Christopher John Treacy
More than forty years on, The Who’s shows still burst with youthful exuberance. No, it’s not quite the fevered pitch of their legendary Woodstock performance, but the crowd at the TD Banknorth Garden last night was plenty pleased.
And really, we’re lucky to still have The Who in any capacity. At one time, "lifestyle issues" threatened to take Townshend out of the game permanently. And then there’s the fact that the band officially retired in ’82.
But of all the various outings since then, this time was different - there was new music to be heard.
While playing festivals around Europe this summer, The Who released its first new material in 24 years, a miniopera called "Wire & Glass." The full-length album, "Endless Wire," is slated to drop on Halloween.
After a forgettable set from Peeping Tom, "I Can’t Explain" and "The Seeker" made for riveting openers. Wiry Townshend and muscular Daltrey, now 61 and 62 respectively, truly seemed to be having fun, playing with newfound commitment.
Whether or not Who fans like the new songs, they signify that Daltrey and Townshend feel inspired, and there’s no arguing with how that benefits ALL the tunes they’re choosing to play this fall. The punky irreverence that fueled their mod-squad beginnings is still a pulsing undercurrent in everything they do.
During "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere," Daltrey’s gargling rasp came into focus. Although he still packs plenty of power behind those pipes, they occasionally gave out on him. Still, the extra husk added drama to the dejected sentiments of "Behind Blue Eyes."
It seemed at times to be "The Daltrey and Townshend Show," but The Who is a functioning band, and they couldn’t have asked for a better match in drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr’s son). Also on hand were Townshend’s brother Simon on added guitar, John Rabbit Bundrick on keys and Pino Palladino on bass.
Starkey’s perpetual Keith Moon-inspired pummel provided the glue between the old and new material, ("Fragments" and "Black Widow’s Eyes" were particularly memorable) including the six-song miniopera in it’s entirety. A pleasing surprise, the new songs echo the band’s r & b-seasoned, power-surging classics.
"My Generation" ended with a deliciously bluesy jam that segued into "Cry If You Want" and "Won’t Get Fooled Again." They closed with an intimate reading of "Tea and Theater."