It's not often fans get to meet their musical heroes. It's more of a rarity when that hero has reached arena rock status, remaining there for decades. Thirty lucky uber fans (each with $300 to spend) met Pete Townshend, who signed autographs and took photos prior to his "In the Attic" show at Martyrs on Saturday. An additional 170 tickets were sold at $50 each to the general public, making this acoustic performance an intimate affair.
"In the Attic" video concert series is the brainchild of singer/pianist Rachel Fuller, who is also Townshend's girlfriend. It began as a way for Fuller to gain exposure and has turned into a roaming video podcast that features artists performing solo and alongside Townshend. This appearance featured Fuller, Michael Cuthbert, Townshend, and his brother Simon, all "In the Attic" mainstays. Relative unknowns -- Scottish-born, English-bred Alexi Murdoch and American Joe Purdy -- rounded out the guests.
Pete Townshend was the star of the night. Sharing a story about what a folk singer is (Bob Dylan told him it is "a man with a good memory"), he soulfully crooned "Drowned" from the Who's ambitious concept album "Quadrophenia." Though Townshend's memory and immense output of material required cheat sheets, he did a fine job playing folk singer for the night. New material from the Who's first studio album since 1982, "Endless Wire," was particularly poignant. "God Speaks of Marty Gibbons" -- a song Townshend said is about "welcoming children into the world with music" -- embodied the idealism that has challenged and buoyed Townshend throughout his career. The self-exploration of "In the Ether" was a piano-driven ballad with Fuller at the wheel, Townshend singing it in a show-tune style. The couple performed an engaging duet of "Sunrise" from "The Who Sell Out." It was full of romanticism, as if they were sharing early-morning intimacies. The set closed with a rousing "I'm One," from "Quadrophenia." All artists shared the stage, while the audience sang in unison, the tune's sentiment of isolation transformed into a universal celebration of togetherness.