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Review Danbury, CT, Thu, 25 January 1996

Good And Bad Songs And Great Bass Playing

The Hartford Courant, 27-01-1996

"This is our first gig," John Entwistle apologized Thursday evening. "I'm sure we're a bit rusty here and there. Bear with us." The venerable co-founder of The Who, 51, had to remove his thick fingers from his spidery bass a few times to direct the rest of his band during its set at Tuxedo Junction in Danbury. He had to indicate to drummer Steve Luongo, already under considerable pressure to reproduce Keith Moon's explosive drumwork, to speed up "My Wife." He chided keyboardist Alan St. John for forgetting his backup vocals during "Had Enough."

Half the 16 songs Entwistle and his band played were from The Who, for whom he had become a reliable tunesmith by the band's end. "Success Story," the wry tale from "The Who By Numbers" and one of the best songs all night, told of the rise and fall of a rock band "being successful at least one time," he added sardonically before the few hundred fans. That song, and most of the others, were handled vocally by the rest of his quartet. Guitarist Godfrey Townsend had an authentic Roger Daltrey rasp but wasn't used as much as St. John, who had an annoying progressive-rock delivery. Even Luongo, in addition to his passable Moon tribute on drums, handled lead vocals, eventually taking over "My Wife." Entwistle was the one member of The Who who liked to tour, no matter what. His last solo outing was eight years ago, when he toured despite not being able to get an album out that he had recorded (the FBI closed down the record company). This time out, he pressed 5,000 copies of that old album to sell amid the $20 souvenir programs and $35 spider jewelry but otherwise had no other compelling promotional reason to tour, other than just to play. The songs on the album, "The Rock," are probably his worst ever, reflecting the last gasp of classic-rock stylings his band still prefers. The songs he played from the 1981 album before It, "Love Is a Heart Attack" and "Too Late The Hero," were just as bad.

But it was worth sitting through them to get to the great stuff, or just to watch Entwistle's often-overlooked bass playing in action up close. Highlights included the opening "Heaven And Hell," a Who concert staple, and in the two encores, a pair Of oldies that appeared on "Live at Leeds." The success Of "Summertime Blues" and "Shakin' All Over" on that great live alnum, reissued last year, was due in large part to Entwistle's inventive musicianship; the latter brought the bassist's only extended soloing of the night.

The centerpiece, of course, was "Boris The Spider," in a version that threw in a couple of other classics as well -- Mussorgsky's "A Night On Bald Mountain" and Stravinsky's "Rite Of Spring."

Entwistle and his band also play The Sting in New Britain tonight [Saturday].


Roger Catlin