Words by: Andrew Bruss | Images by: Rod Snyder
The Who :: 10.24.08 :: TD Banknorth Garden :: Boston, MA
The Who served up a hits-heavy set at Boston's TD Banknorth Garden, proving to everyone in attendance that even with a new rhythm section, less hair and more wrinkles, they're as ready to rock the golden years as any of their cohorts from Woodstock.
The Who of 2008 is still driven by the riffs and songwriting of the group's mastermind, Pete Townshend. However, years after the death of their drummer and icon of excess, Keith Moon, the British Invasion outfit lost their bassist, John Entwistle, to a cocaine-induced heart attack. Although half of the original lineup has been out of the picture for quite some time, the voice of Roger Daltrey, in addition to the Townshend's three-chord-attack provided enough familiarity to make the night's event feel like a Who concert. Enwistle's thunderous riffs were recreated by Pino Palladino, while Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr, took over the explosive rhythm responsibilities of Moon.
"I Can't Explain," one of the group's earlier hits, started off the set, followed by fan favorite "The Seeker." Following "Fragments," the opening track off their 2006 release, Endless Wire, Townshend told the crowd, "Sometimes you don't know who you are," before the group tore into a high-energy take of "Who Are You."
Nobody thought they were hearing a teenage wasteland when The Who tore into "Baba O'Riley," quite possibly one of the greatest rock songs ever written. The pounding guitar riff, anthem-heavy lyrics and climactic harp solo made the song one of the best moments of the night. Although Daltrey and Townshend's age showed in their mellower stage antics, they dished out this tune in a way that would be near impossible for a younger artist to equal.
Although they nailed "Baba O'Riley," saying that Daltrey's pipes haven't worn out over the years would be simply denying reality. Guys like Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney have had a considerably easier time dishing out older material due to songwriting that was far less operatic than that of The Who. However, during the set-closing "Won't Get Fooled Again," Daltrey's inability to hit the high notes was painfully clear. On "Love Reign O'er Me," Daltrey did a great job working around the harder notes and adapting to deliver the song's long-winded howls. However, "Won't Get Fooled Again," reaches its climax with one of the greatest screams in rock 'n' roll history, and his performance on the tune was quite possibly the most telling sign of age. However, when compared to singers within the same vocal range, neither Robert Plant nor Axl Rose have done nearly as good of a job hitting the high notes as Daltrey is.
|Pete Townshend :: 10.26 :: PA|
Although Daltrey's vocals and mic-swinging abilities have diminished over the years, Townshend's quality has perhaps only improved. He's said in the past that his amp-smashing, windmilling stage antics were a means for him to channel his musical energies because he felt he wasn't the technically proficient guitarist he wanted to be. However, with decades of playing under his belt, he demonstrated a mastery of the instrument that rivals anything he did at his "peak."
The Who encored with an abbreviated run-through of Tommy, Townshend's magnum opus that gave birth to the rock opera. They started strong with "Pinball Wizard" followed by "Amazing Journey," which worked its way into the instrumental classic "Sparks." Entwistle and Moon's unique instrumental signatures were missed most on "Sparks," but the tune provided Starkey with ample room to demonstrate his skills. Starkey's first drum kit was given to him as a gift from Keith Moon, and having the genetics of a Beatle and the mentorship of Moon, it was eerie how much his drumming felt like a perfect blend of the two. Starkey's drumming utilized the tight, to the point rhythms of his father, as well as the vicious crash cymbal/tom-tom assault that Moon made his own.
The group wrapped up their run of Tommy-era material with "See Me/Feel Me," and brought the night to a close with "Tea & Theatre," the closing tune on Endless Wire. Although the ravages of age prevented Daltrey from giving studio-perfect takes and Townshend from trashing any of his gear onstage, The Who still took everyone in the house on an amazing journey. The surviving members of the band demonstrated a willingness to embrace the present, while giving ticket holders the qualitative blast-from-the-past that they paid for.
Check out our exclusive interview with Pete Townshend here.
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