Whose idea was it to bring “A Quick One, While He’s Away” back into the set list after all these years?
We wanted to do it for ages. It’s important to show that The Who’s music came out of nowhere, unlike so many of the great bands like the Rolling Stones or Eric Clapton or whoever. They started in the tradition that was already laid by B.B. King and all those blues players, down to Chuck Berry. But The Who came out of left field and took an incredible music journey from 1966 to 1978 when Keith [Moon] died. It was a huge, enormous music journey.
With the mini-opera [“A Quick One”], it’s just so fresh. Back in 1966 it was groundbreaking; an eight-minute piece of music that tells a story and makes you laugh.
Was it challenging to rehearse something so complex for this tour?
It was fun! It just makes you smile. When it gets to the “You are forgiven” thing, we’ve got a band now that can reproduce all of the backing vocals, which always played an enormous part in our early sound. They got neglected for years and years when John [Entwistle] lost his high voice and we lost Keith. The backing vocals got scratched, but now we’ve brought them back in the full quality we used to do them back in the day. It brings an enormous dimension to the sound. How many bands use backing vocals in that way? It’s us and the Beach Boys. It’s just so uplifting. The human voice is the most uplifting music instrument of all.
I was thrilled to see that you guys are doing “I Can See For Miles.”
Again, built out of backing vocals. At the end of that song, there are six harmonies. [Laughs] That’s crazy.
I also can’t wait to see “So Sad About Us.”
It’s a song that people forgot. It’s a silly pop song, but the lyrics are very deep.
Looking through set lists, I saw you didn’t do “My Generation” at many of the early shows.
We’ve brought it back in. We’ve got so many songs we can bring in. We are doing “Slip Kid” for the first time. We got it down. We bumped the tempo up a bit so it’s not so sludgy. Of course, people in the States know it from Sons of Anarchy. They forget it was a Who song.
The whole Who By Numbers album is so great, and most of the songs have never really been played live.
I’m going to talk to Pete about that. I would love to do “How Many Friends,” but I don’t want to copy the record. I would like to do that song as who I am now. It’s done in a half-falsetto voice, very high. The lyrics are really interesting and I’d love to sing it as a 71-year-old singer and do it differently. That could be really interesting. Maybe we wouldn’t try to make it a big anthemic thing, but maybe just an acoustic thing with Pete and I.
Any other rare songs you want to bring back?
Well, I’m sure the set list will change as the tour goes on. But we’ve also got to try and cut. We’ve been playing about two hours and 45 minutes. A lot of audiences find it too long and they have curfews on buildings and it does create all kinds of problems. And sooner or later that might actually catch up with us and bite us in the ass and lay us low because of the physical effort, so we are trying to cut the show down to two and a quarter hours. We are contracted for 90 minutes, but that would be cheating for us. We have never done a 90-minute show unless it was demanded because of a curfew.