This past June 27th will be remembered as one of saddest days in The Who's (and Rock's) history, as the news of the bassist John Entwistle dying on the eve of the bands tour opener in Las Vegas was a shocker! In the fallout, all bets seemed to indicate that the band was over and that there planned US tour would be scraped.
Well, Las Vegas odds be damned, The Who resumed their tour a short four days after Entwistle's passing (with studio ace Pino Palladino subbing) and opened the tour with a blistering show at the Hollywood Bowl in early July and vowed to continue the planned full tour.
The show came to the Tweeter Center in MA on Friday 07/26, after a two week break, and New England got its first glance at the "duo" version of the Who.
Since the group has not made a lick of new studio material in 20 years (save for a couple of tracks on Pete Townsend's 1989 concept disc, Iron Man, and a cover of "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" for an Elton John tribute CD in 1991), they are really touring behind the new greatest hits double CD, The Ultimate Collection (which is, save for their '94 box set, by far the satisfying and comprehensive compilation ever assembled on the bands career) and the forthcoming double CD reissue of their 1964 debut, My Generation.
A short pre-concert visual tribute to Entwistle was moving; footage of the band (with Entwistle) rehearsing at Townsend's home studio on June 15th, a scant two weeks before the planned tour kick-off in Vegas - was a nice accolade (though it is still a bit affecting to watch - since not quite a month had yet passed since his death).
Donned in black, Townsend and Roger Daltry - looking fit as always - came out to athunderously arousing ovation before Townsend stepped into the opening chords of "I Can't Explain," which was followed by a searing rendition of "Substitute."
While the kick is apparently still there, Palladino does not play with the oversized power-chords (or volume) of an Entwistle, so that commanding live concert sound that The Who have always been known for was slightly diminished.
Though, one has to admire Palladino's courage for taking the slot, which puts him in one of the most uncomfortable positions in Who history since poor Kenny Jones took on the virtually impossible (and thankless) task of competently filling in for Keith Moon in the late 70's and early 80's.
This does not mean that Palladino is not a fabulous bassist. Hardly! He did some vast plucking on "Another Tricky Day" (a well chosen resurrected gem from 1981's Face Dances) and did a more than admiral job feeding the opening minutes of Baba O Riley into the frantic thrash of Townsend's power chords.
Although it seemed a heady task to have Palladino recreate the solo on "My Generation" - which really should be dropped from the bands set, not just for the bass solo, but the line "Hope I Die Before I Get Old," just seems inappropriate at the moment (Daltry even rolled his eyes when shouting out the once defiant - now kind of eerie - line).
Sounding sharper than he has in recent tours, Daltry's voice ascend like he was back in his prime fringe vest/pectoral baring Tommy days. His lungs roared with added grandeur on "Love Reign O'er Me" and on an ambitious account of "Who Are You."
Drummer Zack Starkey was as rousing as always and just keeps adding to his myth (the one that says he is much better than his dad, Ringo) with every passing Who gig. Starkey has been touring with the Who since 1996 (before that, he toured with Daltry and Entwistle in '94) and has proved to be the ideal predecessor to Moon's throne (unlike Kenny Jones, who had to sadly and uncomfortably bask in Moon's shadow).
While The Who have kept their song list pretty standard through the last couple of tours, the pulling out the classic "I Can See For Miles," was an unexpected treat for the New England crowd.
For a guy that professedly hates touring and has major ear damage, Townsend was more animated than he has been on recent outings (with windmills galore) and he tore off some of his most impressive ax work in years.
He screeched and tore through (ala his old nemesis Hendrix) some heady improvisional work and extended songs, with jams that were reminiscent of the Pete Townsend, circa 1973 (and made us totally forget that aging guy who had an acoustic guitar glued to his torso in 1989 and '96/97).
While the ill timed announcement of the circumstances of Entwistle's death hit the press the day of the concert, Townsend made a mention of his former comrade saying he was pretty sure that Entwistle was "enjoying himself" in Las Vegas. And added a kind of anti-drug statement in "it's
not to be recommended."
The franticly paced concert climaxed with (as always), "Won't Get Fooled Again," which was kept on-track by Starkey, as Townsend's ripped into his an "acid-rock days" laced solo, and would have gone gloriously out of control if not for Starkey's steady, yet uninhibited, beats.
A generous four song encore (the show went well past the Tweeter Center's strict 11:00 PM curfew), which was culled from Tommy, pushed all the right buttons from Rock's most famous opera. "Pinball Wizard" and "Amazing Journey" led into a heart racing crushes on "Sparks" into the near gospel vibes of the closing "See Me Feel Me."
While the concert didn't reach the nirvana of the near perfect show the group put on at the same arena two years ago (a pre-July 4th 2000 show that no other band could come close to matching that summer), it was an indication The Who, as a live act and with only half the original members, still have it over anyone else (doubters need to check out the last years Concert for New York and see how the band effortlessly uspstaged Mick and Keith, who foolishly tried to follow
After 38 years of fights, Townsend's dis-interest, break-ups, Moons death, final tours, we always felt the band would always be back for one more round - and they always have been.
Through it all, Entwistle always stood, a silent and constant, yet powerful (for a guy who hardly spoke, no one in the band played louder) irreplaceable institution. Often lost in the windmills and leaps and lasso microphone tosses onstage, it is funny that his absence onstage makes more noise than any racket The Who ever created.
Hi, I sent you my review of the THE WHO concert at the Tweeter Cecnter on 07/26/02. I have been a music journlist from Boston for many years and write for several pulbications (Boston Globe, DISCoveries, HearSay, Music-Reviewer etc.). The review of is The Who show is running in the August issue of Music-Reviewer. I would really appreciate it if you could add it to your Complete Concert Guide as a review or a report. You all have the best Who site out there and I would be really like to have an entry on the site!! Thanks so much!! My review is below! Sincerely, John Reed (E-Mail-Adresse: firstname.lastname@example.org)