Charles Shaar Murray
The Who strolled onstage at ten to fire crisp, compact versions of Substitute and I Can't Explain and staggered off two hours and 20 minutes later after a great sprawling colossus of a set that seemed to include every major Who number that anyone (icluding Townshend himself) could remember. My first Moonless Night with The Who.
Let us net belabour the point (chuck it around a bit, but not actually belabour it): The Who have been around for a bit, but their present audience is young(ish) and sharp(ish). Despite Barry Myers playing the same records that he'd play at a Clash gig (minus, of course, The Clash tracks) and the remaining echoes of' the Massed Rudies, no sense of time warp descends as The Who slope on. Townshend's baggy red pants, black'n'maple Schectercaster and Strummerish bandana seem contemporary without concessions. Daltrey poses, but Townshend dances: they seem far lesse-consciuos than at any other time during the 70's.
The axiy has shifted one way, though: Kenny Jones' instrumental style allies itself more with Entwistle's stolidity rather rather than Townshend mania, and John 'Rabbit' Bundrick's keyboards seem too obtrusive for comfort. But the distinction between new and old Who seems more blurred than over: this 'Oo exist purely in the present. It's just that the present is in the past (am I going too slowly for you?)
Townshend promised not to lecture the audience unless he got drunker: he must've stayed at the same level of alcoholic content throughout, because the threatened lecture never arrived. (A lot of tedious bluesing did arrive towards the end, much to Daltrey's obvious displeasure.)
»Aren't you glad that you live in London and not in poxy Kampuchea?« he taunted the audience at one point.
Ask me what they played. (Go on, ask. The next sentence doesn't work unless ,you do). Bleedin' everthing! They even chucked in three set-enders: climax ONCE with »See Me, Feel Me«, climax TWICE with »My Generation«, climax THRICE with »Won't Get Fooled Again,'« all three songs resonating with new overtones in the light of current events, and Townshend's relish for the way the songs hit different targets now is delightfully apparent.
Two and a half hours was pushing the attention span more then somewhat, but at least one hour and a half of it was purest magic, definitive evidence that burning out and rusting are by no means the only alternatives left to superannuated rock and rollers. The Who have patently done neither, proving consistently interesting and creative over a longer period than any of their competitiors.
Pete Townshend is a contemporary of The Rolling Stones; he's also a contemporary of The Clash. He's a contemporary of anyone who's done anything good and worthwhile in rock and roll since 1965. It's food for thought, mobsters - if you wanna be a hero, just follow him.
The last person who followed The Who was Jimi Hendrix in 1967, and be had to bum a Stratocaster to do it.