Behind Blue Eyes - another artist's take on The Who
malias40 at hotmail.com
Mon Jul 5 06:15:07 CDT 2004
Last night I went to see amnother of my favourite artists - Suzanne Vega.
She currently doing a cover of "BBE" in her set - and pretty good it is too.
Suzanne was also on the bil at Isle of Wight Festival - and got to see The
Here's what she wrote in her tour diary. I quote without her express
permission, from her website
so I apologise to her.
See what you think. Oh, and she can't spell "Townshend".
Author: Suzanne Vega (Suzanne)
Friday, July 02, 2004 - 3:13 pm
Isle of Wight!!
June 12, 2004
We met up with Ruby and Jackie and then the members of the Mooncusser film
crew @ the airport and set off for the Isle of Wight.
The ferry trip over was beautiful. Dougie said that someone on the ferry
introduced him to who he thought were some members of the current Who, but
they turned out to be some local musicians who had just played a wedding.
There was a rumor that Pete Townsend was on the ferry, but I didnt see him.
We parked the bus in the parking lot, which was to be our home for two days.
It was behind the stage. Isle of Wight has only one stage unlike Glastonbury
which has several. This makes it much simpler. We got out, and went to see
Jet performing. Saw John Giddings my agent, out in front of the stage, which
was nice. More on him later. I liked the band, they were accomplished and
cool. I recognized their song from some commercial in the States. The camera
work for the screens by the side of the stage was excellent, it looked like
a music video. In spite of this, Ruby declared the band pathetic and
stalked off to go on the rides with Jackie.
After their performance there was scramble for food before the Who came on,
so we went out and walked among the grounds to the concession stands. I
tried to avoid going through the crowd by walking behind the chain link
fence barricading the grounds. I was with Ruby, Jackie the babysitter, and
Glynn. Suddenly I realized that right ahead of us were about 20 guys with
their penises out, all urinating through this fence. We were about to walk
right in front of them.
Girls! Stop!! I shouted. Why? said Ruby. Turn around right now! Lets
go this way! Why? said Ruby. Apparently the girls hadnt noticed
We stepped over people on the ground, sunburned, one boy looked very drunk
or drugged, probably about 14, which disturbed me. We tried to get Ruby
something to eat, which we achieved finally with great difficulty. Glynn and
I ate pork sandwiches and made our way back to the bus, avoiding the
I made sure Ruby got into her pajamas and started to brush her hair when
Glynn came running in -- Theres a seat for you at the VIP lounge to see
the Who, but you have to come NOW! he said. I gave Ruby a kiss and went
running off. She complained, but I promised her she could see David Bowie
the next day. She was too tired to stay up any later, and I didnt think she
would like it anyway.
The energy as the Who hit the stage was like a punch in the face. The
younger bands had been good, but this was another level. I had never seen
them live before. I knew about them because every boy I liked in high school
was crazy about them. My first date was at the age of 15 to see the movie
Tommy at the Ziegfeld Theater with Joe Piscitello.
I didnt like rock n roll at that age. All my friends were into Patti
Smith, The Who, and David Bowie but I thought rock musicians were stupid
posers acting silly. I was deeply suspicious of any hype and showmanship. I
was into Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. Although I wanted to be a performer
and had written lots of songs, I never went to an actual show until 1979
when I saw Lou Reed.
I dont remember what they started with, but early on in the set Townsend
began to shout for them to turn up the music, complaining that it was too
quiet. Everybody cheered loudly, and he seemed to visibly relax. It was good
to see some humor in his craggy face.
Of the two frontmen, Roger Daltrey seemed to be struggling more, straining
on certain notes, and also hes a bit heavier now than he was, not quite the
golden boy he has been. Townsend fares better in that respect -- having
never been a beauty he has lost little in that department.
Daltrey at one point launched into a harmonica solo which sounded bizarre,
having nothing to with the rest of the song - Townsend whispered into his
ear and Daltrey flung the harmonica away. Someone had given him the
harmonica in the wrong key. This annoyed him, understandably.
I was more and more drawn in by Townsend as the show went on, by his dark
charisma, and the language of his body with the guitar. Although I have seen
the pictures so many times, when he did the first windmill, I was struck by
the absolute defiance of the gesture, not only in his arm. But especially
his eyes. And then down through every sinew of his body.
I found myself really moved watching him play not only the thunderous
pounding of Pinball Wizard but also the more delicate phrases, I dont
remember now which songs they belonged to. Love Reign Oer Me was exhalted
and probably the high point of the show for me. Though we were 60,000 people
we could feel and see the artistry in his fingers as he coaxed the tender
notes from the sound hole, notes you would think would be lost in the
production but never were. I vowed to myself NEVER to lose control of my own
guitar on stage again.
I particularly wanted to hear Behind Blue Eyes since we have been covering
it in our set. I love this song and have always identified with it. More on
that some other time. To be honest, they seemed to walk through it, and it
was a shock hearing Daltrey forget the lyrics at one point. I feel its one
of their most poignant songs.
I began to love Townsend in his black Nehru suit, for his lean austerity,
his body twisting with power, and the way he became one animal with the
guitar, one minute bashing on it in a kind of abusive fury and the next
caressing sweet unexpected notes into the air.
I was glad to see them at this stage of the game rather than at their
height. Its more difficult now, and they rose to it. We were curious -- how
would they play the line Hope I die before I get old? Would they wink at
it? They did not. They played it straight and went on with the show. They
could have been a cliche, but they werent.
The press later confirmed that it was a great show and they were still in
great form. The article I read in the New York Times a couple of months ago
when they played Madison Square Garden was mixed, so I really didnt know
what to expect beforehand.
The other thing that struck me about the performance was the inventiveness
of the music. I HATE long solos, and really love words. To me a song is
lyrics and a melody, sometimes not even that. The rest is theater. During
long musical breaks I find myself getting restless, and wondering what to do
with myself, sometimes even in my own shows, looking at my nails and
wondering if they need a trim. But here I was completely absorbed in their
musical landscape of shifting harmonies, rhythmic changes, melodic riffs,
and unexpected textures. I am sure all of this has been written about and
analyzed to death in the music press but for me it was all new.
I am curious to know more about Townsend the man. Remembering everything in
the press about him from last year, you dont want to get too close,
however. I cant imagine leaning against a bar and having a drink with him
somewhere. Although one senses self loathing and personal unhappiness, the
way he tranforms it onstage is pure dark alchemy. I love the way he plays
acoustic guitar especially, he opens up all new possibilities of how to play
it. I came away completely inspired. He did a runner afterward so we will
never know about him. We all went to bed on the bus and prepared to take the
stage ourselves the next day.
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