The Who’s ‘Great Experiment’ at 2019 Grand Rapids Concert
Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry took a big risk when The Who added local orchestras to each city's concert stage. The 'Moving On' tour debuted in Grand Rapids.
Known for sprawling and ambitious concept albums as much as their powerful rock anthems, it might not seem so out of character for The Who to add a live orchestra to a live concert. But what if the band worked with a different 50-piece orchestra in every city on the tour? That's precisely what they experimented with in 2019 and Grand Rapids Symphony joined them on stage at Van Andel Arena for the opening date of the world tour.
One of the reasons the band chose Grand Rapids was its good music background audience and the fact they hadn’t performed to their fans in GR for awhile. They love performing in Michigan and had heard how great the orchestra (was). They were outstanding. Wonderful local players … I was just talking to band and they loved your local orchestra. … They loved all the wonderful brilliant musicians in Grand Rapids that helped them make a fabulous show.
-Tom Kenny, Creative Director for The Who to LocalSpins.com
After predictably opening with the first three songs from side one of Tommy, the band played five more from the opus, accompanied by their new friends from the symphony. The Who associate Brian Kechew notes in his backstage blog that some of the highlights of the show were actually without the orchestra as Townsend and Daltry did an acoustic version of "Won't Get Fooled Again," followed by "Behind Blue Eyes" accompanied by a single cellist and a lone violinist.
The tour, launched in 2019 in Grand Rapids, was cut short by the Coronavirus pandemic and still has yet to resume as U.K. shows postponed until March of 2021 were cancelled in February.