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The Who – Los Angeles 1980 1st Night: Mike Millard Original Master Tapes (Wardour-414)

Los Angeles 1980 1st Night: Mike Millard Original Master Tapes (Wardour-414)

Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA, USA – June 23, 1980

Disc 1 (55:06) Intro, I Can’t Explain, Baba O’Riley, My Wife, Sister Disco, Behind Blue Eyes, Music Must Change, Drowned, Who Are You

Disc 2 (64:32) MC, 5:15, Pinball Wizard, See Me Feel Me, Long Live Rock, My Generation, Sparks, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Summertime Blues, Twist And Shout, You Belong To Us, The Real Me

The Who would play a total of seven concerts in the city of Los Angeles, California in early summer of 1980, two at the LA Forum and the remaining five at the Sports Arena. While the band had yet to release a studio album featuring the new drummer Kenny Jones and live keyboard player John “Rabbit” Bundrick, they would make changes to their set list. There was great demand for The Who as a live act and the band sold out all seven of the LA dates playing to over 112 thousand fans, one being Mike Millard.

Mike was in a great position to tape as he was able to get an excellent sounding capture of the first night at the Sports Arena. The balance is perfect, the sound is crisp and detailed with just a touch of tape hiss and a great bottom end. The Ox’ bass sounds and feels phenomenal, this recording is what most have come to expect from a Millard recording. JEMS did an excellent job with the transfer and mastering of this title, certainly Tho Who is one of the collective’s favorite artists and their presentation of the music and photos included in the original torrent is excellent. Like my other reviews here is Jim R’s remembrance of that Monday night some 40 years ago:

“Mike and I together attended The Who show on June 23, 1980 at the LA Sports Arena. The wheelchair was not used for this show. A payoff was made to security staff to get in our gear. This same security supervisor was near the stage, close to our seats, so we were “protected” so to speak. It was one of five LA area Who shows we attended within about a week’s time. We went to The Forum on 6/20 then to four out of the five LA Sports Arena nights.

For the June 23rd show, we sat in the 4th row, Section A on the inside aisle. These were our best seats of the five concerts. Mike’s recording quality and my pictures reflect in our close proximity to the PA and stage. As a fan looking to get the best possible seats at face value from the box office, the worst three words you can hear are “Mail Order Only” for a ticket sale.

“Mail Order Only” is code for box office corruption, as that system provides no visibility to the general public. The brokers would get all the best seats and even most of the average ones. Tickets for the LA Sports Arena were tightly controlled by the downtown LA ticket brokers. We had an “in” with a key person at Al Brooks’ agency who gave us a “deal” on all our tickets for the five shows. Even so, the tickets were very costly at the time; therefore, we could sanely afford to attend only five of the seven LA area performances.

The Who offers a little nostalgia. The first show Mike ever recorded was The Who in 1973 on the Quadrophenia tour. I was there, too, but we didn’t know each other at the time. But destiny awaited us both. By the way, Keith Moon was a maniac on the drums.

Back to the June 23rd show. If I had to choose a few words to describe the concert they would be explosive, high energy. We rarely sat in our seats. In fact, at times we had to stand on our seats, even in the 4th row. With Mike standing on his seat, he relied on me to check the level meters on the Nak.

Roger Daltrey was in fine form, his voice was strong. Pete Townshend did his thing despite a brace on his right hand due to a previous hand injury. John Entwistle remains one of my favorite bass players of all time. At times he is a “Lead Bass” guitarist. Kenney Jones did a great job on the drums. The show was basically a Greatest Hits event. The Oldies section of the encore was a highlight.”

The opening salvo is incredible, the band hit the stage with Substitute that goes into I Can’t Explain, the band come out strong even though Pete has a cast on his right hand. He broke it after punching a wall after the performance days earlier in San Diego, it does not inhibit him in any way, he slashes at the guitar with abandon during I Can’t Explain, Punk Rock frenzy! Roger gives a quick thank you and much to the delight of the audience go right into Baba O’Riley, the song is a bit more laid back than its mid 70’s predecessors. My Wife features a nice jam in the middle and end with Rabbit laying down some nice piano and organ and the song has a real swing to it.

Like to previous years tours, the band finally get to really deep material from Who Are You, like fully fleshed out versions of the title track, Sister Disco, and Music Must Change. The addition of Rabbit to the touring line up really adds the needed dimension to the music, the band use this as a catalyst for improvisation and several songs like My Wife and Music Must Change really jam. The band also has a four piece horn section, they also add some nice color on songs like Drowned, Who Are You and 5:15. Pete has to take a break before 5:15 to fix his hand wrap. Roger announces it’s “sing along with The Who time” much to the chagrin of the audience. Pete returns and says “I punched a wall, not like I fell down roller skating…”

The beginning of See Me, Feel Me is slightly worse quality than the rest of the tape, it does not sound like a recording issue, perhaps Mike had to adjust his positioning, as Jim R eludes in his remembrance, either standing on or getting off his seat. It’s just the very beginning and the superb quality returns as the band get in the Rock and Roll section. Pete’s vocal during Long Live Rock sounds almost punkish, and it’s certain he seems to be enjoying himself. Sparks features Entwistle’s thundering bass runs and is easily the most aggressive song of the night, Kenny Jones puts his own stamp on the song, certainly paying homage to Keith’s style. The place goes into full on party mode during Won’t Get Fooled Again, audience is certainly dancing and clapping in the isles, judging by the recording, certainly clapping.

As I was listening to this tape I was wondering where the firecrackers were, well as the audience scream and shout for an encore I got my answer in the form of a massive explosion, was beginning to think the LA crowd was rather tame. The encores begin with a frenzied Summertime Blues, Pete slashing at the guitar and John dropping some great bass runs. The party continues with Twist And Shout that sounds like the band is having a great time, it evolves into a lyrical improve by Pete singing “This place belongs to us” sung in chorus before flowing into the final song, a rockin’ version of The Real Me. A great concert, the band energized by a great California crowd.

The packaging is typical for Wardour, full color live shots taken from Jim R’s excellent photos included with the original torrent, finally. This is how it should be, give us as much of these “artifacts” as possible. A scan of the ticket stub is on the rear cover, seeing The Who for $12.50, damn. Of course we get numbered sticker and picture discs as well, yes it’s all here, a very nice release from Wardour.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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