The Who, sort of

Wednesday we drove to Nashville to see Roger Daltrey and the Nashville Symphony. The tickets were a birthday present for Suzanne; she likes The Who, and Daltrey is touring, performing “Tommy” with various symphonies across the country.

The concert was at the Ascend Ampitheater in downtown Nashville, an open-air venue that we had never been to before. We met another couple and headed downtown, parked, and walked over to the Ascend. We joined the crowd moving up a slight incline, bordered by some low bushes on the right, as we funneled into the checkpoint and were told to empty our pockets.

Having learned my lesson from my trip to the Social Security office a few days before, I had left my pocketknife at the hotel and so made it through the entry checkpoint with no trouble. The variety of food and drink for sale was enormous, from canned beer to craft beer to wine to George Dickel whiskey to hot dogs to barbecue to burgers and lots of other foods. I was surprised, although I should not have been, at the prices. A can of beer was $14.00. Granted, it was a large can, but still. Craft beer was $16 or $17, water was $7, and nachos were $8. You could get a cookie for $4, but I’m not sure how big it was. We passed on all the food and drink offerings, as well as the commemorative shirts and hoodies, which started at $35.00 and went up from there.

If you’ve never been to the Ascend, I can recommend it. It’s a large stage, with big screens flanking the stage that show closeup shots during the performance, the seats are comfortable and not at all crowded, and the lawn area behind the reserved seats is spacious. By the time we arrived several people had spread blankets or low chairs, staking out a good view of the stage.

Roger Daltrey brought a skilled band with him: two guitarists, a bassist, a keyboard player, and a drummer. Not The Who, but still very good. The symphony did a fine job creating the orchestral feel of “Tommy,” which is a significant part of the rock opera. Daltrey may be the only performer working today who uses a microphone that isn’t wireless; his was a large, old-style mike and had a long cord, which allowed him to swing the mike in huge circles over his head and around the open area of the stage, a real throwback to the old days. No windmill guitar work by Simon Townshend (Pete’s brother, according to Daltrey) although his rhythm work on “Pinball Wizard” was first rate.

“Tommy” was great, lots of singing along by the crowd, and Daltrey, in fine voice for a man in his mid-seventies, did a couple of The Who’s other hits with just the band. No “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” but I would have been surprised if he had tried that one. The scream at the end is not something many singers can pull off at any age.

As we left there were a dozen or so concert-goers bent over the low bushes that formed the border just outside the entry, and it took me a second to realize what they were doing. I wonder if they could recognize their own baggie in the fading light, although if they could remember which bush they dropped it into, that would help. Security was pretty tight, and I guess they realized they weren’t going to be sneaking anything into the concert.

Even though it was a gift for Suzanne, I’m glad I got the opportunity to see the show. It’s getting to that point, with a lot of the musicians who were important to me in my youth, that if I’m going to see them it probably needs to be soon.

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A career working with teenagers on the fringes of society has made me both sensitive to and appreciative of the complexities of character and the struggles, inner and outer, that we all wrestle with in one form or another. My writing emphasizes character development over action, and, as a lifelong Southerner, the rhythms and cadence of the Southeastern United States influence both my spoken and written voice.

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