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Review Philadelphia, PA, Tue, 12 September 2006

The Who hits stage, screens

USA Today, 13-09-2006

Event/location: Wachovia Center, Philadelphia
Attendance: 16,000 (estimated)

More a Philly cheese steak crowd than a sushi set. The sold-out, cross-generational audience for this opening night of the American segment of The Who's world tour encompassed fans in their teens and 20s all the way up to the older range of baby boomers.

The crowd: More a Philly cheese steak crowd than a sushi set. The sold-out, cross-generational audience for this opening night of the American segment of The Who's world tour encompassed fans in their teens and 20s all the way up to the older range of baby boomers. T-shirts and jeans were the dominant fashion motif.

The set: A basic rock 'n' roll setup for Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and their supporting bandmates was augmented by five rectangular screens above the band and a longer horizontal screen above that. For opening number I Can't Explain, the five screens depicted classic images of the band in the '60s and '70s in black and white and color, while the larger screen above showed the new version of the band playing. Later on, the screens were deployed to show various psychedelic images and computerized patterns, or to display various iconic shots (Elvis Presley on Real Good Looking Boy, a salute to Britain's mid-'60s mod movement on Anyway Anyhow Anywhere).

The classics: Plenty of those were offered: Two of the first three songs were their first and second singles, from back in 1965 I Can't Explain and its follow-up, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere. They also played 1970's The Seeker; Baba O'Riley and Behind Blue Eyes, from 1971's Who's Next, the latter track featuring singer Daltrey on guitar; and latter-day hits You Better You Bet (complete with false start) and CSI theme Who Are You.

The new stuff:Real Good Looking Boy, a Presley tribute that came out in 2004, led into a series of short songs from the British mini-opera Wire and Glass (all of which will appear on the forthcoming Who album The Endless Wire, out Oct. 24). They were generally catchy, muscular, driving Who-style rock, very much in the band's tradition.

The merch: T-shirts ranged from $35-$80, and there was a $90 button-down black shirt emblazoned with the venerable slogan "The Who: Maximum R&B." Most expensive item: a $250 black leather jacket with The Who's red-and-white Union Jack logo, plus "The Who" on a sleeve. Otherwise, there were tour programs for $20, mugs for $20, belt buckles for $15, coasters for $20, lighters for $10 and pins for $10. And, more originally, Who drumsticks for $25.


Elysa Gardner