The Who – New Jersey 1979 (no label)

New Jersey 1979 (no label)

New Jersey 1979 presents the silver pressed debut of The Who’s two Passaic New Jersey shows in 1979.  These are the first two shows in the US after Kenny Jones joined the band to replace the departed Keith Moon.  Despite the loss, this is one of The Who’s commercial and, some would argue, artistic high points.  

Their eighth studio LP Who Are You? was released the previous summer and reached number two, their highest ever position in the US charts.  “Who Are You,” “Had Enough” and “Sister Disco” from the album received constant and near obsessive airplay on New York radio.  “Long Live Rock,” recorded in 1972 and included on the 1974 compilation Odds And Sods was finally released as a single in April 1979 and also received tremendous amounts of airplay. 

The documentary The Kids Are All Right was released in June giving them further publicity for their return to live action which began with various scattered gigs in London and Paris in May.  Their return to the US stage was a series of seven concerts in the middle of September. 

Two shows at the intimate Capitol Theater in Passaic served as warm up shows for five sold out shows at Madison Square.  The sound quality for both of the New Jersey shows is consistent.  They are distant but good and clear recordings of the complete shows with a small venue atmosphere.  Both serve as good documents for these important shows. 

The setlist was drawn from the older albums including some numbers from Quadrophrenia.  Several songs from their latest album were played, but what is most surprising is the amount of jamming and improvisation that goes on in these shows reminiscent of their concerts circa 1970. 

It could be argued that, compared to the rather static setlists and performances from their last tour in 1976, these shows are their live peak.  Adding to the live sound is the excellent John “Rabbit” Bundrick on keyboards.  He adds a heavy Hammond presence to the arrangements.  Also joining the band is a small horn section with Howie Casey on saxophone, Reg Brooks on trombone and Dave Stillwell on trumpet.   

Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ – September 10th, 1979 

Disc 1 (68:01):  Intro., Substitute, I Can’t Explain, Baba O’Riley, The Punk And The Godfather, Boris The Spider, Sister Disco, Behind Blue Eyes, Music Must Change, Drowned, Who Are You, 5.15

Disc 2 (62:18):  Pinball Wizard, See Me Feel Me, Trick Of The Light, Long Live Rock, My Generation, Magic Bus / Join Together, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Young Man Blues, The Real Me

September 10 is the first US show in 1979 and the first US show with Kenny Jones.  The setlist is very safe for the first half of the show with “Substitute” and “I Can’t Explain” beginning the show.  Roger Daltrey introduces Rabbit Bundrick afterwards and continues by saying, “most of the stuff we’ll play tonight is old stuff.  As yet the new band with Kenny on the drums have yet to record any new material.  But it’s a-coming” before getting into “Baba O’Riley.”

One point of interest in the inclusion of songs from Quadrophenia.  They are included because, as Daltrey says, “because Peter said we haven’t played enough, and with Rabbit on the keyboards it’s much easier to do.”  Further on in the show they’ll play “Drowned” in a new arrangement, “5.15” and “The Real Me” as the final encore from their rock opera. 

Entwistle’s “Boris The Spider” provides his contribution to the set and rather oddly someone shouts “John Bonham” afterwards.  “Sister Disco” from the latest album is a highlight of both concerts. 1979 was the height of the “disco sucks” backlash and this song was seen as its anthem. 

Townshend sounds apologetic afterwards, saying, “I just want to say ‘Sister Disco’ is not about disco music…it’s not.”  When the audience responds by chanting “disco sucks” Townshend chimes in “some of it sucks.”  (Someone by the taper shouts “No, all of it!!”)

Daltrey’s microphone malfunctions at the beginning of “Behind Blues Eyes.”  The vocals begin with the chorus.  “Music Must Change” is referred to as the newest song they have Townshend says.  “Pinball Wizard” and “See Me Feel Me” form a short nod to Tommy. 

“Trick of the Light” is one of the newer songs in the set and is perhaps The Who get to heavy metal.  Entwistle plays eight-string bass and Townshend plays four-string bass to create the rumbling thunder in the track.

“My Generation” features a Pete improvisation called “Blue, Black, White,” “Magic Bus” features another Pete Townshend improvisation called “London Blues” and they are segued into the final song of the set “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” 

These songs together total almost a half hour in the set.  The first encore “Young Man Blues” is stretched to seven minutes with Townshend providing a surprisingly subtle guitar improvisation over Kendrick’s Hammond in the mix.  The final encore “The Real Me” is played straight with no improvisations and the horn section assert themselves.   

Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ – September 11th, 1979

Disc 3 (68:24):  Intro., Substitute, I Can’t Explain, Baba O’Riley, The Punk And The Godfather, Boris The Spider, Sister Disco, Behind Blue Eyes, Music Must Change, Drowned, Who Are You, 5.15

Disc 4 (61:02):  Pinball Wizard, See Me Feel Me, Long Live Rock, My Generation, Relay, Blue Blue Blue, Magic Bus, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Trick Of The Light, Summertime Blues, Roadrunner, jam, Pictures Of Lily, Alright Now, Big Boss Man

The second Passaic show follows the same list as the first for the first hour and a half.  The playing is a bit loser than the first and much more confident.  Daltrey again introduces Jones and Bundrick before “Baba O’Riley.”  Giving Bundrick such acknowledgement, both introducing him and featuring him prominently in the arrangements, is a testament to The Who’s musical integrity.  

While Daltrey is introducing “Boris The Spider” there is a bit of a disturbance in the audience.  “What your fucking problem?” Daltrey says.  “John’s written several songs over the years.  But this is probably the most popular.  Most popular with us anyway” before starting the track.  

After the song there is more commotion and Daltrey comments “you’re making more noise than us.”  Townshend then asks, “does anybody got a saw?…Reasons to be cheerful part two” before hitting the opening chord for “Sister Disco.” 

The new song doesn’t have the “this isn’t about disco music” explanation like the first night.  Instead Townshend shouts, “it’s easy…especially in a place like this.”  And continues saying how much he likes playing the Capitol, “We take these motherfucking tongue-wags that we are coming up playing in great big shit-holes…but it’s great to be onstage after three years.”  A tour de force early in the set is “Music Must Change.”  The dynamic performance is augmented by the strong Hammond presence with Townshend delivering a legendary solo in the middle. 

Like most Who shows, “My Generation” is the framework for their improvisational tangents.  Roger sings a bit of “Relay” before they go into Townshend’s “You’ve Got Rock and Roll” which will appear later in the week as well at MSG. This is followed by “Blue Black White” which in one form or another is played at all the NJ/NY shows. 

They jam a bit on “Pictures Of Lily” (which they don’t seem to remember playing) and Free’s “Alright Now.” They close the show with a great “Big Boss Man” which appears at this show in it’s entirety for the first time.  This a magnificent Who release featuring an unfairly neglected period on their history and is worth having. 

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  1. After going back and listening to this Gerard’s review was spot on! The Free track along with the closer from Jimmy Reed is dynamic! The raw power of this show makes it a MUST HAVE for WHO fans!!

  2. Excellent review. I completely agree about this period in The ‘Oo’s career being one of their more exciting really. Looking forward to getting this one and the Garden shows.


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