The surviving members of The Who climbed back aboard the Magic Bus once again on Monday night at the Knickerbocker Arena, and - surprise, surprise - the magic was still there.
Knick officials had over-hyped the show from the start. The initial release announcing the news conference to announce the show declared that it would be »the biggest concert ever booked in the Knick,« but the show was far from a sellout.
The Who's last reunion tour - which kicked off at the Glens Falls Civic Center more than seven years ago - showcased an overblown, lumbering ghost of a band that had helped define rock 'n roll back in the '60s.
With their current »Quadrophenia« tour, the band has reclaimed its rightful status among the Holy Trinity of rock bands, alongside the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
The Glens Falls show was shaky at best. Was the current tour better? You bet.
Drummer Keith Moon - who died in 1978 - was the only member of the band that made good on the promise »Hope I die before I get old.«
Vocalist Roger Daltrey, bassist John Entwistle and guitarist-genius Pete Townshend survived and were left to fend for themselves with a variety of solo projects after The Who officially called it quits in '83. The '89 reunion tour yielded the live double-CD »Join Together« and sparked the Broadway production of »Tommy.«
So don't be surprised if the current tour ends up on another live album. And despite Townshend's declaration that he's readying his solo project, »Psychoderelict,« as his next theatrical production, look for »Quadrophenia« to follow in the footsteps of »Tommy« as the Great White Way continues its love affair with arena rock.
In their early days, The Who - especially Moon - defined the wild abandon of rock. Which means that their current 15-piece incarnation is competing not only with The Who's glory days but also with the expansive history of rock'n' roll.
Buttressed by some nifty video narrative, drummer Zak Starkey (yes, Ringo's son) and lead guitarist Simon Townshend (Pete's brother), The Who swaggered through the complex - sometimes convulated - 'Quadrophenia' with confidence and aplomb.
The plot of the rock opera concerns protagonist Jimmy - the '60s mod teen suffering from quadruple-personality disorder - as he deals with the timeless troubles of teen angst, including dabbling in drugs amid considering suicide. Ultimately, he survives, buoyed bu the closing »Love Reign O'r Me,« perhaps the most uplifting song of redemption in the rock canon.
Daltrey was in incredible voice, soaring on the opening »The Real Me« and rarely touching down during the course of the two-hour show.
Entwistle was his usual stoic self, preferring to remain nearly motionless in the background until he unleashed a devastatingly nimble solo during »5:15.« Not surprisingly, Townshend was the star of the night, although he hammered away on an acoustic guitar for most of the show. His solo, »Drowned,« was a brilliant tour-de-force, and when he finally strapped on his electric guitar and cut loose during the symphonic »The Rock,« it was a galvanizing, cathartic experience.
It was a concert, not a fully-staged rock opera, but former punk rocker Billy Idol (as a delightfully sneering bellboy) and geezerly Gary Glutter (as the Liberace-esque Godfather) both earned bonus points in crucial supporting roles, adding an air of theatre to the proceedings.
After a 90-minute version of »Quadrophenia,« The Who didn't need to pad the show, but they encored with credible renditions of »Behind Blue Eyes,« »Who Are You« and an incendiary duo romp through »Won't Get Fooled Again,« which may have perfectly summed up the hot-and-cold relationship between Daltrey and Townshend.
British rock quartet Ocean Colour Scene opened the show with an announced and utterly superfluous 35-minute opening set, drawing from such obvious influences as the Beatles, Squeeze and, yes, The Who.