It was a great week in Atlanta for lovers of classic rock. Last Friday Hot Tuna cranked it up electric at the Variety Playhouse. Then the music of Frank Zappa was performed by son Dweezil at the same venue on Saturday. On Thursday the Gwinnett Arena was blown away by the one-two punch of Joan Jett and The Who. What a week!
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts opened at 7:30 with an abbreviated 40 minute set. I really wanted to hear more as Joan and her music have held up well over the years. Still punk and angry at 56 years old, Joan delivered her anthems I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll and I Hate Myself For Loving You with infectious energy. I hope Joan got paid when Sunday Night Football used Hate Myself for their theme song. Then Joan and the band reached back to her days as a Runaway with Cherry Bomb and cued up some tasty new material as well. This was one opening act I would gladly see again as a headliner.
When The Who sang “Hope I die before I get old” they were just kidding. These rock geezers worked the stage like teenagers and it was obvious they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The multigenerational group of fans that packed the Arena at Gwinnett fed off the band’s energy from the opening chords of I Can’t Explain until the last echo faded from Won’t Get Fooled Again. There was no encore but the crowd seemed satisfied.
The Who played a nice mix from their extensive catalog – many expected tunes but a few surprises thrown in. They also changed their set list from the previous nights on this tour. This was an early 5th city of The Who Hits 50. Perhaps that was why Roger and Pete had so much energy. Pete was windmilling like crazy and Roger was throwing the mike around. Pete was in rare form engaging the audience and telling stories. He poked fun at Elton John’s expanding waistline, comparing it to Atlanta’s expanding geography. He even poked fun at his own stupid hat. When Pete introduced Magic Bus he asked if anyone had a clue as to the meaning of the lyrics because he didn’t.
The Arena sound system was as good as any arena could be (I am partial to smaller venues). And the giant screen behind the stage in addition to the two elevated screens meant that there was not a bad seat in the house. The only negative was overzealous security who told me to stop recording on my iPhone or be thrown out. All around the arena I could see the faint light from hundreds of smart phones doing the same thing. I suppose I was profiled because I had an aisle seat which made me easy prey. I did see many Facebook posts about security, with words stronger than I have used here.
Conversation on the ride home centered around this concert being the best Who concert and was it one of the best concerts we’ve seen ever. My opinion is that this was absolutely in my top ten shows of all time. As far as The Who, their last visit to Atlanta was Quadrophenia in its entirety. That show had the most amazing video presentation with clips of Keith and John inserted at various points which were perfectly synchronized with the live performance. That video, plus the excellent musical skills on par with this year’s show make Quadrophenia at least as good, and maybe better than The Who Hits 50. By the way Zak Starkey, Ringo’s son, was on drums (and Keith was smiling).
Until the next concert, it’s time for my boot heels to be wanderin’.