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The Who – Japan Tour 2008

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Japan Tour 2008

Nov. 13 Osaka Castle Hall, Osaka
Nov. 14 Yokohama Arena, Yokohama
Nov. 16 Saitama Super Arena, Saitama
Nov. 17 Budokan, Tokyo
Nov. 19 Budokan, Tokyo

This is a 10 CD no label box set of the 13th through the 17th out of 20 scheduled 2008 Who concerts which started and ended in London. These are excellent audience recordings of the above 5 shows in Japan with the following lineup:Pete Townshend – Guitar, Vocal
Roger Daltrey – Vocal, Guitar, Harmonica
Pino Palladino – Bass
Simon Townshend – Guitar, Vocal
Zak Starkey – Drums
John Bundrick – Keyboards

Disc 1 [55:46]1. Intro 2. I Can’t Explain 3. The Seeker 4. Relay 5. Fragments 6. Who Are You 7. Behind Blue Eyes 8. Real Good Looking Boy 9. Sister Disco 10. Baba O’Riley 11. Eminence Front

Disc 2 [57:30]1. 5:15 2. Love Reign O’er Me 3. Won’t Get Fooled Again 4. My Generation <Encore> 5. Pinball Wizard 6. Amazing Journey 7. Sparks 8. See Me Feel Me 9. Tea And Theatre

One concert goer wrote: “A powerful reminder of the real power of rock. Its appeal across generations was clear to see in the ecstatic greetings by young and old and in between of the opening bars of their favorites and everybody joining in the Tommy refrain. But what was even more impressive was the genuine humility of the two surviving superstars when they thanked the audience. That came straight from the heart. Thank you, Pete and Roger, for an experience I’d been waiting for 50 years, too!

“This is an excellent audience recording with punctuating bass offering a rather full sound with a clear intermittently heard balanced audience feed in the background. The Who jam effectively on “The Seeker” with Townshend lending his usual harmony. Daltrey greets the crowd after with: “Hello. Great to be here in Yokohama. Oh yeah – that’s right. Great to be here in Tokyo. Great to be here in Osaka. What a fantastic city this is. Just incredible. Just amazing. This next song is how things pass from place to place. It’s called the ‘Relay’”. 

Deep pulsating bass is evident on this track with an overall solid rhythm section. Daltrey, however sounds a bit hoarse but Townshend sweetens the vocals with his harmonies. Townshend wails away on guitar on this riveting track.

Townshend remarks after  “Fragments”: “That was from our last CD. The album is obviously 4 years old”. He introduces “Who Are You” with: “This is a much older song which I hope you know”. Their performance of this track is indicative of the band losing some bite.Townshend remarks before “Behind Blue Eyes”: “It’s great to be back in Japan. We love it here. I don’t know why it took us 50 years to come but here we are”.

The harmonies are a bit off and out of synch initially and the track doesn’t have the sense of immediacy to it. It certainly sounded raw and slowed down. Daltrey explains before they lead into “Real Good Looking Boy”: “Here’s a song that I’d sing with the dedication to the guy that got me into the music business in the first place. He was a ‘Real Good Looking Boy’ – is the name of the song…” which was an obvious reference to Elvis Presley.

Daltrey’s vocal range shows its limitations on “Baba O’Riley” as it breaks up intermittently. A good extended jam carries “5:15″ to the 8:30 mark. “Love Reign O’er Me” sounded good. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” lacked the usual bombast and swagger when the track kicked into full gear. Daltrey was unable to o hold the note extensions adequately but the band, however, lent a credible strong finish to this song. Daltrey’s voice distorts significantly at the 7:56 mark of this 8:42 minute performance.

“My Generation” offered an exuberant and spirited reading of this classic. During the extended “Encore”, Daltrey’s vocals were the weak link on “Pinball Wizard”. The band, however, was particularly sharp for the Tommy refrain. “Tea And Theatre” was the 2nd track from their last album, “Endless Wire” which closed out the show.

Another concert goer remarked: “The trip from Sydney was worth it! They were on fire! Pete was playing at his best. The Who were and ARE the best live band in the world! The new songs worked well with the old. The Who are a force and this was the best live concert I’ve ever seen. It was interesting to watch the Japanese audience jumping around and singing along with every song”.

I, myself, enjoyed the performance based upon my listen of this excellent live audience feed. I felt that the song sequencing was strong and the instrumentation was solid. Starkey certainly held his own on drums and Townshend was effective on lead guitar. The level of musicianship was particularly apparent as I believe The Who gave it their all. Daltrey obviously doesn’t have the range he used to but somehow the band delivered a first rate performance that I enjoyed and recommend.

Disc 3 [53:48]  1. Intro. 2. I Can’t Explain 3. The Seeker 4. Anyway Anyhow Anywhere 5. Fragments 6. Who Are You 7. Behind Blue Eyes 8. Relay 9. Sister Disco 10. Baba O’Riley 11. Eminence Front

Disc 4 [63:00]  1. 5:15 2. Love Reign O’er Me 3. My Generation 4. Won’t Get Fooled Again <Encore> 5. Pinball Wizard 6. Amazing Journey 7. Sparks 8. See Me Feel Me 9. Tea And Theatre

Daltrey states: “Yokohama we know where we are. Hello New York” as the band swings into an energetic and jam induced  “I Can’t Explain” to a vibrant crowd. “The Seeker” is an absolute cranker with a nice steady organ fill and stark and effective percussion with biting guitars in crystal clear fidelity. “Anyway Anyhow Anywhere” is played instead of “Real Good Looking Boy” which was played the night before and represents the only change in the set list between both performances.

The instrumentation on this track is rock solid and enhanced by this excellent sounding recording. The percussion doesn’t carry “Who Are You” the way it could with the impact being lost as a result. The lead vocal is off key and raw but the instrumentation picks up at the halfway point of this track and saves it through to its conclusion at the 6:30 mark.  

Daltrey remarks: “We’re having a good time” as they lead right into “Behind Blue Eyes”. One could hear a pin drop through the unplugged portion of this track. The harmonies blended effectively here.  The recording quality was particularly enjoyable as they broke into a full throttle at 2:38 and never let up: “Thank you, thank you, and for those of you that can speak a little bit of English, this next song is about how music passes from person to person on a relay”.

They muscle into “Relay” with great energy. The guitars are fired up with The Who sounding like a well-oiled machine as this track jams furiously with the organ in the background lending a serene mood as they conclude at 6:07. “Baba O’Riley” is played a little more drawn out for a better effect with great instrument separation which was thoroughly enjoyable and well received.

Townshend steps up to the mike and states simply: “I sing this” as they blaze into “Eminence Front”. The transition was smooth, the keyboards sounded so sweet and the guitars were kicking it into high gear. Townshend allowed the instruments to lead and afforded healthy spacing between the lyrics with his vocals more reactive and elongated as he uttered “Dress Yourself To Kill” ending this 5:45 minute version to rousing applause.

The Who tear through “5:15″ effortlessly to warm applause. Strong instrumentation compensates for Daltrey’s present limited vocal range on “Love Reign O’er Me”. A 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 count leads right into an epic near 11 minute “My Generation”. A bum guitar note starts off “Won’t Get Fooled Again” as Daltrey struggles with the vocals but the band doesn’t hold back and delivers surprising results. Starkey is all over the drums literally exploding in every direction with the track crashing to a close at 9:16 to sustained applause. The first encore is the Tommy refrain.

Daltrey is joined on the chorus to “Pinball Wizard” to round out the vocals for a more powerful effect. Ferocious jamming ensues with “Amazing Journey”. The Who sound good.  Rich and deep bass lines fuel “Sparks” coupled with Starkey’s pounding the kit to crowd applause. Daltrey sounds much better on “See Me Feel Me” when he chooses not to push himself vocally and it works in this bouncy melodic version. Quick split second introductions of the band follow in seconds flat with continuous crowd applause  leading into the meditative sounding 2nd encore of “Tea And Theatre”.

I have chosen to listen to all 5 of these Who Japanese concerts in succession to better appreciate the evolution and progression of the performances. I found this 2nd show in Yokohama to be a no-nonsense in your face full throttle listening experience. There was virtually no stage banter between tracks and The Who delivered in spades for this show and I take a preference to the Yokohama concert as compared with Osaka so far.

Nov. 16 Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan

Disc 5 [53:22] 1. Intro. 2. I Can’t Explain 3. The Seeker 4. Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere 5. Fragments 6. Who Are You 7. Behind Blue Eyes 8. Relay 9. Sister Disco 10. Baba O’Riley 11. Eminence Front

Disc 6 [59:36] 1. 5:15 2. Love Reign O’er Me 3. My Generation 4. Won’t Get Fooled Again <Encore> 5. Pinball Wizard 6. Amazing Journey 7. Sparks 8. See Me Feel Me 9. Tea And Theatre

The set list for Saitama is identical to the one on the 14th for Yokohama.  The gain for the Saitama recording is not as pronounced as it was for Yokohama but it is an excellent audience feed nonetheless. The instrumentation is aggressive on “I Can’t Explain” right from the get go.  “The Seeker” didn’t have the sense of urgency as it did on the 14th. The crowd responded to the splendid jamming that closed “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”.

“Who Are You” sounded punkish and amped up in delivery with an enthusiastic crowd buzzing, cheering and clapping in the background. Starkey was beating furiously on the drums while Daltrey was struggling to stay in key for this great 6:35 minute rendition. Townshend joins Daltrey to help smooth over the first 2:35 minutes of “Behind Blue Eyes”. I continue to be taken in and impressed with the sheer force of the solid instrumentation of The Who.

Townshend pipes up after: “Hello. I won’t say hello Osaka. I won’t say hello New York. I won’t say hello Chicago. I’ll just say hello” as the band leads right into “Relay” which features inspired fueled guitar riffs. As I was listening to “Baba O’Riley” I was saying to myself that Daltrey needs to take notice and stop pushing his vocal range which is far past its prime as he intermittently actually sounds embarrassing. The Who, however, can still push the peddle with the best of them as they attack this track with an intense vengeance.

“5:15″ and “Love Reign O’er Me” both sounded pretty much like standard fare. The Who included a short “I’m Free” refrain at the tail end of a 9:22 minute “My Generation”. They plowed right into a 9:46 minute “Won’t Get Fooled Again” featuring a robust finish to resounding applause. “Thank you everybody for coming to see us. Thank you. Good Night” with  Band Introductions following. Starkey got a great reception along with Bundrick on keyboards.

Townshend  remarked: “I sometimes need two starts for this to get the sound right” as they tear into their Encore featuring the Tommy refrain with “Pinball Wizard” as the band lend a powerful collective “assist” on vocals. “Amazing Journey” included a “Foxy Lady” refrain mixed in. “See Me Feel Me” worked effectively as it has so far for the Osaka and Yokohama shows. ‘Tea And Theatre” offered a nice serene and sedating close.  “Thank you for coming to see us. See you soon, I hope”.

Nov. 17 Budokan, Tokyo, Japan
Disc 7 [52:23]  1. Intro 2. I Can’t Explain 3. The Seeker 4. Anyway Anyhow Anyplace 5. Fragments 6. Who Are You 7. Behind Blue Eyes 8. Relay 9. Sister Disco 10. Baba O’Riley 11. Eminence Front

Disc 8 [64:42] 1. 5:15 2. Love Reign O’er Me 3. Won’t Get Fooled Again 4. My Generation 5. Naked Eye     <Encore> 6. Pinball Wizard 7. Amazing Journey 8. Sparks 9. See Me Feel Me 10. Tea And Theatre

“Anyway Anyhow Anyplace” was an intense and fast-paced explosive attack. “Glad to be here. Hello…” The performances up to and including “Fragments” were played quicker and a bit leaner. The band really cranked it up for “Who Are You” on this 6:46 minute version. There was a more deliberate attempt to stretch out the beginning 2:25 of “Behind Blue Eyes” and then the Who decided to mix it up a bit here to good results.

“It’s really fabulous to be here, wonderful to be here…This next song was written in 1972-1973. It was one of the songs that was written for the “Who’s Next” album but it didn’t get on there. It was about the internet, about the internet that I saw coming…It’s not what I expected. This song is about how we use music to connect. We use music to speak. We use it to exchange ideas. It’s called “Relay”.

The energy is apparent for this 6:23 minute version which I took a preference to over the others from the preceding Japanese shows. “This next track is from the same period and it’s called “Sister Disco” which worked well with a nice transition.

Daltrey initially sounded a step behind the rest of the band on “Baba O’Riley” until the band took off with the harmonica fueled trumped up conclusion. A haunting sounding guitar accompanied the familiar and intoxicating keyboard intro to “Eminence Front”. This 5:41 minute version definitely sounded more innovative and adventurous compared to the first 3 shows and yielded extraordinary results.

“5:15″ was an effective and extended 6:52 minute rendition. The intro to “Love Reign O’er Me’” reminds me of Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” each time I hear it. The band slowed this one down which helped Daltrey a little and this 6:00 minute performance easily dominated the others from the preceding Japanese shows. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was an extended offering with pleasing twists that stood out in this 8:48 minute version to roaring applause. Daltrey in particular was feisty and all fired up as the band belted this track in high gear.

There was no question in my mind that the Who came tonight “to have something to say” with this stand-out 5:39 minute version that was gripping with explosive instrumentation. A beautiful seamless transition followed with “Naked Eye”. This 7:30 minute track sizzled and built up to a punctuated climax with the crowd swelling in the background. The Who put their mark on this one.

“Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you”. The Encore offered a quick rendition of  “Pinball Wizard” and a phenomenal reading of “Amazing Journey” in which they pulled all the stops. Starkey received a rousing ovation during Band Introductions. Townshend remarked: “I think coal mining was easier except not as much fun. Don’t have as many tea breaks” as they concluded with “Tea And Theatre” to a tremendous and well-deserved applause. “Thank you. Thank you. Respect. Be lucky. Be very very lucky”.

Nov. 19 Budokan, Japan

Disc 9 [53:48] 1. Intro. 2. I Can’t Explain 3. The Seeker 4. Anyway Anyhow Anywhere 5. Fragments 6. Who Are You 7. Behind Blue Eyes 8. Relay 9. Sister Disco 10. Baba O’Riley 11. Eminence Front

Disc 10 [68:34] 1. 5:15 2. Love Reign O’er Me 3. Won’t Get Fooled Again 4. My Generation 5. Naked Eye  <Encore>  6. Pinball Wizard 7. Amazing Journey 8. Sparks 9. See Me Feel Me 10. Tea And Theatre

The recording for the final Japanese show was a little more bottom heavy and the gain was back up there as well. Daltrey stated: “We had a day off yesterday in this beautiful city of yours and when I have a day off, my voice wants to have three days off…” The Who delivered another round of solid renditions with an identical set list to the Budokan show of the 17th. “Who Are You” and “Behind Blue Eyes” were both solid riveting performances.

Townshend remarked afterwards: “Well, it’s been great, absolutely wonderful to be in Japan, and this is the most fantastic wonderful beautiful country and it’s such a shame that the Who took such a long time to come and see you but thank you for tonight coming to see us and making us feel so welcome and just a word about some of the songs. The first three songs were old songs, very early songs from the 60′s, very early. The 4th song – electronic bits – .

“Fragments” is from our latest CD called “Endless Wire” and now we’re up to another one of those 70′s songs about the new technology as I saw it back in 1970 – this is “Relay”…” This particular track has evocative keyboards that remind me of Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up” which the band could have stretched out even further if they chose to in this great 6:01 minute performance. “This next song is from the same period roughly and it’s called “Sister Disco”…” The Who nailed “Baba O’Riley”. “This one’s for Carol King” as they tore into “Eminence Front” with a bit of extra touch on keyboards.

“Love Reign O’er Me” took on an extra haunting dimension and represented for me the stand-out rendition of all 5 Japanese shows. As I listened to “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, I was struck by the how the Who can impress by their sheer will power to compensate for Daltrey’s diminished vocal range especially evident on this 8:40 minute track.

Townshend proclaimed right after: “Great band we’ve got on tour with us…” as Band Introductions were delivered. An extended and hypnotic 9:03 minute rendering of “My Generation” with furious driven jams followed. The immediate and smooth as a glove transition to “Naked Eye” built up and swelled into a full blown sustained climactic close.

“Thank you for coming to see us. You’ve been so great. Thank you”. The band returned with their standard encore Tommy refrain which included a frantic “Sparks”. Townshend stated after “See Me Feel Me”: “Fantastic band. Thank you and this is our last show for this tour of Japan and we’re very very happy to be here and I’d like to thank everybody in our band and our fabulous crew…Everybody’s been great. Thank you so much…We’ll be so sad to leave Tokyo. Great city. Great people. You’re wonderful people. Thank you. There ain’t much left in here. Whatever there’s left belongs to you…” After another touching reading of “Tea And Theatre” Townshend left the following paring shot: “It’s been fantastic to play to you. So good. Thank you. Be very very lucky and good night…”

I cannot get over the powerful and steady as a rock instrumentation of the Who throughout all of these 5 shows. Bundrick on keyboards impressed me in particular as he played a no nonsense solid role with no superfluous notes rendered on this leg of the tour. I preferred the performances of the 2nd and 5th shows overall compared to the others and found these two shows to be the best recorded of the five as well. All five of these shows, however, offered  excellent audience recordings. The musicianship of the Who was exemplary and the instrumentation, once again, top notch. This Japan Tour 2008 10 CD Box Set comes highly recommended even though the set lists are almost exactly identical. The Who, in my opinion, are still a force to be reckoned with.

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The Who - Japan Tour 2008, 2.5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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