- I Can't Explain
- Anyway Anyhow Anywhere
- Who Are You
- Another Tricky Day
- Baba O'Riley
- Sea And Sand
- Love Reign O'er Me
- Eminence Front
- Behind Blue Eyes
- You Better You Bet
- The Kids Are Alright
- My Generation
- Won't Get Fooled Again
Robert Plant, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey -- three members of two rock bands -- performed Wednesday at Polaris Amphitheater. To see them, 18,000 concertgoers paid between $34.5...
Wednesday night at the Polaris Amphitheater in Columbus, "the world's best live rock band," The Who, performed during the last leg of their 2002 tour. Despite only half of the original band still surviving, it was a capacity crowd, ranging in age from 12 to 60+ years, who stood on their feet the entire 2 hours. Pete Townshend, the songwriter and lead guitarist, and Roger Daltrey, the vocalist and frontman, were everything the fans expected and maybe a bit more. Their recently-deceased bass guitarist, John "the Ox" Entwhistle, was featured in pictorials before and during the event, and Pete and Roger worked hard to make up for that recent loss.
And did they ever succeed!
Robert Plant, former vocalist and frontman for Led Zeppelin, warmed up the crowd for an hour, performing hits mostly from his solo career of the past 12 years. However, he best engaged the crowd when he sang tunes from his old group, most notably, "Going to California," and his encore "Whole Lotta Love." Robert performed like a champ, but his voice from the old days is gone, and when it was time for the big ending wail for the encore ("LO-O-O-O-O-O-VE"), his vocal cords just weren't up to it. That being said, his solo songs were melodious and well done. Robert has found comfort with his new vocal range, and his fan base should expand as part of this tour with The Who.
At 9:00 PM sharp, The Who took the stage and jumped right into a three-song set of real oldies - "I Can't Explain," "Substitute," and "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere." The energy was contagious, from the stage, through the auditorium, to the top of the lawn, which was filled with a rocking, air-guitaring, singing crowd. The crowd knew all the words, and Roger and Pete still belted out their old standards with skill and volume. The sound system at the Polaris was tuned to perfection for the lawn audience, who could see the stage directly or look at any one of 5 jumbo screens set up on the theater's structure. You could hear your fellow fans singing, but the artists were clearly heard, too - without eardrum-shattering volume often found in arena rock.
After a few short words from Pete, which were mostly inaudible (the sound system should have been cranked up for their talking between songs), the band brought a roar from the crowd the second their signature song began. "Who Are You?" built on the energy from the first set and took the crowd another step up the ladder of concert thrill. Pete played his guitar ferociously and performed his requisite windmill strums, sometimes doing a double pass for a single strum. The crowd ably supplied the refrain "who are you - who who - who who" at Roger's encouragement. Their next song, 80's pop hit "Another Tricky Day," was in-tempo with the mood already set, and then they launched into a pair of hits from the "Who's Next" album, "Bargain" and "Baba O'Riley." The fans really got into these songs - singing especially hard for the latter's refrain - "teenage wasteland." Roger gave this concert-goer some concern, however, when he appeared to shy away from the pounding high vocal at the end of "Bargain" - "the best I ever had" - by letting the audience provide the singing. It appeared that Robert Plant was not alone in losing his legendary vocal abilities. Happily, I was soon proved wrong.
At this point Townshend introduced the rest of the band - new bassist and frequent Who-helper Pino Palladino, drummer Zak Starkey (who is a superior drummer to his famous father, Ringo Starr), keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick, and Pete's brother Simon Townshend at back-up guitar and vocals. Pete and Roger bantered back and forth a little - we still couldn't hear - then came three songs from their second rock opera, "Quadrophenia." The crowd sang along with the sensitive "Sea and Sand," jumped to the hit "5:15" and gave Roger their rapt attention for "Love, Reign O'er Me." The latter song proved that he still had it, as he belted out the highs and lows, long and loud. "Eminence Front," the theme song from their 1982 farewell tour, was next and the audience was once again playing air guitar and drums. By the time The Who sang "Behind Blue Eyes," the audience, while appreciative and loving every minute of it, listened more than sang, and rocked a little easier. The tempo picked up at the end of that song and continued into "You Better You Bet."
Pete talked some and sang the refrain from "the Phantom of the Opera" - when met with quizzical looks, he good-naturedly called the audience a "bunch of Philistines." Obviously, he thought we could understand what he said. Maybe some seat-holders could.
The band returned to their oldies to finish out the concert - "The Kids Are Alright" and "My Generation" were the first songs of the night where The Who really played with improvisation, and the product fit the mood of the crowd. Each song was about twice the length of their album cuts, but were familiar enough to get the audience rocking again. Just in time for the finale - The Who's anthem of young adulthood, "Won't Get Fooled Again." Roger's twirling microphone act was astounding, his voice held up perfectly for the guttural scream required, and Pete's windmills and Zak's pounding drum solo assured that this was the perfect night for the fans in attendance.
Except - no songs from "Tommy."
Not to fear - the encore was a medley of four songs from the seminal rock opera played seamlessly - "Pinball Wizard," "Amazing Journey," "Sparks," and "See Me Feel Me." Pete, Roger, Zak, Pino, Rabbit, and Simon continued to play into the night with the same high energy and commitment to their music as when they started. There were more windmills, more drum solos, more mike twirlings, and over 20,000 satisfied fans. You didn't go? Bummer. You should've been there.