Web exclusive: Whipping hits with The Who 

 

The Who
Conseco Fieldhouse
Tuesday, March 6


Despite a weak opening set by the Tragically Hip and PA problems during the first couple songs, Pete Townshend and his musical life partner Roger Daltrey pulled off an amazing rock show this past Tuesday. Daltrey’s microphone was in a near constant twirl and Townshend seemed to windmill on every other chord.

Kicking off in high gear with a run-through of early hits “I Can’t Explain,” “The Seeker” and “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,” the two surviving members of the world’s loudest rock band took the sold-out crowd on a winding course through material both old and new.

Among the new material, the acoustic “A Man in a Purple Dress” sounded poignant and touching, as was the equally acoustic and touching show-ender “Tea and Theatre.” However, the new mini-opera, “Wire and Glass,” lagged a bit. “Fragments” picked it up a bit, showing off Townshend’s still formidable songwriting chops. Curiously, the two best songs from “Endless Wire,” “Mike Post Theme” and “It’s Not Enough,” were AWOL. Ah well, at least they are still trying, not just resigning themselves to being an oldies cash cow act.

“Who Are You” shone a spotlight on Ringo’s boy, Zak Starkey, who stepped up and filled Keith Moon’s shoes ably, and considering that he grew up on Moon’s knee, he is probably the only drummer on the face of the planet that can step up to Moon’s legacy. And that he did, with quiet, yet brutal efficiency. Pino Palladino, on the other hand, was nowhere near the presence that John Entwistle was, and the few times that he was given the ball, such as on “My Generation,” he played it safe and sterile.

But in the end, it came down to Daltrey and Townshend — two men past 60 years of age who rocked the house with the same kind of primal energy as they’ve always done. It all came to a head during a jaw-dropping mini-set of “Tommy” songs. As Townshend windmilled furiously, Daltrey beat two tambourines together so hard he destroyed them. Tambourines are made to be beat upon — it’s no easy feat to bash one apart. Daltrey, unfazed, threw the broken tambourine down and pulled out a fresh one without missing a beat.

Whether paying homage to Elvis on the spectacular “Real Good Looking Boy,” humbly thanking the crowd for coming, breathing fresh air into old warhorses like “Behind Blue Eyes” or whipping the place into a frenzy during “Baba O’Riley,” the two old men still owned the stage like the rock gods they are.

 

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