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"Amazing Journey" - Tribute To The Who

By Junkman, On-Air Personality
Monday, June 19, 2006 @ 3:42 PM


Cherone, Gilbert, Sheehan and

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Tribute bands, it seems, have become commonplace in the world of music these days especially in Southern California. No wonder. A musician has a hard enough time trying to please a fickle audience who these days seem to want a “greatest hits” compilation at every show. Why not give the audience EXACTLY what they want, and at the same time maybe play some songs that you have always loved.

That was the case this past week, but with a few… ahem… MINOR exceptions. For one, this particular tribute band would only be performing a few shows in select cities (I think, maybe 3). And second, this was no ordinary tribute band. Billed as “Amazing Journey”-A Tribute to the Who, the band featured former Extreme/Van Halen/Tribe of Judah vocalist Gary Cherone, former Mr. Big/Racer X guitarist Paul Gilbert, and the incredible rhythm section of Talas/DLR band/Mr. Big bassist Billy Sheehan, and on drums, none other than Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy! The setting for this extravaganza, sponsored by CalProg (www.calprog.com) was the intimate theater at Whittier Community College, in Whittier California, just outside Los Angeles. Such a small venue, (maybe a few hundred seats, tops) really gave it a “community” feel to the evening, as it was filled with mostly musicians and fans of “musicians musicians” type of music. Progressive rock fans to you and me, many sporting Dream Theater t-shirts.

The purpose for this concert was simply an evening of music by The Who, performed by a great group of musicians who truly respected this legendary band and had the chops to pull off an incredible evening indeed. As I settled into my seat in row L (12th row center-woo-hoo!) the excitement was building as the crowd anticipated what they were going to be experiencing.

The lights dimmed, and as the curtain raised, the synthesized intro to “Baba O’Riley” blared over the P.A. system and out came the band to a huge applause. Cherone, decked out in flared jeans and button down shirt, was so spot-on in his vocal delivery, that he could have been mistaken for a late70’s version of Roger Daltrey, exactly the point. By the time he screamed “They’re all WASTED”, the crowd was at one with him.

Guitarist Paul Gilbert went one step further, even sporting a beard and headphones and a sunburst Gibson Les Paul with the #2 on it (just like the Who’s Pete Townsend did back in the day) as the band tore through “Sister Disco” and “Substitute”, before launching into one of may favorite early Who tunes, “Pictures Of Lily”, which featured Billy Sheehan not only doing an incredible job of channeling original Who bassist, the late John Entwistle’s bass lines, but also playing Entwisle’s French horn solo’s, on the bass at the same time!!!

As fabulous as the rest of the band was, to me, and many others in the audience, the true star was drummer Mike Portnoy, just like with the original Who. All evening he emulated Keith Moon’s drumming style, right down to not using a hi-hat, and his unorthodox stick gripping technique, as well as setting up his drum kit (even the drum heads looked like Moons did) in a similar style as the late Who drummer once did. He really shined during the later era Who songs that closed the first set, “Bargain”, and “Behind Blue Eyes” from 1971’s “Who’s Next?” release, and “The Real Me”, and “Love, Reign O’er Me” from Quadrophenia, the later of which, Cherone nailed every note.

The band then took an intermission break and the crowd was buzzing! High fives were exchanged, lots of “did you see the way he played that”, and plenty of “I can’t believe I’m seeing this” were overheard throughout the auditorium, as well as “I wonder what they will come back out with?” I had my suspicions, and after debating with a few members of the crowd I was pleased to find out I would be right.

After a very short break, the band reappeared onstage. Portnoy, sporting a Keith Moon 70’s era white gas station jump suit, counted off and the band proceeded to perform the 1969 rock opera “Tommy”-in its entirety!(well almost the whole thing, anyway) Standouts included “Amazing Journey” ( the song that gave the tribute its name) “Sparks”, and a crowd sing along “Tommy Can You Hear Me?”.

Finishing up the set with “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, the band members convened front stage, and thanked the crowd for coming. The place was literally shaking with applause as they returned for an encore. Portnoy was given a hi-hat from a stage hand, and as he set it up behind his kit, he spoke. “Ladies and gentlemen- the hi-hat”. And he used it for just one song, the Who’s swan song “Who Are You?” from the 1978 release of the same name.

Next the familiar keyboard intro to “Wont Get Fooled Again” set the band off on a very energetic version of that number. Paul Gilbert was obviously amped up, as he leaped about onstage (although he didn’t do any of Pete Townshends trademark “windmills”) busting out the chunky chords that made this song a true classic. The crowd awaited Cherone’s take on the famous “YEEEAAAHHHH” toward the end of the song, and he did a pretty good job, although nothing like the recorded version, but still a great try at one of the most impressive screams in recorded music.

For their last number, Sheehan changed basses and Paul Gilbert changed guitars, and a wooden platform was put in front of the stage. This was the grand finale indeed. The performance of “My Generation”, the Who’s first hit, and for many of us, the song that first brought our attention to the band, and showed us how to wreck your equiptment.

Cherone, Gilbert, Sheehan, and Portnoy blazed through “My Generation’ like they couldn’t wait to get to the end, and when they did, all hell broke loose. Gilbert repeatedly attempted to break his guitar on the wooden platform and finally succeeded after about 10 tries. Portnoy kicked over his drum kit, holding the hi-hat stand up like a trophy, and then used a mic stand to break a hole in his kick drum head.

Billy Sheehan, watching and still playing an ever slowing bass line from the song, finally gave in and tossed his bass on the pile. Gary Cherone, not to be out done, then took a flying leap across the stage and jumped on the pile of broken instruments, hitting his head on a stand. Dazed and bloodied, he arose, after a pause, holding the back of his head, as Portnoy led him off stage. True rock and roll madness!

Watch the mayhem I just described here.

And that was what a lot of the charm of The Who was all about. Madness, raw energy and especially amazing musicianship. Although Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are still touring as The Who, the fact that the rhythm section of Moon and Entwistle are both passed on, makes it not legit in my opinion. My sincere thanks to Gary Cherone, Paul Gilbert, Billy Sheehan, and Mike Portnoy for creating such a loving tribute, and doing such a great job, not only with the musicianship, but also recreating the energy, and fun that the Who brought to rock and roll. Thanks again to www.calprog.com for producing the show. It truly was an “Amazing Journey”.

SETLIST: (thanks Robb…)

  • BABA O’RILEY
  • SISTER DISCO
  • SUBSTITUTE
  • PICTURES OF LILY
  • I CAN SEE FOR MILES
  • YOUNG MAN BLUES
  • A QUICK ONE, WHILE HE’S AWAY
  • BARGAIN
  • BEHIND BLUE EYES
  • THE REAL ME
  • LOVE, REIGN O’ER ME
(INTERMISSION)

TOMMY:

  • OVERTURE
  • IT’S A BOY
  • 1921
  • AMAZING JOURNEY
  • SPARKS
  • EYESIGHT TO THE BLIND
  • CHRISTMAS
  • THE ACID QUEEN
  • PINBALL WIZARD
  • TOMMY CAN YOU HEAR ME?
  • THERES A DOCTOR
  • GO TO THE MIRROR!
  • SMASH THE MIRROR
  • I’M FREE
  • WELCOME
  • TOMMY’S HOLIDAY CAMP
  • WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT
(ENCORE)
  • WHO ARE YOU
  • WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN
  • MY GENERATION
Click on the thumbnail shots for large pictures.






Photos by Keith Ranch



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