Marcia and I are just back from quick trip to Las Vegas to visit Katelin and John, and to see The Who live in concert. We had purchased tickets to see Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend and band in Las Vegas way back in May 2020, but, of course, like everything else during the Anno Virum, that didn’t quite go off as planned. Fortunately, we got a better late than never chance to see the show, and it was well worth the wait.
Roger and Pete were backed by their long-running and tight touring band (including drummer Zak Starkey, guitarist Simon Townshend, keyboardists Loren Gold and Emily Marshall, bassist Jon Button and backing vocalist Billy Nicholls), supplemented by a 40-piece symphony orchestra culled from the local Las Vegas musical community, and conducted by Keith Levenson. The group opened with “Overture” from Tommy and, oh my, was it a glorious piece when presented with all of that orchestral heft. (And I say that as a guy who thinks rock band + orchestra = crap, almost always). The Who played a sizable chunk of Tommy, and the climactic moments in “We’re Not Going to Take It” were similarly glorious; I almost got misty-eyed when Roger just nailed the titanic and emotional vocal summits. Then we got a collection of various interesting songs from across their catalog, sans orchestra, then a chunk of Quadrophenia with the strings and horns back onstage with the group; “The Rock,” from Quadrophenia, was just as instrumentally glorious as Tommy‘s “Overture,” both songs demonstrating how Townshend’s compositions are appealing and versatile enough to thrive in varied and various settings.
The full ensemble wrapped the evening up with a no-walk-off closer of “Baba O’Riley,” which was capped by a vibrant live lead fiddle performance in the outro from first violin Katie Jacoby, dueling with Townshend on his axe. In one of his mid-set comments, Pete noted how hard it remains for The Who to play Las Vegas, since their great bassist John Entwistle died here, just down the Strip from where we sat, making it a bittersweet tour stop for them. Daltrey and Townshend made muffled ambivalent noises at set’s end about “who know what will happen, maybe we will see you again someday.” Zak Starkey seemed to be in tears around that point, clinging to Pete, which makes me think that he might know otherwise. If this tour was the swansong for the great, great Who group, then we will get to say that we saw their final moments onstage together.
Whether that’s how it plays out or not, it was a special evening, which also featured a nice opening set from the UK’s Wild Things. Handpicked for the tour by Pete Townshend, they played their first ever show in North America with The Who at Madison Square Garden, so the rock gods have clearly smiled brightly upon them. Here are a few snaps from the show, at the Park MGM’s Dolby Live theater, which was a great space for a concert like this one, with nice sound, good sight-lines, and comfortable, adequately-spaced seating. We old rockers appreciate that. You kids get off of our lawn and out of our aisle space! (As always, you can click on any picture here to see the full-sized image):
We had a great hang with Katelin and John, as always, and we really enjoy visiting them at their new house. While it wasn’t quite warm enough for us to loll about their swimming pool, the hot tub certainly felt good in the late afternoon. There’s always great food to be had when we’re in Las Vegas, and this trip’s highlight on that front was Juan’s Flaming Fajitas, out on the west side of the city where Katelin and John live. High quality food, plentiful portions, excellent service, in a convenient and comfortable in-and-out location. Yumbo!!
Katelin and Marcia had to work on Friday morning, so John and I went out for a hike in the mid-range hills between Las Vegas and the Red Rocks State Park. Nice views, and some quirky observational experiences, e.g. we found many interesting fossils, right at surface level:
While John and I were off-trail taking a “short cut” (as most folks who have hiked with me know, my short cuts aren’t necessarily shorter, time-wise, though my straight-line navigational skills can make for some interesting crossings), we also found a weird, deep hole in the ground, emitting warm, damp air. Some sort of a thermal vent? We’re not sure, though John’s been doing some research to see if he can figure it out. Here’s what it looked like, with John added for scale:
The four of us puttered around Vegas’ Arts District one afternoon, and I appreciated the mural art there. For instance, this:
Katelin, Marcia and I also walked around the Desert Shores neighborhood near Katelin and John’s first Las Vegas house; there was a weird and unexpected congregation of cormorants along one of the lake shores. I think they’re plotting something nefarious:
And we got to meet Frank the Cat’s new best friend, Fish. They are very happy together:
Finally (well, actually firstly, chronologically speaking) we got to experience our first high-elevation blizzard of the year on the way from Sedona to Las Vegas, which I could have done without, but otherwise it was a superb trip. We are headed back over to Las Vegas in a couple of weeks for the Thanksgiving holiday. We expect it to be just as wonderful.
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