San Francisco Chronicle on Shoreline

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Mon Aug 9 06:30:24 CDT 2004

On line at:

The Who? 2 middle-aged gentlemen, aided by sidemen,
that's who 

Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Critic 

The twin spotlights illuminated Roger Daltrey and Pete
Townshend of the Who. The other four musicians onstage
labored more anonymously in the shadows, grayed out
under red lights. But that's Who's left. 

In the band's first Bay Area appearance since the July
2002 shell-shocked show less than a week after the
death of bassist John Entwistle, Townshend and Daltrey
regrouped around a group of musicians who originally
came together to play a 1994 "Daltrey Sings Townshend"
solo tour during a period of time Townshend wouldn't
have anything to do with reviving the Who. 

Drummer Zak Starkey made it possible. The son of Ringo
Starr had been personally schooled in the maniacal
style of Who drummer Keith Moon, who died in 1978, a
crucial substitute who brought back chaos to the heart
of Townshend's music, a fact Townshend acknowledged
introducing the drummer Saturday at Mountain View's
Shoreline Amphitheatre. 

"Who history chases us around," Townshend said. "It's
a very, very difficult chair to fill. This is the

Who history does more than chase these men. Once one
of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the face of
the earth, the mighty Who has been reduced to a pair
of middle-aged gentlemen propped up by professional
sidemen, running through a crisply efficient, vigorous
version of the band's old program. 

Townshend took swipes at the ravages of time --
leaping around crazily and violently stroking his
Marlboro red Stratocaster during the traditional
three-song opening run of "I Can't Explain,"
"Substitute" and "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere," as if he
could somehow shake the whole thing back to life by
himself. Daltrey, gorgeously oblivious, was the
grateful marionette he has always been -- the struggle
for the soul of the Who has always been Townshend's. 

Townshend was the zealot who clobbered Abbie Hoffman
on the head when he tried to make a political speech
during the Who's set at Woodstock. Music was more
important than politics. In those days, the Who stood
for something. Now the Who means million-dollar box
office and $200 tickets. 

It wasn't as if Townshend and Daltrey took the
opportunity to explore some of the intriguing nooks
and crannies of the band's vast back catalog or bring
some new ideas to some of the old songs or even play a
song that might have come as a surprise. No, it was
straight-down-the-middle FM classic rock radio Who --
the band playing second-rate broadcast fodder like
"You Better You Bet," "Who Are You" and "Eminent
Front" straight-facedly as if they were certified Who

For a group that has gone without a new album for more
than 18 years, Townshend took pains to play both the
mediocre two new numbers the band tacked onto yet
another greatest hits album this year, a move that
already smacked of a certain desperation for some kind
of commercial relevance in today's marketplace, even
before having to undergo the further humiliation of
the new songs largely going ignored. "Real Good
Looking Boy" finds Townshend writing again in the pop
suite form of "A Quick One, While He's Away" that led
to the rock opera, "Tommy," although "Real Good
Looking Boy" is a long way from "Tommy." 

But then so was the 20-minute medley of "Tommy" that
closed Saturday's show. 

E-mail Joel Selvin at jselvin at

-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!

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