Star Ledger on Izod

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Fri Oct 31 13:05:02 CDT 2008

Half a Who is better than none
by Bradley Bambarger/The Star-Ledger 
Thursday October 30, 2008,  3:50 PM

Despite having sung about wanting to die before they got old, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend are survivors. The two remaining members of the Who are on the road again,staring down the specter of age as they celebrate the legacy of one of the greatest-ever rock bands. 

Late in their show Wednesday at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, the 64-year-old Daltrey and 63-year-old Townshend tore into an impossibly explosive version of "My Generation," that death-daring, proto-punk anthem they have had to live with for 43 years as of next week. Images of the 1960s flashed on the screen above them as the songturned into an epic jam and segued into "Cry If You Want," one of the Who's most cutting '80s songs. 

"Cry If You Want" is about the embarrassment of both youthful indiscretions and lost ideals -- "Once it was just innocence/ Brash ideas and insolence/ But you will never get away/ With the things you say today ... 

"Don't you feel ashamed at all the bitterness you feel inside/ Does your ego save your face: 'I had a go -- I really tried'." 

That song, remade as a kind of roadhouse rap, and the shouted interpolations into "My Generation" ("we f---ked it up") indicted the '60s generation for failing to follow through. But the emotionally complicated medley also offered consolation and challenge to the Who's peers: to take advantage of now, to "let your past go." The effect -- heightened by Townshend's wind-shear guitar playing -- did justice to the Who's golden-era standard of packing both intellectual and visceralforce into rock. 

Of course, since Keith Moon died in 1978 and John Entwistle in 2002, what we see now isn't actually "the" Who, just "a" Who. This six-piece, tour-honed outfit has its own sonic character, though. And Townshend is in virile form, his windmill power chords stinging even in a warhorse like "Baba O'Riley," his vocal break spiced with venom. The show,though, is an organic thing, with some songs catching fire, others not. 

New to the set list for this tour is 1978's "Sister Disco," Townshend's aria about leaving behind a reckless nightlife. The show kicked up a notch with it, and a new, bluesier break featured Townshend and wonderfully loose-limbed drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr's son) insix-string/cymbal duet. 

Another excited, exciting performance came with the classic "5:15," the band roaring like a late train and Daltrey mustering his gutsiestvocal. 

Townshend was in a loquacious, affectionate mood between songs. Noting the presidential election, the Englishman said that while "you all have preferences, I don't give a f---k. But we're with you ... You've got the best country in the world." 

For all show's virtues, Daltrey's graying instrument is a sad reality. He hasn't taught himself a new way to sing like, say, Robert Plant. Daltrey, like the stubborn street tough he used to be, just tries to man up. Luckily, he has the harmonies of Townshend and his brother, Simon, to buttress his weathered voice. And while Pete Townshend drove the "Tommy" medley with the serrated grandeur of his guitar, it was most touching to watch the audience -- most of it knowing the frailties of middle age -- chant "See Me, Feel Me" back to Daltrey when he couldn't manage it. 

Although they were too shy with their recent material, Daltrey and Townshend's played 2004's lovely "Real Good Looking Boy" to a warm response and closed with "Tea & Theatre," an acoustic duet about a sad summing up at the end of life -- where Daltrey's vocal cracks could be woven into the song's meaning.

-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!


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