Sea of Tranquility's Ken Pierce was on hand at New York's BB King Blues Club for one of the most talked about shows of the early summer, the rock supergroup calling themselves The Amazing Journey, playing their tribute to the music of The Who.
Read on for the complete details of this "amazing" show, including the players, the set list, and the reaction.
When one looks into the back catalog of The Who and takes good stock of their contributions to Rock music, the result is very simply a body of work that will stagger the imagination. Roger Daltry, John Entwistle, Pete Townsend and Keith Moon changed the way Rock music was being delivered and their impact is felt to this very day. In its infancy, Classic Rock radio would be built on The Who and many of us grew up with these songs as part of our lives, even if we didn't get to experience them in their heyday. For years, their influence in lyric and music have crossed genre barriers giving many of today's greatest performers their pivotal influence. Bearing no slight to Townsend and Daltry, I can think of no Rock rhythm section that was not floored by the talents of Entwistle and Moon. There were no players like them in any other band and it would remain that way across the course of music history. The Who seemed to influence everybody when it came down to it and that was what would make this performance at the legendary venue B.B. King Blues Club all the more memorable. Tonight some of the greatest players in their own groups would combine talents and form "The Amazing Journey", the ultimate tribute to The Who. Gary Cherone, lead singer for 80's Rock sensation Extreme would handle the vocal duties as the main front person while guitar wizard Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big) would become Pete Townsend for the night. He even appeared in a signature Townsend white jumpsuit for maximum effect. On bass would be one of the best choices of all as Billy Sheehan (Niacin, Talas, Steve Vai, David Lee Roth and so many more) would impressively bring the memory of John Entwistle to life for the room. Given the fact that no one can just play Keith Moon's wild styles the job fell to Michael Portnoy of Dream Theater and to be honest I would have selected no other person to do it if it had been up to me to form this band. The level of individual accomplishments these players had behind them is extraordinary and now for the sold-out, standing room only crowd we would be treated to some of the best Rock ever written. An interesting observation was in the wide and varied differences the audience had to them, it was young and older, rocker and more casual and an equal mix of genders. I felt it was great to see the whole night
There was no photo pit area this evening and it allowed the fans to get in nice and close to the band. I decided to brave the immediate section myself for a change for the first set while the band rocked like this was their full-time gig. For those of you who have never seen Cherone perform or only know of him being the "third singer in Van Halen" - be aware that he possesses one of the best voices in Rock and Roll music. He is also a captivating showman as he bounced from one end of the stage to the other singing right into the crowd and sending smiles and handshakes back to them all night. It was great to see him performing and being accepted by this widely diverse audience. I have always felt he was a singer that deserved a lot more acclaim than he ever received. He did an excellent job of being Roger for the night as he belted out the songs making them his own if only for a couple of hours. He certainly had the personality that one likes to see in a performer as well. Billy Sheehan was interesting to watch for while he did wonders on the bass, he did not actually seem to become John Entwistle for the show. There were times were he added just a little more flair to the riffs and thunderous runs we had grown used to over the years. Sheehan is such an accomplished bassist by this point in his career that I feel his mere mimicking John would have taken away from the performance. Readers might find it interesting to know that both Portnoy and Gilbert had performed in a Tribute project once before, under the moniker "Yellow Matter Custard". This group performed all Beatles material and was a great idea that also featured Neil Morse. Given this previous group, the pair had a better familiarity to each other that made this all the more dynamic to experience. Gilbert on his own is an incredible guitar player and has shown this to the world with Mr. Big (a band that also featured Sheehan on bass) and Racer X (where he performed with now Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis). Let's not forget to address the level of drumming being played tonight as Mr. Mike Portnoy probably stood the highest of them all. I feel that Portnoy is a musician who raises the bar on what can be done and everything he does is interesting and gets a lot of people involved. He does not come off as content to rest on the goings on of Dream Theater and is generally keeping busy in solo work and projects like this. We need more players like him to keep the bar raised ever higher. All night Mike would be slamming the kit and making a series of silly faces, clearly he was enjoying himself very much.
The set list for the night would read like a Who anthology CD with some of their greatest numbers being brought to life before your eyes. The first half of the show focused on a wide scattering of their classics as they performed a little of everything from across the bands history. Both Gilbert and Sheehan made sure to sing some backup as well as Mike which gave the overall vocal a little added fullness. I could hardly find an issue with the tunes they decided to play and felt they managed to capture the spirit and energy of the band again and again. There was a short break and when the group returned the very familiar sound of the "Tommy" album would begin. It did surprise me a little but not in a bad way to find the group choosing to perform almost the entire album. "Tommy" is to The Who, what "Dark Side Of The Moon" is to Pink Floyd as far as legendary status is concerned. They only cut a couple of numbers from it which allowed room for a good amount of encore performances. Mike seemed to lead the audience as the main speaker in most cases and also handled the joking. Around the closer numbers he referred to the band as continuing along with the themes from the C.S.I. television programs. Another tidbit that amused me was Mike not playing with a high hat until the first encore "Who Are You?". To make sure that the audience was left breathless as the performance drew to a close the band began attacking their instruments with smashing guitars and bass as well as a trashed drum kit. They gave the remains to the audience in the front which brought a new level of excitement to those who were in the right spot.
I really had a great time at this and felt honored to be a part of something as special as this. One does not often get to see tributes formed by such notable performers or catch one of the limited run of shows. This group would only perform three times, and New York would be the closer. I can't think of a better way to leave them begging for more than to do it in the Big Apple.
1. Baba O'Riley
2. Sister Disco
4. Pictures of Lily
5. I Can See for Miles
6. Young Man Blues
7. A Quick One While He's Away
9. Behind Blue Eyes
10. The Real Me
11. Love Reign O'er Me
13. It's a Boy
15. Amazing Journey
17. Eyesight to the Blind (The Hawker)
19. The Acid Queen
20. Pinball Wizard
21. Tommy, Can You Hear Me?
21. There's A Doctor
22. Go to the Mirror
23. Smash the Mirror
24. I'm Free
25. Tommy's Holiday Camp
26. We're Not Gonna Take It
27. Who are You – encore
28. Won't get Fooled Again - encore
29. My Generation - encore
Official Web site: www.mikeportnoy.com
Official Web site: www.billysheehan.com
Official Web site: www.paulgilbert.com