Mod memories of Edmonton were on Pete Townshend's mind as the still-epic Who played to an appreciative Rexall Place crowd last night.
"When we first came to Edmonton, it was the first time we had ever met mods outside of London,'' Townshend told us.
Go, Edmonton! God love your now oily blue-collar lapels and steel-toed boots. Times have obviously changed, not just for the city, but the Who Two, too.
The Two being guitar god Townshend and lead singer Roger Daltrey, the only remaining members of the original '60s lineup - drummer Keith Moon died in 1978 and bassist John Entwistle in 2002. Helping fill in some of the gaps these days are Pete's brother Simon on guitar and Zak Starkey (son of Ringo Starr). Things aren't what they used to be, but when the Who opened with I Can't Explain, suddenly it was yesterday.
Daltrey's vocals held through numbers like The Seeker, while Pete still swings an axe like Paul Bunyon. He was practically straddling the guitar at some points, crashing down on the strings and delivering authoritative, unbridled rock majesty and mayhem. It was too much - to Pete's obvious frustration, equipment failure. The Who's been around for more than 40 years and we still haven't found a technological failsafe to Pete's guitar-punishing style.
"When you make as many guitar sounds as Pete does it does get complicated," said Daltrey, filling time, "but it is worth the wait."
Pete, with a grin, "What is this, a sympathy vote? I don't give a f---"
The rebellion continued through Bad Man and more classic hits like Who Are You, Teenage Wasteland and Won't Get Fooled Again, which brought the appreciative crowd to its feet again and again, shouting "Who, Who, Who!"
There were other less obvious, but no less poignant, moments, too. Pete played selections from his latest six-song mini rock opera. The rest of the band would also bow out a couple of times, leaving the Two to nice acoustic numbers like Man in a Purple Dress from the Who's upcoming album, Endless Wire.
Nobody really left their feet after Pinball Wizard - frankly, sitting down after that would have almost been discourteous.
By Rexall's last count, the show wasn't quite a sellout, unlike another must-see rock event last Saturday, Elton John. But the Who experience wasn't lost on Winnipeg's Inward Eye. Lead singer Dave Erickson, along with brothers Anders (hard-working, sweaty, drum-stick busting and vastly entertaining Keith Moon-channelling drums) and guitarist Kyle (liberally borrowing Pete's windmills), opened admirably for the rock legends.
"I'm feeling like about the luckiest son of a bitch in the world, if you know what I mean," Dave proclaimed to the crowd.
I feel you, Dave. I really do.