Newsday on MSG

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Mon May 24 06:18:08 CDT 2004


No substitute for age-defying, ever-defiant Who

May 24, 2004

It's always been easy to accuse The Who of chasing a
buck. The band played its farewell tour in 1982, but
there have been numerous reunions and tours since.
Recently, the band resorted to one of the oldest
tricks in the music industry: Coaxing fans into buying
yet another best-of compilation by tacking a couple of
new songs onto it. Now, with half the band gone
(drummer Keith Moon died in 1978, bassist John
Entwistle in 2002), singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist
Pete Townshend are using The Who name for a limited,
four-date tour through the United States.

But The Who is more complicated than that. The Who was
never merely a rock act; its songs gave voice to
working-class frustration and youthful defiance. "My
Generation," "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Who Are
You" express a powerful rage - the rage of a young
person whose future looks like a beaten-down old
person. Who songs advocate spiritual, rather than
social or political, revolution.

In concert, when Daltrey cursed the very demographic
he'd become on "My Generation" ("Why don't you all
just fade away?"), it didn't sound hollow. It was as
if the naysayers of his youth - of everyone's youth -
still were out there, and still required battling. In
that sense, the show didn't seem like a mere cash-in.
Townshend, 59, and Daltrey, 60, carried almost visible
chips on their shoulders, daring anyone to tell them
it was time to lay down and die.

This was a no-nonsense, sleeves-up show, without
backdrops or banners or even a logo on the drum kit.
Accompanied by a four- piece backup band that included
Simon Townshend (Pete's brother) on guitar and Zak
Starkey (Ringo Starr's son) on drums, the two Who
members walked on stage without a word and charged
into "I Can't Explain," an articulate song about
inarticulate emotions, followed by the snarling,
snotty "Substitute."

Townshend and Daltrey locked eyes often throughout the
show, encouraging or perhaps goading each other to
crank up the energy. Townshend, in a plain black
T-shirt, played with muscle and fire, jumping high and
windmilling his left arm, legs either spread wide or
kicking the air. During "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere," he
crouched next to Daltrey, hammering at the guitar body
with his fist.

Daltrey's voice may be fraying at the edges, but it's
still rough and commanding. And his pugilistic sex
appeal is only increasing with age. On "Baba
O'Reilly," he squared his shoulders and worked his
arms as if readying for a brawl, though he delivered
his punches vocally. His voice became a thunderstorm
on "Love Reign O'er Me," and his pitched scream still
had the power to split apart "Won't Get Fooled Again."

As for those aforementioned new songs, they're
surprisingly strong. Appropriately enough, "Real Good
Looking Boy" is a song of youthful ideals that refuse
to be quashed. "I felt then that I moved with all
those lucky bucks and angels," Daltrey sang. "So I
went to my mother/I said, 'Hey, mom, take a look at
me/Have you ever seen a teen fly so high?'"

THE WHO. Older but as defiant as ever. Saturday at
Madison Square Garden.

-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!

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