The Who have announced dates for the first leg of their 50th anniversary tour, "The Who Hits 50," that will find the band visiting arenas across the UK in November and December before a planned North America tour in 2015.
Speaking at a good-humored press conference in London’s Ronnie Scott’s jazz club, where the band premiered Tommy in 1969, Roger Daltrey explained that the tour was "the beginning of a long goodbye."
"It will have a finality to it," he said of the dates. "We’ll stop touring, I’m sure, before we stop playing as a band, but just like Eric Clapton just said, it’s the grind of the road, it’s incredibly tough on the body..."
At this, Pete Townshend interjected, quipping: “The prostitutes, the heroin, the cocaine…”
“Can’t do any of it anymore!” laughed Daltrey.
Daltrey told Rolling Stone that while there are no confirmed U.S. dates currently booked, “We obviously want to do America to say ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ for supporting us over all those years. Someone [just] has to come up with a plan.”
According to a press release, "The band will play all the classic anthems as well as tackling deeper cuts from their catalogue…[They will] take their audience on an 'Amazing Journey' through their entire career from the days of The High Numbers to classic albums such as Who's Next, Tommy, Quadrophenia, My Generation, Live At Leeds up to the present day."
“Trying to stay young," Townshend said in a statement about the tour. "Not wearing socks. Growing a great big Woodcutter's beard. Might even wear a check shirt on stage and get a tattoo of a Union Jack. Always a fashion victim. But under no illusions. We are what we are, and extremely good at it, but we're lucky to be alive and still touring. If I had enough hairs to split, I would say that for 13 years since 1964 The Who didn't really exist, so we are really only 37."
The band gave a taster of the tour with a short acoustic set before the press conference, playing "Substitute," "Bargain," "The Kids Are Alright" and "Won’t Get Fooled Again." Townshend, however, joked about certain lesser-known songs making the setlist. "We could play 'Dogs (Part 2),' 'Dogs (Part 1),' 'Now I’m a Farmer.' We’re hoping there will be a few nice surprises for people that have seen us many times over the years."
The group's pledge to play rarities is a slight reversal from Roger Daltrey's comments to Rolling Stone last year about the tour's likely setlist. "Most people that want to come to a show want to hear what they grew up with," he said. "Let's not kid ourselves. We will always sell more tickets if we play the hits…There might be 40,000 total people in America who want to hear 'Slip Kid.' That won't be enough to put us on the road. That's the problem."
The band also revealed plans to enter the studio this summer to record a new album before the tour, their first since 2006's Endless Wire.
Townshend said at the press conference that he had given Daltrey three new songs. "I gave Roger three demos of three rough songs and happily he likes them," said Townshend. "I really liked the pub rock sound of the album [Daltrey] did with Wilko [Johnson] [2014's Going Back Home] and we may try to make the record in a slightly more basic way than we normally work, although a lot of my writing these days is pretty complicated. It’s more prog rock than pub rock!”
At the press conference, Townshend said playing the old songs brought back memories of his bandmates, drummer Keith Moon, who died in 1978, and bassist John Entwistle, who passed away in 2002.
"I miss John really terribly," he said. "I miss his demeanor. He had this way of smoking a cigarette, of drinking a drink… and I miss that. When I was running through 'Bargain' on the 12-string [guitar] at home last night… that’s how I wrote it, but we got in the studio and Keith Moon started to play bongo drums all over it. So that comes into my head and I think, 'How did we get away with that? I write this beautiful love song and [end up] wanging away with this ludicrous chimpanzee drummer!'"
The tour isn't being explicitly billed as a "farewell tour," but the band has indicated it will likely be their final major outing. "We intend to go on doing music until we drop, but we have to be realistic about our age," Daltrey said last year. "The touring is incredibly grinding on the body and we have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. This will be the last old-fashioned, big tour."
The Who Hits 50 Tour Dates
11/30 Glasgow - SSE Hyrdo
12/2 Leeds - First Direct Arena
12/5 Nottingham - Capital FM Arena
12/7 Birmingham - NIA
12/9 Newcastle - Metro
12/11 Liverpool- Echo Arena
12/13 Manchester - Phones 4U Arena
12/15 Cardiff - Motorpoint
12/17 London - The O2