East Valley Tribune on Phoenix

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 1 16:38:44 CST 2007


The Who rock Valley with classics, new material
Chris Hansen Orf, Get Out

One night after Bob Seger performed for a sellout crowd at Phoenix’s US Airways Center, British rock icons The Who played the same venue Wednesday night to a shockingly small audience for a band that packed Sun Devil Stadium in 1982.

The fans that did show up, however, came to see a band with the reputation of being one of the finest live acts in rock history, and The Who did nothing to sully that reputation, from the opening power chords of the mid-'60s hit “Can’t Explain” to the final note of the encore, “Tea & Theatre,” from the band’s 2006 comeback album “Endless Wire.”

Fans seemed divided on the newer material -- The Who played 10 songs from “Endless Wire, including the mini rock opera “Wire and Glass” -- and while some fans were familiar with the new tunes and stood throughout, others chose to sit until the band kicked in with the classics.

“When you fall in love with the classics, that’s what you want to hear,” said Heather Prest, 24, of Tempe. “I don’t mind if they play a couple new songs, but not that many.”

Scott Lavery of Phoenix, who came to the show with his wife Cindy, likes the new Who record and didn’t mind hearing so much of the new disc.

“It’s like all Who -- high quality right out of the gate,” said Lavery. “I think it will have the longevity of their classic work.”

Only time will tell if “Endless Wire” will hold up as well as renowned Who albums such as “Tommy,” Who’s Next” and “Quadrophenia,” but guitarist Peter Townshend (who, along with singer Roger Daltrey, are the only two original members of the band left) acknowledged that fans are “coming around” to the new songs and thanked the crowd for it’s patience.

“We have one more new song to play and then we’ll go on the downward slope into the past,” Townshend joked.

Backed by bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Zak Starkey (son of former Beatle Ringo Starr), who admirable filled in for late members John Entwistle and Keith Moon, and Townshend’s brother Simon on guitar, The Who sounded as powerful as ever, with Pete Townshend often busting out his trademark windmill power chord strokes and Daltrey, one of the finest rock singers ever, still hitting notes in his 60s that he was nailing four decades ago.

The band rolled out such classics as “Anyway Anywhere Anyhow,” “Who Are You,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Baba O’Reilly” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” sandwiched around “Endless Wire” cuts such as “Fragments,” “Black Widow’s Eyes” and “A Man in a Purple Dress” as well as older rarities such as “Real Good Looking Boy” and “Naked Eye.”

The encore included “Pinball Wizard” and “See Me Feel Me” from the band’s epic rock opera “Tommy,” and the band left to a long standing ovation, waving as if to say that they’d be back, but that is no sure thing for a band, despite the odd reunion tour here and there, that went 24 years between albums.

Throughout the years The Who has made it a habit of blowing opening bands off the stage, but occasionally, as did a young Lynyrd Skynyrd during The Who’s 1973 tour, a band can hold its own on the same bill, and Canadians The Tragically Hip played an impressive 35-minute set of melodic power pop/rock that won the appreciation of the late-arriving crowd. 

-Brian in Atlanta
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