The Who Showcase New Music During First Performance At Wisconsin’s Alpine Valley Music Theatre In 30 Years - ‘Moving On’ Recap And Photos

(Left to right) Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend perform on stage at Alpine Valley Music Theatre during The Who's ″Moving On″ tour. Sunday, September 8, 2019 in East Troy, Wisconsin (Photo by Barry Brecheisen)
Photo by Barry Brecheisen

When last we checked in with The Who, there were moments on stage when guitarist Pete Townshend seemed less than thrilled about the prospect of performing with a 48-piece orchestra during the group’s “Moving On” tour. 

That was opening night - four months ago on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

What a difference those four months have made.

“It’s a delight and a pleasure for me,” said Townshend Sunday night at Alpine Valley Music Theatre. “We’re honored to be able to play with such fine orchestras.”

Sunday marked The Who’s return to the rural Wisconsin venue in the village of East Troy (population 4,281) for the first time in 30 years. Townshend, Roger Daltrey and backing vocalist Billy Nicholls last performed at the massive outdoor amphitheatre (capacity 37,000) over the course of three July nights in recognition of the 25 years since original drummer Keith Moon first joined Townshend, singer Roger Daltrey and bassist John Entwistle. 

“We were last here in 1989. Where did it go?” asked Daltrey rhetorically. “We understand that this venue draws people from three different states,” added Townshend of its location southeast of Madison and southwest of Milwaukee. “It was a long drive from Chicago. Thanks for coming to see us.” 

The idea for “Moving On” was born out of Daltrey and Townshend orchestral solo tours in support of Tommy and Quadrophenia and those two albums bookend this show, which opened with six straight from the former Sunday night.

“Nice to be back,” said Townshend strumming an acoustic guitar alongside his brother Simon during Tommy’s “Overture.” 

Roger Daltrey’s patented swinging of the microphone accompanied Townshend’s first windmills during “1921.” The guitarist was fired up from go Sunday, clad in a navy blue jumpsuit while hopping in place during the song. Simon moved to acoustic guitar for the outro as the orchestra’s horns and woodwinds backed Pete and bombastic drummer Zak Starkey.

Daltrey crouched down in the shadows, pointing his mic to his right at Simon, springing to life and pointing left as Pete fired off the trademark early riffs of “Pinball Wizard.” Daltrey crouched again as Pete let loose his first solos of the evening from a gold Stratocaster during the song later.

“It’s been a long time since we made an album,” said Pete Sunday in Wisconsin. “Listen carefully… It’s a new song so you’ll have to listen carefully,” he said of “Hero Ground Zero,” a track which, at times, seemed to resemble “Another Tricky Day.” 

One of the treats on recent dates of this tour has been the group’s unveiling of songs set aside for their forthcoming twelfth studio album, their first since Endless Wire in 2006. 

Sunday in Wisconsin fans got a second new track as well, which Pete called “Ball and Chain” (though it’s been making the rounds online as “Guantanamo”). 

Perhaps Pete’s instructions that fans listen carefully was to reveal a bit of a political lyrical bent in both. Townshend also hinted that fans may hear new material as soon as November.

“And now it’s time for the orchestra to take a break,” said Daltrey, introducing a portion of the show that sees The Who band perform sans symphonic elements before stripping down even further.

“The best line in rock... “ mused Daltrey. “Everyone thinks it’s ‘My Generation.’ It’s this one,” he continued, setting up “Substitute.” “I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth.” 

“Substitute” preceded full band renditions of “I Can See For Miles” and “The Seeker,” giving way to what’s been a consistent highlight on this tour night in and night out: Daltrey and Pete Townshend performing as an acoustic duo. 

One gets the feeling watching Daltrey watch Townshend that, like the best of jazz improv, they try their best not to do “Won’t Get Fooled Again” the same way on any given night. Daltrey stood stomping on stage, the crowd picking it up, clapping in the intro to the duo’s acoustic take on the Who’s Next classic. Later, coming out of an extended solo, Townshend nodded to Daltrey, a cue for him to take it back.

The orchestra returned as The Who headed home with Quadrophenia. It was bassist Jon Button’s moment to shine as he ably handled one of John Entwistle’s finest recorded moments, kicking off the suite with “The Real Me.”

Nothing sounded better backed by an orchestra Sunday than Quadrophenia, particularly “5:15,” “The Rock” and “Love, Reign O’er Me.”

“What can I say? Beautiful,” marveled Townshend at the keyboard intro to “Love, Reign O’er Me” composed on stage Sunday at Alpine Valley by touring Who member Loren Gold. “It’s beautiful what you’ve composed, Loren. Can I take the publishing?” the guitarist joked.

With just about six weeks left to go, what’s made “Moving On” so unique since May is the band’s willingness to take chances. Credit for that goes to Pete Townshend in particular, who’s made clear his desire to find new ways to present these songs if he’s going to play them live again for the umpteenth time.

Working with the orchestra, and presenting the band in a number of different ways each night, has given this tour a fresh feel despite the familiar territory. 

Townshend has figured out how to not only perform but improvise with spastic bursts of electric guitar presented within the parameters set forth by the presence of a 48-piece orchestra.

Seizing upon tracks like “I’m a Man,” which was never performed live prior to this tour, and consistently shaking up the setlist each night, working in different tracks instead of regurgitating the same set daily, has kept the shows interesting.

“Hero Ground Zero” and “Ball and Chain” - plus Pete’s proud claim Sunday that the forthcoming album will also feature a song written by his underrated brother Simon - should leave fans optimistic about where The Who heads next.

*** The Who’s “Moving On” tour runs through October with performances Friday, September 13 at Fenway Park in Boston, Friday, September 27 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Friday, October 11 and Sunday, October 13 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and more. For the full itinerary, click HERE.

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When last we checked in with The Who, there were moments on stage when guitarist Pete Townshend seemed less than thrilled about the prospect of performing with a 48-piece orchestra during the group’s “Moving On” tour. 

That was opening night - four months ago on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

What a difference those four months have made.

“It’s a delight and a pleasure for me,” said Townshend Sunday night at Alpine Valley Music Theatre. “We’re honored to be able to play with such fine orchestras.”

Sunday marked The Who’s return to the rural Wisconsin venue in the village of East Troy (population 4,281) for the first time in 30 years. Townshend, Roger Daltrey and backing vocalist Billy Nicholls last performed at the massive outdoor amphitheatre (capacity 37,000) over the course of three July nights in recognition of the 25 years since original drummer Keith Moon first joined Townshend, singer Roger Daltrey and bassist John Entwistle. 

“We were last here in 1989. Where did it go?” asked Daltrey rhetorically. “We understand that this venue draws people from three different states,” added Townshend of its location southeast of Madison and southwest of Milwaukee. “It was a long drive from Chicago. Thanks for coming to see us.” 

The idea for “Moving On” was born out of Daltrey and Townshend orchestral solo tours in support of Tommy and Quadrophenia and those two albums bookend this show, which opened with six straight from the former Sunday night.

“Nice to be back,” said Townshend strumming an acoustic guitar alongside his brother Simon during Tommy’s “Overture.” 

Roger Daltrey’s patented swinging of the microphone accompanied Townshend’s first windmills during “1921.” The guitarist was fired up from go Sunday, clad in a navy blue jumpsuit while hopping in place during the song. Simon moved to acoustic guitar for the outro as the orchestra’s horns and woodwinds backed Pete and bombastic drummer Zak Starkey.

Daltrey crouched down in the shadows, pointing his mic to his right at Simon, springing to life and pointing left as Pete fired off the trademark early riffs of “Pinball Wizard.” Daltrey crouched again as Pete let loose his first solos of the evening from a gold Stratocaster during the song later.

“It’s been a long time since we made an album,” said Pete Sunday in Wisconsin. “Listen carefully… It’s a new song so you’ll have to listen carefully,” he said of “Hero Ground Zero,” a track which, at times, seemed to resemble “Another Tricky Day.” 

One of the treats on recent dates of this tour has been the group’s unveiling of songs set aside for their forthcoming twelfth studio album, their first since Endless Wire in 2006. 

Sunday in Wisconsin fans got a second new track as well, which Pete called “Ball and Chain” (though it’s been making the rounds online as “Guantanamo”). 

Perhaps Pete’s instructions that fans listen carefully was to reveal a bit of a political lyrical bent in both. Townshend also hinted that fans may hear new material as soon as November.

“And now it’s time for the orchestra to take a break,” said Daltrey, introducing a portion of the show that sees The Who band perform sans symphonic elements before stripping down even further.

“The best line in rock... “ mused Daltrey. “Everyone thinks it’s ‘My Generation.’ It’s this one,” he continued, setting up “Substitute.” “I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth.” 

“Substitute” preceded full band renditions of “I Can See For Miles” and “The Seeker,” giving way to what’s been a consistent highlight on this tour night in and night out: Daltrey and Pete Townshend performing as an acoustic duo. 

One gets the feeling watching Daltrey watch Townshend that, like the best of jazz improv, they try their best not to do “Won’t Get Fooled Again” the same way on any given night. Daltrey stood stomping on stage, the crowd picking it up, clapping in the intro to the duo’s acoustic take on the Who’s Next classic. Later, coming out of an extended solo, Townshend nodded to Daltrey, a cue for him to take it back.

The orchestra returned as The Who headed home with Quadrophenia. It was bassist Jon Button’s moment to shine as he ably handled one of John Entwistle’s finest recorded moments, kicking off the suite with “The Real Me.”

Nothing sounded better backed by an orchestra Sunday than Quadrophenia, particularly “5:15,” “The Rock” and “Love, Reign O’er Me.”

“What can I say? Beautiful,” marveled Townshend at the keyboard intro to “Love, Reign O’er Me” composed on stage Sunday at Alpine Valley by touring Who member Loren Gold. “It’s beautiful what you’ve composed, Loren. Can I take the publishing?” the guitarist joked.

With just about six weeks left to go, what’s made “Moving On” so unique since May is the band’s willingness to take chances. Credit for that goes to Pete Townshend in particular, who’s made clear his desire to find new ways to present these songs if he’s going to play them live again for the umpteenth time.

Working with the orchestra, and presenting the band in a number of different ways each night, has given this tour a fresh feel despite the familiar territory. 

Townshend has figured out how to not only perform but improvise with spastic bursts of electric guitar presented within the parameters set forth by the presence of a 48-piece orchestra.

Seizing upon tracks like “I’m a Man,” which was never performed live prior to this tour, and consistently shaking up the setlist each night, working in different tracks instead of regurgitating the same set daily, has kept the shows interesting.

“Hero Ground Zero” and “Ball and Chain” - plus Pete’s proud claim Sunday that the forthcoming album will also feature a song written by his underrated brother Simon - should leave fans optimistic about where The Who heads next.

*** The Who’s “Moving On” tour runs through October with performances Friday, September 13 at Fenway Park in Boston, Friday, September 27 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Friday, October 11 and Sunday, October 13 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and more. For the full itinerary, click HERE.

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