The Who Hits 50 @ Bridgestone Arena / Nashville TN / May 11, 2015

DSCN4369How about taking a look at the current status of the four key British Invasion bands from the 60s: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who.

When it comes to creating new music, Paul McCartney is perhaps the only one from this bunch that regularly issues new music. (His choice though of working with the love-to-hate Kanye West sure has ruffled some feathers in classic rock circles.) But while the Stones keep us reaching into our pockets for tasty reissues, like both the Kinks and Who, these bands have been dead quiet when it comes to creating new sounds.

Performance-wise, the repeated talk of an impending Kinks reunion has grown tiresome. Ray Davies has seemingly been on sabbatical while his brother Dave plays scattered dates here and there. Both the two surviving Beatles and the Stones though still win over both fans and critics alike with their live shows. But seeing Paul or the Stones with a decent seat is likely to require you to skip your monthly car payment. This brings us to The Who, or the current touring ensemble that some fans begrudgingly refer to as “The Two.” In my opinion, it’s a show well worth your concert dollar.

DSCN4372Cynics in the crowd simply think that Pete and Roger should have called it quits after losing both members of their rhythm section. I could not disagree any more. While John Entwistle and Keith Moon were perhaps the best bass and drums combo in history, they are much more replaceable than the iconic vocals of Roger Daltrey and the presence of the creative genius of Pete Townshend.

Let me first vent though about what I did not like about The Who’s recent show at the Bridgestone. To begin with, I have lost track as to what number farewell tour this one is. Stop with the drama. Then, embellishing my lack of new music gripe, they have been silent since 2006’s Endless Wire, and there certainly has been nothing worth listening to since the 80s. But the biggest disappointment about seeing them live is that their performance has always been a rehearsed show lacking spontaneity. The set list never changes. How much better would a 50-year celebratory tour like this one be if they stretched to re-explore the back catalog on a nightly basis?

(In The Who’s defense however, for years The Stones were the worst for never changing their nightly set list. It was great to hear the seldom-played “Bargain” on this current tour.)

So then, what did I like about the show, and why do I feel that the band gets unwarranted grief? Plain and simple: I think that Daltrey and Townshend both still play and sound great.

While Roger may hold back on some of the high notes every so often, he certainly has held together at his age much better than some of his contemporaries. Townshend still plays guitar quite well, and the added keyboard support unit creates a lush full sound around these classic songs. In terms of replacing the departed, while Pino Palladino’s role on bass is rather workmanlike and rudimentary, could there have ever been anyone better to honor Keith Moon than the remarkable Zak Starkey who skillfully plays a massive Moon-like drum kit?

DSCN4378So stop slagging The Who! This is a great walk thought their career (thankfully going no later than 1982’s “Eminence Front”) with both rock operas (Tommy and Quadraphenia) nicely represented. But, it sure would be nice for some song rotation to hear some of those classics we may never get to hear again. Thankfully the 70-year old Townshend long stopped smashing guitars, and the 71-year old Daltrey is finally keeping his shirt buttoned.

DSCN4396DSCN4400In my younger days, I was most fortunate to see some of the true rock and blues legends perform live in their later years. I cherish the fact that I saw the likes of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. Seeing them at Pete and Roger’s current ages, I knew they were not the same as they once were. But, like these two tonight, they played their hearts out and were fabulous. Tonight, I smiled thinking about that young teenager in the crowd who will someday savor the moment that he got to see The Who play “Pinball Wizard” just like I feel today about having seen immortals like Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry sing the likes of “Bo Diddley” and “Johnny B. Goode.”

Long live rock!

SETLIST:

  1. I Can’t Explain
  2. The Seeker
  3. Who Are You
  4. The Kids Are Alright
  5. Squeeze Box
  6. I Can See for Miles
  7. My Generation
  8. Magic Bus
  9. Behind Blue Eyes
  10. Bargain
  11. Join Together
  12. You Better You Bet
  13. I’m One
  14. Love, Reign O’er Me
  15. Eminence Front
  16. A Quick One (While He’s Away)
  17. Amazing Journey
  18. Sparks
  19. Pinball Wizard
  20. See Me, Feel Me
  21. Baba O’Riley
  22. Won’t Get Fooled Again

BAND:
Roger Daltrey – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar and Harmonica
Pete Townshend – Vocals, Electric and Acoustic Guitars
with:
Pino Palladino – Bass
Zak Starkey – Drums and Percussion
Simon Townshend – Guitar and Backing Vocals
John Correy – Keyboards and Backing Vocals
Loren Gold – Keyboards and Backing Vocals
Frank Simes – Keyboards, Backing Vocals and Musical Director

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