NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - The most striking aspect about this performance by the Who, or at least surviving members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, is how much the latter actually seemed to enjoy being there.
For the past two decades, the guitarist-songwriter has made no secret of his disdain for getting up onstage with his former partner and rehashing his past hits. But now, for whatever reason -- nostalgia, age, money -- Townshend seems to be relishing his identity as a rock star.
The result is that the performance resonated with a relaxed joyfulness that hasn't always been the case in the band's many reunions over the years. Clearly appreciative of the audience's support -- at one point he thanked them for selling out the show in a mere 20 minutes -- Townshend, beginning with a trademark windmill power chord to start off "I Can't Explain," performed with a ferocity that demonstrated that he had something to prove.
Performing behind "The Who -- Then & Now," the latest in an endless series of hits compilations but the first to feature new material, the band again features the lineup from the last, post-Entwistle tour: Zak Starkey on drums, Pino Palladino on bass, Simon Townshend on guitar and longtime member ohn "Rabbit"
Bundrick on keyboards.
The hit-laden show differed little from those in recent years, but with a song catalog this brilliant and iconic, that's not much of a problem. While the magical instrumental chemistry that was the hallmark of the original band is now necessarily gone, the music still comes through with incredible power, thanks to Daltrey's little-changed vocalizing ability and Townshend's fiercely passionate guitar playing. A song like the venerable "Who Are You," which now mainly brings to mind the Las Vegas landscape thanks to a certain hit television series, was delivered with such force that it seemed to eclipse any previous renditions. Equally impressive were the performances of such classics as "Substitute," "Baba O'Riley," "Love Reign O'er Me" and "Won't Get Fooled Again."
While most of the numbers conformed to the brilliant original arrangements, several of the songs were allowed to breathe. Townshend brought a new urgency to "Eminence Front" with his clipped phrasing and angular guitar leads; "My Generation" was enhanced with long, bluesy interludes; and the encore of a medley from "Tommy" and "Magic Bus" was elongated to Grateful Dead proportions. It was during the encore that Daltrey uncharacteristically lost control of his trademark whirling microphone and beaned an unfortunate audience member, who apparently felt no ill effects.
With the spotlights remaining firmly fixed on the two frontmen, there was no doubt that this was more of a duo than a band performance. Indeed, it might be an appropriate gesture if the remaining pair, like their contemporaries Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, retired their band name for good. Not so the music, however, which even decades later still resonates with a timeless vitality and urgency. And the performance at this show of one of the new songs, the Elvis-inspired "Real Good Looking Boy," demonstrates that there may still be more great music to come.