2019 is going to be a big year for legendary rock band The Who. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey embark on a 29-date arena run this spring and fall, which will see the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers performing with a 52-piece orchestra in each city. The tour is called Moving On! and it’s a fitting name as the band has their first new album of original music in nearly 13 years in the works. In a recent interview with Billboard, Townshend talks about the new album and the tour, as well as some of the landmark anniversaries that are looming in 2019, namely the 50th anniversaries of The Who’s groundbreaking rock opera album Tommy and their legendary performance at Woodstock.
For Townshend--who put The Who on hiatus at the end of 2017--there would be no tour without a new album, which certainly added a little drama to the mix. "It was all a bit whirlwind...The (tour) contract was signed literally just before Christmas, and the album (contract) was signed just after Christmas," Townshend told Billboard. Although it was a little touch and go, the master composer was putting the pieces of the album together long before any contract was signed.
"I’ve written all kinds of bits and pieces -- as always, my approach has been a bit scattergun," he said. "It's a pretty wide range of stuff. Some of it's pseudo-operatic, some of it's electronica. There's a few ballads. I've got quite a lot of extreme sample stuff. I don't think Who fans, people who like Who music, will be overly surprised.” Townshend added that Daltrey is in the process of adding vocals, something he couldn't do earlier because of an ear infection.
The guitarist also talked about wanting to avoid an all out performance of Tommy in 2019 for the 50th anniversary, and with good reason. Townshend had a terrible experience when performing the rock opera at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2017.
"I had a flashback to childhood abuse," Townshend recalled. "The second night was OK, but the first night I nearly walked off the stage...which would have been awful. I wasn't playing very well and I was feeling dizzy. I almost blacked out and it was just horrible...I decided that I really never wanted to play it ever again, or indeed ever talk about it. It's one of the reasons I decided to take this sabbatical year; I really felt I needed to let my brain and my heart and my past have a rest.” Townshend added that The Who would still be playing songs from Tommy, but ones he felt would not cause such a reaction.
Townshend sort of feels the same way about the 50th anniversary concert of Woodstock taking place this year, but for different reasons. "I don't know that the Who should be there...or any of the people who played there first should be there...What they need to do with Woodstock is to do it again properly. Young people in America, I think, are...starting to feel like they have their hands on some power, and I think that was how everybody felt in America the time of the first Woodstock.”