Flashback: The Who warm up for Reunion Tour at Glens Falls Civic Center – June 21, 1989

The Who had bid farewell to fans in 1982 after nearly 20 years together as a band, and after seven years had passed, it was time for a music industry tradition – the Reunion Tour. And where else to warm up for a major comeback tour than with a show at Glens Falls Civic Center, on June 21, 1989

the who 1989

Returning to the stage after seven years was no simple feat. Personalities and egos had clashed, drug use became endemic within the band, and members were itching to quit. Guitarist Pete Townshend had fallen into a depression, wanted to do more than play the hits on the road, leading him to eventually quit the band in 1983. Bassist John Entwistle nearly quit as well, but he hoped to stay on the road. Singer/guitarist Roger Daltrey shed some light on this time period, telling Record Collector,

I think Pete knew he’d made a mistake around 1980. He was going downhill with substance abuse and all that kind of stuff. And I decided at the beginning of that (1982) tour to pull the plug on the band and for it to be our last, because I was really frightened at the time of finding him dead on the bathroom floor, or dead in bed in the hotel room. It was one of those situations. I thought the only way to stop this is to come off the road. It was a difficult decision, but I felt it was the only way forward. We’d gone backwards.

Roger Daltrey, on The Who breaking up in 1982

Coinciding with their 25th Anniversary Tour, the 1989 The Who tour was also the 20th anniversary of the rock opera Tommy.  On March 24th, Townshend, Daltrey and Entwistle appeared together at a press conference at Radio City Music Hall to announce they would once again tour as The Who that summer. Townshend, who had announced in 1987 he suffered from tinnitus, told the press that he still experiences hearing problems, garnering a laugh, saying “we will play very, very quietly.”

Skip ahead to June, and The Who were bound for Upstate New York, to perform a warm up show for the tour at Glens Falls Civic Center on June 21, 1989. The Kids Are Alright Tour: 1964-1989 kicked off with a career overview of their work and an unusual connection of songs that led the shows to lasting nearly three and a half hours at some venues. With a variety of songs from across a quarter century, including a great deal of new ones from Townshend’s Iron Man soundtrack (released earlier that year), some songs would be cut from the show, making this performance in Glens Falls full of rarities and popular tracks, side-by-side. Audiences in New York and Los Angeles featured full-scale presentations of Tommy.

the who 1989

The first half of the show featured a great deal of songs from Tommy, including an extended “Overture” which was uplinked to the BBC to be broadcast live in England, as well as aired locally, and uninterrupted, on WTEN in Albany.

Beyond Tommy songs, a fair amount of Townshend’s solo work appeared in the show, including “I Won’t Run Anymore,” “All Shall Be Well” and “A Friend Is a Friend” from Iron Man, a rarity “Trick of the Light” that had not been played since 1979, “A Little Is Enough” and “Give Blood.” Townshend would play acoustic guitar during Tommy and his solo songs, then switched to electric guitar for the second act.

The solo Entwistle song, “Too Late the Hero” stands out as well, in addition to covers of “Hey Joe” (The Leaves), “Summertime Blues” (Eddie Cochran), “Love Hurts” (The Everly Brothers) and a show stopping “Twist and Shout.”

the who 1989

Joining Daltrey, Townshend and Entwistle was Simon Philips on drums, filling the void left by the untimely passing of Keith Moon in 1978. The Who also brought in a large number of musicians to accompany them for each performance, including Steve ‘Boltz’ Bolton (Guitar), John Bundrick (Piano, Keyboards), Chyna (Backing Vocals), Simon Clarke (Brass Section), Simon Gardner (Brass Section), Jody Linscott (Percussion), Roddy Lorimer (Brass Section), Billy Nicholls (Backing Vocals), Tim Saunders (Brass Section), Neil Sidwell (Brass Section) and Cleveland Watkiss (Backing Vocals). When asked why such a large number of musicians, Townshend replied on Good Morning America, “The more musicians you have, the quieter you can play. It’s a bit difficult to make a big sound with an electric guitar unless it’s quite loud. I’m paying the price now for playing too much loud guitar.”

the who 1989

While their record breaking performance in Buffalo in 1982 with The Clash was a sign fans were still hungry for punk in all its forms (godfathers optional), The Who of 1989 were looking for something a bit more dialed back. Speaking to David Gates of Newsweek, Townshend said, remarking on what audiences expect of The Who at this point of their career.

They expect us to be present. We’re just supposed to be there. It’s not that it’s unimportened what we play or how we play, but it’s importent that we’re present and that we want to be present. You don’t invite people to celebrate your work and then look like you don’t want to be at the party.

Pete Townshend

Fans of The Who were certainly enjoying this first chance to see a band that had bid farewell seven years prior. Daltrey, at age 45, still swung his microphone on its cord like it was a lasso, and Townshend (44), continued to leap in the air on cue, in addition to his trademark guitar windmill, which was now adorning t-shirts for sale at the show. Newsweek would say the night was “a hell of a show for the money.”

The Kids Are Alright Tour: 1964-1989 would first be seen in Glens Falls, but the official start was in Toronto on June 23 and 24, the city where the band played their final show in 1982.

Rehearsal Setlist: Sister Disco, You Better You Bet, Who Are You, Baba O’Riley, Behind Blue Eyes, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Hey Joe

Setlist: Overture, 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks, The Acid Queen, Pinball Wizard, Do You Think It’s Alright, Fiddle About, I’m Free, Tommy’s Holiday Camp, We’re Not Gonna Take It, I Won’t Run Any More, All Shall Be Well, A Friend Is A Friend, I Can’t Explain, Substitute, I Can See For Miles, Trick Of The Light, Boris The Spider, Hey Joe, Who Are You, Naked Eye, Summertime Blues, Too Much Of Anything, Baba O’Riley, My Generation, A Little Is Enough, 5.15, Love Reign O’er Me, Love Hurts, Too Late The Hero, My Wife, Sister Disco, Give Blood, Join Together, You Better You Bet, Behind Blue Eyes, Won’t Get Fooled Again

Encore: Pictures Of Lily, Twist And Shout

Watch videos and recordings from June 21, 1989 at Glens Falls Civic Center below.

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