Terre Haute Tribune-Star on Conseco Fieldhouse
brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 8 06:30:39 CST 2007
B-Sides: Mark hears The Who
Sonic locomotive of sound visited Indy's RCA Dome
By Mark Bennett
TERRE HAUTE Some day, the words "Who am I" will no longer be phrased in the form of a question for either Roger Daltrey or Pete Townshend.
But for now, the voice and mind of rock's most powerful band remain intact. Unlike their rhythm section of drummer Keith Moon (1946-'78) and bassist John Entwistle (1944-2002), the 63-year-old Daltrey and 61-year-old Townshend didn't die before they got old. And unlike the 1982 tour T-shirt I wore to their concert Tuesday night in Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse, The Who's survivors also refuse to fade.
Inspiringly, The Two have kept The Who alive through an almost patriotic commitment to their music, sort of like a Last Man's Club.
Daltrey and Townshend are still standing. So were more than 9,000 fans inside Conseco, cheering them on through a crisp and spirited two-hour concert. It wasn't just perfunctory applause for their mere existence, either. Daltrey, Townshend and their four-man backing band managed to seamlessly weave an aural tapestry of nostalgia, reflection and new sounds.
Without full sincerity from Daltrey's vocals and Townshend's mesmerizing guitar work, melding The Who's diverse body of music might sound like a train wreck. Instead, Daltrey and Townshend took the controls of a sonic locomotive Tuesday, leading the crowd through their pre-Woodstock mod era, their muscular '70s anthems, their eclectic rock opera "Tommy," and songs from their strange but enjoyable 2006 album "Endless Wire."
Along that journey, Townshend and Daltrey offered some narration to explain how they became The Who.
In black jeans and a T-shirt, Daltrey looked fit to prove that 63 is the new 43. But he unabashedly revealed his age by describing his boyhood desire in 1950s to become the next Elvis Presley. Then the band launched into "Real Good Looking Boy," a Who tribute to the King of Rock 'n' Roll from 2004, with Daltrey imitating his "Can't Help Falling in Love" vocal.
And though Townshend may have offered visual evidence that sometimes 61 is still 61, his physical command of a guitar remains undiminished and unequaled. When they reached their mightiest Who numbers "Baba O'Riley," "My Generation" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" Townshend punctuated each with his trademark windmill power chords. No guitars were harmed in the making of those sounds, either, if anyone familiar with his ax-smashing days is curious. In fact, Townshend played with such precision bouncing from note-explosion solos to quiet acoustic picking that he didn't even break a string. Dressed in black from his jacket to his boots, Townshend left no gray areas in terms of the status of his skill.
With the wild Moon and stoic Entwistle long-since departed, Townshend and Daltrey clearly commanded the attention at Tuesday's show. Only twice did their supporting cast Ringo Starr's son, Zak Starkey, on drums, Simon Townshend (Pete's brother) on backing guitar, and session veterans John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards and Pino Palladino on bass edge into the spotlight. Palladino got his 15 seconds of fame while tearing through Entwistle's rumbling solo on "My Generation." And Pete Townshend introduced his kid brother and Starkey with comical memories of both being booted out of the way by their famous relatives.
The crowd appreciated it all, from the teenagers who mostly know The Who through the theme songs on television's "CSI" trilogy, to the baby boomers who remember watching "Tommy" in a movie theater or buying the "Live At Leeds" album in a record store. (My wife and I, and our two sons spanned those generations, watching from Section 3.) Sure, the band omitted a few gems, such as "Bargain," "Substitute," "Young Man's Blues," "Summertime Blues" and deep sigh "Long Live Rock." But they also exposed thousands to some fresh Who sounds, such as their encore finale, "Tea and Theater."
That tune had a tough act to follow, as Townshend, Daltrey and their cohorts re-emerged to play "Pinball Wizard" and a "Tommy" medley, capped by "See Me, Feel Me." But Townshend, their author, explained how each has a connection to the others, no matter how different the times or their performers have become.
"Tea and Theater" came nearly 30 minutes after Daltrey rebuffed any skeptics by delivering his primal scream rock's finest three seconds on "Won't Get Fooled Again." Yet his singing on the closer packed all of its legendary strength, in a quiet way. Townshend's lyric ends sadly, lamenting the loss of others. But that song also toasts survivors.
By then, the backing musicians had left the stage to just The Two. Townshend shouldered a big Guild acoustic and plucked the notes of "Tea and Theater" as gently as a florist pruning a rose, while Daltrey sang, "We did it all, didn't we?" before leaving to a roaring ovation.
They'd taken the stage nearly 120 minutes earlier, introduced by Gordon Downie, lead singer of the opening band Tragically Hip, who declared, "There is only one Who." Tuesday's concert offered plenty of reasons to be thankful that Downie was acknowledging The Who's irreplaceable status, not taking its roll call.
-Brian in Atlanta
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