100,000 people. Before that, I saw them at Madison Square Garden.
When I learned that Roger Daltrey was touring the band without Pete Townshend, just to stay in shape basically while Pete takes a break, I thought it might be a good opportunity to see a large-venue-band on a small stage. So, I flew to St. Augustine, Florida to see them Friday night, under a full moon, in the beach amphitheater.
The show did not disappoint. The opening band was Edgar Winter. His brother had just passed away. I knew of Edgar Winter from lyrics in Sun Kil Moon’s Benji album.
For The Who, there were no light show effects like the big tour, but no one noticed. It was just Roger’s vocals, still hitting the notes, accompanied by Simon Townshend on guitar and vocals.
Simon is Pete’s younger brother, not his son as many believed. One of the local newspaper reviews pointed out that Simon was having his diapers changed by the Who on the 60’s. I met Simon in 2014 when I interviewed him at The City Winery. His voice and guitar sound remarkably similar to Pete’s.
Other than Simon and Roger, this small band is newly assembled. Zak Starkey is not on drums, replaced by occasional Who drummer Scott Devours. Pino Palladino was not on bass, replaced by Jon Button, and the “replacement Pete” at lead guitar was Frank Simes, who is also the band’s musical director. I liked them all.
The best part of the show was the new rare song list curated by Roger. This is why I flew all the way for the show. He played numerous songs that the Who has never played on stage before, and some rare ones that I have never heard before at all.
The show was lighthearted and intentionally loose and sloppy, as if they were playing before a drunken wedding crowd. Roger was drinking 75-year-old whiskey, he admitted, and was clearly having some fun. Simon lacked the huge team that would normally tune his guitars behind the scenes, and was often forced to halt the show to tune, like a small garage band. It added to the ambiance.
Last year in Indio, the band played outdoors under beautiful conditions and a full moon. Coincidentally, this outdoor theater in St. Augustine was also under a full moon and good weather. I walked the beach after the show. It was stunning.
If you like good music, I recommend seeing one of the tour stops. Pete is supposed to be back next year.