Not some local musician who helped The Who prove you still can
Who were those amazing new members of The Who?
Incredible musicians from the Greater Toronto Area, that’s who!
Who would ever have thought there would be local artists up there on stage with Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend? Certainly not Melissa Scott, Colin Maier and Liza McLellan, who all grew up listening to the iconic rockers never dreaming they would end up on stage performing with them.
But there they were Sunday at Scotiabank Arena.
Scott and Maier with their oboes and McLellan with her cello were amongst dozens of local musicians who signed on for the night to back up the legendary band whose Who Hits Back tour features a full orchestra with wind, keys and strings.
All of those musicians on that stage are top professionals who do major gigs all over Canada. Scott for example performs with the Kingston Symphony Orchestra. Maier is part of the famous Hamilton-based Quartetto Gelato and McLellan has played in many Mirvish productions including Hamilton.
But being asked to back up The Who is a whole other level.
The call came in July as the band prepared for the tour which also features Zak Starkey on drums and Simon Townshend on guitar and vocals. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band in its 60th year are on tour with musical co-ordinator Keith Levenson along with violinist and concert master Katie Jacoby, principle cellist Audrey Snyder and pianist Emily Marshall who in turn hire local musicians in each city to form an orchestra to help The Who perform their material from the rock operas Tommy, Quadrophenia and also other hits like 515, Who Are You, Baba O’Reilly and Love, Reign O’er Me.
“It’s the kind of call where you say, I will be available for that one,” teased Scott.
It’s quite a fantastic spectacle seeing that orchestra in full flourish in those songs from the audience point of view so you can image what it is like to be up on stage. It’s a sense of pride of the crowd too, knowing these are largely local players. Special kudos as well to Toronto’s own Steven Page who opened the show with a terrific set of old and new hits and amazing humour as he talked of the daunting excitement of such a big gig.
Our musicians did themselves and the city proud.
“It’s incredible being part of such a huge production,” said Scott. “It was just absolutely thrilling.”
Maier said being “on stage with rock ‘n’ roll” royalty” was “pretty humbling.”
They had to pinch themselves.
“It was super inspiring,” said McLellan. “It was an experience I didn’t think I would ever get – playing on stage with members of The Who. I mean that’s crazy.”
The Who seemed to appreciate them too with Pete Townshend telling them “great show.” These musicians were a big part of the awesome night. But so was the crowd as they watched the band that so many grew up with. Not only do they still have it as the main members push 80 years old, they may even be better than they were 40 years ago when they played their so-called final concert at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1982.
They certainly seem to be having more fun.
“Everybody has the right to change their mind,” joked Townshend, who called out to the crowd to see who was at show.
Well, I can say I was one of them. At just 18 at the time I was blown away then and just as much so in 2022. As my pal Tony said to me Sunday, if someone said to you that “not only is this not The Who’s last concert but you will see them again in 40 years would you have believed it?” I laughed because it would have been preposterous to even fathom.
Townshend joked of the irony that he thought he was too old for The Who way back then. He wasn’t and he sure isn’t now.
Nobody was looking at a calendar on this night. As Townshend said “God willing” maybe we will all get to do this again.
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