Saturday, May 21, 2016

Who We Are

Hearing that The Who would play in Portland last year as part of the group’s “Who Hits 50!” tour, we were initially (and rather surprisingly) dispassionate. After all, I had witnessed the lads from Acton in London at least a half a dozen times already since the glory days of the 1970s. Who’s next? More like: “Who’s left?”

But due to singer Roger Daltry’s nasty bout with viral meningitis last summer, the Portland concert was postponed until May 2016. Lucky for us. Unexpectedly provided with another opportunity to catch The Who in concert, we seized the day and purchased tickets for what is likely the band’s swan song. So glad we did.

From their genesis, I knew “the kids are alright.” Sure, The Beatles started it all for most, including me, but they broke up just as The Who hit their stride. The foursome (below, from left), Keith Moon, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Roger Daltry, are all listed in Rolling Stone’s Top 100 at their respective specialties.

Intrigued by “My Generation,” I was hooked when they released “I Can See For Miles.” These fellows could rock, I thought, unlike any other band. Then they released Townshend’s magnum opus “Tommy,” a “rock opera” about a deaf, dumb and blind boy who achieves fame and fortune as a pinball wizard and newly realized bodhisattva.

But when The Who released “Live At Leeds,” an album that can only be described the best live rock performance ever, I became a true believer; I have now seen the band perform live in the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s and 10s in places like Portland, Seattle, The Gorge Amphitheatre and -- rather serendipitously -- in Salt Lake City.

Unfortunately, I missed The Who’s first performance in the City of Roses in 1967, though I’m hoping the lads forgive me; believe it not, they were the opening act for Herman’s Hermits. Today, The Who still packs large basketball arenas, while Herman’s Hermits have been relegated to venues like county fairs and casinos.

Catching the band for the first time in Seattle in 1972, I also witnessed their shows in Portland (1976), Seattle (1982), Portland (1996) and The Gorge (2000 and 2002). In Salt Lake City for the 2006 PRSA International Conference, I had the option to see either The Who or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Guess which one I chose?

Yes, you could say that I’m a true blue Who fanatic. So it was somewhat fortuitous that son Jory and I had another shot at the presumptive farewell tour for the band. With decent seats in the lower level at the Moda Center in Portland, the concert started with a set by an English band known as “Slydigs.”

Prior to The Who appearing onstage, a video covered the band’s early years and featured a list of "special guests," including friend and colleague Tom Wheeler from the UO School of Journalism and Communication, author of American Guitars: An Illustrated History. Glad I paid attention despite all the other visual stimuli present.

Then the band appeared: first, the backup players, including Simon Townshend, Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr, and Pino Palladino, who joined the band following the death of Entwistle, followed by Townshend and Daltry, who thanked fans for their patience following the eight-month postponement of the tour.

They did not disappoint. A rousing rendition of “Who Are You” kicked off the two-hour set, which covered much of their prodigious catalogue. Daltry belted out the songs, sounding better than he had for years. Starkey, a disciple of Keith Moon, has now been the band’s drummer longer than the legendary percussionist who died in 1978.

In short, they were tight and well choreographed, no surprise for those who know Townshend’s penchant for perfection. For a band that used to sing, “hope I die before I get old,” the show was quite the counterpoint to that sentiment. If this is truly The Who’s last tour, then their "finis" was more bang than whimper.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Spring Fling

Always nice to strike out into the Pacific Northwest during springtime, especially when you can spend quality time with old friends along the way. First, we hit the road north to Portland and Crown Point (above), then east for a hike into Latourell Falls, one of many in a series of great waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge.

Lower Latourell Falls (right) plunges nearly 250 feet over the lip of an eroded lava flow.

The trail climbs to the top of the falls, then continues to a secluded upper falls, which drops 100 feet to a spot near the trail bridge, spraying those who may venture too closely. Bigleaf maples provide a lush overstory, while maidenhair fern and waterleaf dominate as ground cover, along with bleeding hearts and cordyalis.

Next up: a trip to the Owl Conservatory for a summit meeting with more friends and a conference with nature at the center of the universe. Flying to Seattle and renting a car, we sailed over Stevens Pass on our way to the “capanna montagna” near Lake Wenatchee and Plain in the Upper Wenatchee Valley in Washington state.

The flora returned after a long winter, and balsamroot (above) was ubiquitous. The beach below our property was literally “bird central,” with geese, ducks and kingfishers, paired off in twos, while an osprey and a golden eagle eyed each other suspiciously from their respective perches on either side of the river. Ah, spring.