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Telegraph Review of RAH (very positive)
THEIR GENERATION MAKES HISTORY
The Who have always been underdogs. Outshone by Led Zeppelin and Hendrix,
the bronze medallists to the gold Beatles and the silver Stones, lacking
a British number one, stumped by punk, damaged by the early death of their
drummer Keith Moon, undermined by their own drift into seeming irrelevance,
the recent death of their talismanic bassist John Entwistle seemed to have
ended the Who's existence with a whimper. A tabloid-shaped fate then entered
to change everything.
The band's high priest Pete Townshend, galvanised by his arrest and caution
last year for accessing child pornographic websites, has rediscovered real
focus for his erratic intellectual energy, his constant quest for meaning.
Scared by the possibility that his reputation would be reduced to that of a
broken celebrity closely associated with paedophilia, he is determined to
remind people of his immense contribution to popular culture. He has history
in his sights. As soon as the 21st century Who shot out of the dark at the
Royal Albert Hall with a casually arrogant Who Are You, it was clear that a
sense of mission had returned. A couple more savage blows to the senses,
Substitute and Can't Explain, and Townshend's Who were reclaiming their
position as living legends. Songs that were once about bursting into young
fraught life make sense as songs about the raging against the dying of the
Townshend's violent guitar playing reminds us that he is the inventor of
the power chord, each sound he produces apiece of magnificent dark futurist
sculpture. Self-belief, self-consciousness, even self-hatred are turned into
a ferocious noise that gives their soul-searching pop songs something almost
classical. This is not the comforting sound of the past. It is the edgy,
impatient sound of all time.
The Who of Daltrey, Townshend, Moon and Entwistle was one of the greatest
quartets in modern music. Late in the day, surviving members Daltrey and
Townshend have become one of rock's great double acts. Pino Palladino
achieves the impossible by elegantly ghosting the implacable bass of
Entwistle, and Zak Starkey is thankfully more the drumming son of Moon than
of his own Dad Ringo. But the Who are Daltrey and Townshend, and the next
one to go takes the Who with them. Fighters in different ways, tonight they
are both very much in character. Daltrey making excuses for his voice,
weakened by a bad cold; Townshend mocking Daltrey's moaning. Townshend the
cantankerous officer with the insane but glorious masterplan; Daltrey the
loyal foot soldier prepared to die while executing it, knowing that others
have died before him.
His task now, in his early sixties, a long way from the 1960's, is to
continue being the frontman for the re-incarnated greatest live rock band
of all time without it looking foolish. To sing Won't Get Fooled Again, his
Nessun Dorma, without being crushed by its revolutionary spirit. To sing the
ultimate teen anthem, My Generation still sounding pretty f-f-f-unked off.
To sing their new single, A Good Looking Boy, the first new Who recording
for 22 years, a lyrical tribute to Elvis, without seeming twee. Actually, he
sings it beautifully, in a way that should render Robbie Williams dumb.
Finally, he must deliver extracts from Townshend's camp, mystical pop opera
Tommy without harming any of its delicate illusion.
While Townshend plots the way forward through his guitar, windmilling his
right arm to lead the charge, Daltrey never lets his leader down, despite
the voice troubles. After this defiant, extraordinary performance; if you
were to be asked the question, which is the greatest, the Beatles or the
Stones, you would have to answer: The Who.
- SCHRADE in Akron
The Council For Secular Humanism