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 $34.50 and $154.50 (plus change).
Plant, former Led Zeppelin vocalist, and Daltrey and Townshend, half of the Who, were on different wavelengths.
Plant, the opening act, performed new and viable reworked blues and folk songs from his latest solo album, Dreamland. Between tunes such as Bukka White's Funny in My Mind (I Believe I'm Fixin' To Die), the golden-tressed singer added heady, dirty and swampy versions of Zeppelin's Whole Lotta
Love and Tall Cool One, a Plant single from '88.
His 54-year-old voice isn't what it used to be, naturally, but it still can soar and make neck hair stand.
Fifty percent of the Who and its supporting cast played essentially the same set it has been performing since 75 percent of the Who and its supporting cast launched it's "farewell tour" in 1982: songs that, unlike a lot of decades-old pop music, don't sound dated.
During particularly climactic moments -- when Plant did a patented suggestive Plant dance or loosed an orgasmic wail; when Daltrey strained to reach high notes -- there were winks, laughs, smiles and raised eyebrows, as if to say, "Wow, I still have that in me?"
The Who hasn't really been the Who since drummer Keith Moon died in 1978. The remaining members powered on, then decided four days after bassist John Entwistle died in June to carry on with this tour, possibly as a warm-up for a recording of new songs. Then again, the tour might just be a killer summer job. (The concert industry magazine Pollstar reported that
Daltrey and Townshend each stand to make between $25 million and $35 million.)
Whatever the reasons anyone paid to see the Who and whatever the reasons the two remaining members decided to play I Can't Explain, Substitute, My Generation, Won't Get Fooled Again, Behind Blue Eyes, Who Are You? and Pinball Wizard, nobody left feeling cheated.
Unlike at most amphitheater shows, fans from the first row to the back of the lawn at this one stood and applauded every move, every utterance onstage. And the audience wasn't loaded with shirtless, speed-addled hooligans but with those who did not die before they got old -- those who applauded, nodded and laughed when Townshend free-versed lines about "our kids" in The Kids Are Alright.
Townshend, 57, is menacing with an electric guitar in his hands, and if a body craves rock "moves," one need look no further. He didn't smash a guitar, but his famous windmill action didn't let up.
Daltrey, 58, fit and hairless about the tanned arms and chest, resembled a bantam boxer -- or Michael "Lord of the Dance" Flatley. He's still a tough guy swinging his microphone around. Hearing him sing the angry end of Won't Get Fooled Again ("meet the new boss / same as the old boss") surely
triggered the "Let's revolt!" switch in listeners.
The Who 2002 support staff includes longtime touring members John "Rabbit" Bundrick (keyboards) and drummer Zak Starkey (son of Beatle Ringo Starr), and newcomers Simon Townshend (Pete's brother, backup vocals and guitar) and Pino Palladino (bass), a Townshend session man.
Entwistle always played his instrument with thunderous authority, creativity and verve. Like an oak tree in a tornado, "the Ox" rarely moved anything but his arms and hands. But what he did with those dextrous paws, combined with Moon's all-body drumming (and then Starkey's), was the band's fuel.
Palladino moves even less than Entwistle. Dressed in black, the lanky, droopy-eyed bassist, reminiscent of sober rock musicians in suits and straight faces on '60s variety shows, blended with the black, head-high amplifier behind him.
Remembering that a man was onstage playing bass was a struggle, but then again, a sane man indeed would nail his feet to the floor if Daltrey is spending the evening swinging his microphone near one's skull.