Tommy In Tokyo (no label)
The Who’s Tommy has displayed its permanence by the amount and quality of its reinterpretations in the ensuing forty years. After the stage-show in 1970, it had an orchestral arrangement in 1972, a film in 1975, served as a vehicle for the first Who reunion in 1989 (with Billy Idol as Cousin Kevin, Phil Collins as Uncle Ernie and Patti LaBelle as the Acid Queen) and a stage musical in 1993.
Early in 2011 Roger Daltrey had something of a revelation about the piece, realizing its uniqueness in the canon of rock, and set about to do something the band never did. He wanted to present the entire work and stick as close to the recorded arrangements as much as possible.
Daltrey formed a five-piece band including Frank Symes on guitar and Simon Townshend on guitar and on his brother’s Pete’s vocals, Scott Deavours on drums, and Loren Gold on keyboards. John Button played bass on the European and American dates but, as Daltrey pointed out on his website, “at the end of April, it was time to fly to Japan. Life threw a curved ball at the band two days before we were due to get there. John Button, our bass player, was was involved in a motor cycle accident and broke his ankle and his wrist.
“The doctors told him there would be no way he could travel. I have always understood how much fans put themselves out to support the artist. I knew there were people traveling from Europe to see us. Thank the universe for Frank Symes, who found someone to rise to the challenge of learning Tommy and the Hits in two days, ‘cos that’s a lot of work. Jamie Hunting [ex-David Lee Roth, Vince Neal] must have been a nervous wreck when he walked out on stage that first night in Tokyo, but boy did he rise to the challenge. Well, done, Jamie, and a big extra thanks from me.”
Tommy In Tokyo presents the first two Japan shows in a four disc set with two excellent stereo audience recordings. There have been several releases from this tour on CDR, but this is the first (and so far only) silver pressed title documenting any part of this tour.
Tokyo International Forum, Tokyo, Japan – April 23rd, 2012
Disc 1 (73:34): Intro., Overture, It’s A Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks, Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker), Christmas, Cousin Kevin, The Acid Queen, Do You Think It’s Alright?, Fiddle About, Pinball Wizard, There’s A Doctor, Go To The Mirror, Tommy Can You Hear Me?, Smash The Mirror, Sensation, Refrain / It’s A Boy, I’m Free, Miracle Cure, Sally Simpson, Welcome, Tommy’s Holiday Camp, We’re Not Gonna Take It
Disc 2 (58:23): MC, I Can See For Miles, The Kids Are Alright, Behind Blue Eyes, Days Of Light, The Way It Is (Vocal：Simon Townshend), Who Are You, My Generation Blues, Young Man Blues, Baba O’Riley, Band Introduction, Without Your Love, Blue Red And Grey
The first disc contains the complete performance of Tommy. The band walk onstage in silence before starting with the “Overture.” There are no extra breaks between numbers, no introductions, no talking, and no fooling around. The piece is treated with reverence by all. The five piece band cover all of the vocals and harmonies and the keyboards play the orchestral instruments.
Although it’s claimed that the entire piece is played as recorded, there are two very minor changes. The first is a new piano introduction for “Welcome,” and the second is the complete omission of the nine-minute instrumental “Underture” because, as Daltrey explained in an interview, it is “just a lot of bits we joined together to fill a big gap on the original vinyl album.”
Daltrey and the band do a more than reasonable job with the piece. Simon Townshend sounds almost identical to his brother, and the others fill in the harmonies quite nicely. The audience don’t seem to mind at all, clapping along in appreciation to the piece’s complex narrative. A perfect example of these two is, during “Christmas,” Simon’s “Tommy, can you hear me?” is met with whoops and whistles from the audience in perfect synchronization.
The entire piece is pulled off without a hitch. The more popular tunes such as “Pinball Wizard” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” receive the most enthusiastic response. It’s also very nice to hear rarely played songs such as “Sensation,” which was never included in the initial performances in the sixties and seventies and “Sally Simpson,” which was played in the initial performances but dropped by the time the band played the Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970.
Before the start the second half Daltrey explains to the audience (through a translator) the situation with their bass player an thanks Hunting for his hard work. He then calls the second half of the show the “fucking around” show where they have some fun and to play songs that the Who rarely played live.
“I Can See For Miles” and “The Kids Are Alright” are, in the band’s latter day setlists, quite common. So is “Behind Blue Eyes” which features a great acapella harmony interlude in the middle.
After the Who’s Next classic Daltrey introduces “one of my songs…all about factories and working in factories.” The doo wop tinged “Days Of Light” from his 1992 solo effort Rocks In The Head. Never played in any Who show, it has been a regular part of Daltrey’s solo touring set list since 2009 and is a fun song.
He then introduces “my brother Simon … I don’t have a brother, but if I had a brother, he’d be my brother. Simon Townshend Daltrey!” He sings his own song, the subtle and contemplative “The Way It Is.”
But the show hits its high point in the sequence following, starting with “Who Are You.” The audience give these songs the loudest response, clapping and whistling along. “Young Man Blues,” played in the same style as at the famous Isle Of Wight performance in 1970, seems to blow the roof off of the place despite missing the irony in the lyrics.
The set ends with “Without Your Love” from the 1980 film McVicar and, the only encore is “Blue Red And Grey.” During the encore set Daltrey explains that he regrets not visiting Japan in the seventies and eighties during The Who’s peak, but Pete didn’t want to tour the far east. He also states they may come later in the year if Pete’s hearing problems improve.
There is a final joke about looking silly holding the ukelele before the Who By Numbers track is played to end the warm and glorious evening.
Tokyo International Forum, Tokyo, Japan – April 24th, 2012
Disc 3 (72:19): Intro., Overture, It’s A Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks, Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker), Christmas, Cousin Kevin, The Acid Queen, Do You Think It’s Alright?, Fiddle About, Pinball Wizard, There’s A Doctor, Go To The Mirror, Tommy Can You Hear Me?, Smash The Mirror, Sensation, Refrain / It’s A Boy, I’m Free, Miracle Cure, Sally Simpson, Welcome, Tommy’s Holiday Camp, We’re Not Gonna Take It
Disc 4 (63:11): MC, I Can See For Miles, The Kids Are Alright, Behind Blue Eyes, Days Of Light, Going Mobile (Vocal：Simon Townshend), Who Are You, I’m A Man, My Generation Blues, Young Man Blues, Baba O’Riley, Band Introduction, Without Your Love, Blue Red And Grey
The following night has just as good sound quality as the first night and the show has the same structure. The first half is devoted to the complete Tommy with no interruptions or talking between numbers. Near the beginning, about ten seconds into “Do You Think It’s Alright,” Daltrey has to stop everything for a bit. “Water in the ears. Can’t hear a bloody thing. We will try again. Shit happens!” he jokes before the band proceed with the number.
The performance is a bit more adventurous, however. In “Go To The Mirror” the grand piano sounds much higher in the mix adding another wrinkle to the arrangement. “Sensation” sounds absolutely sensational with a scorching guitar solo in the middle. It hints of the song’s power in a live setting and makes one wonder how it could have developed in the hands of a younger Pete Townshend. Loren Gold on piano plays an energetic piano melody in “Sally Simpson” and a jazzy little tune in as a bridge into “Welcome.”
Before the second half of the show Daltrey tells the audience that they’ll play “some oldies but are goodies” and mentions how the current band members can carry the harmonies of the old songs. He tells a story about how John Entwistle used to be able to carry the high notes in the harmonies but, after a night out with a lady, he came back with a much deeper voice, joking “What the fuck did she do to him??” Daltrey’s translator asks if he wants all that translated, and he retells the story in Japanese.
Unlike the first night, when “The Kids Are Alright” was played as per the single, the second night has the special coda used by The Who in latter day performances with Daltrey singing about “when I sixteen…” It peters out after ninety seconds with Daltrey joking about jetlag and his voice giving out. His voice will arrive on Wednesday, “along with my bags.”
Simon sings “Going Mobile” instead of “The Way It Is” as he did the previous night. Simon gives the old Who song a fuzzy buzz tone on the guitar and plays a heavy-metal inspired solo in the middle. After “Who Are You” they add “I’m A Man” to the set list as a slow bluesy introduction to “My Generation Blues.”
The Mose Ellison tune “Young Man Blues” elicits the same reaction from the audience as the first night. The rest of the set remains the same as the other nights. Daltrey specifically thanks Eddie Vedder for encouraging him to play the ukelele for “Blue Red And Grey.”
Daltrey expresses much thanks for Japan. He published his sentiments on his blog when he writes, “I loved being in Japan,what a country, what people. Such beauty, warmth, dignity and grace. We couldn’t have been made more welcome. They took the spirit of Tommy to their heart and made it their own. The experience of spending time with them, performing to them, being in their company is something that will stay with me. Thank you.”
Tommy In Tokyo is packaged in a normal quad jewel case with photographs from the shows on the artwork. It’s a great release for the Who collector worth having.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)