The West Australian on Perth
brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 6 11:13:31 UTC 2009
The Who finally bury the hatchet
Members Equity Stadium
Saturday, April 4
Review: Simon Collins
Forty-one years ago, the Who broke up with Australia over some beers and boorish behaviour on an Ansett flight. Harsh words were exchanged — prime minister John Gorton told the British rockers to nick off via telegram, guitarist Pete Townshend vowed that they’d never darken our collective doorstep again.
While some wounds were healed in 2004 with shows in Melbourne and Sydney, on Saturday we completed the rapprochement over Tea and Theatre. The final track from 2006 comeback album Endless Wire was also the finale to their first concert in Perth, with the two surviving original members, Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey, singing the heartfelt acoustic ballad to more than 15,000 fans.
“I really regret how we let Australia go,” a hangdog Townshend said after giving his old sparring partner a big hug. “We should have come out sooner. We’ve learnt our lesson.”
The two-hour performance may have ended all touchy-feely but the rest of the evening saw the ’Orrible ’Oo bury the hatchet led by, quite aptly, Townshend’s fearsome axe.
The 63-year-old guitarist unleashed the first of countless windmills on one of his Fender Stratocasters on opening number I Can’t Explain, the trademark and oft-copied rock move winding back the years for a trio of mid-60s songs, including The Seeker and Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere.
Looking younger than his bandmate despite being two years older, Daltrey’s throaty roar was still there, as were his self-conscious dance moves.
Original drummer Keith Moon died in 1978, with bassist John Entwistle following in 2002. If Daltrey and Townshend were looking for a rhythm section, why didn’t they recruit the surviving Beatles? The Who’s current touring band boasts the next best thing; Ringo Starr’s son Zak Starkey stars on drums, with Welsh-Italian bassist Pino Palladino standing in for The Ox. The six-piece line-up also includes John “Rabbit” Bundrick on keys, and Pete’s younger brother Simon on guitar.
The full band came to the fore on early highlight Who Are You and the psychedelic Sister Disco, which bracketed the rock ballad Behind Blue Eyes, dedicated to the “brown-eyed” Moon. Townshend dedicated Eminence Front, off maligned 1982 album It’s Hard, to Shadows guitar hero and Perth resident, Hank Marvin.
Baba O’Riley aside, the show dragged a little half way, before it picked up for 5:15 and Love, Reign O’er Me; the two Quadrophenia tracks accompanied by footage from the 1979 mod-era film of the same name. The ballad Love, Reign O’er Me was Daltrey’s finest moment, even if singing in our dry night air was like “singing into a hairdryer”.
Sipping on tea and honey, Daltrey gathered the aggression in his voice for You Better You Bet and the semi-ironic My Generation, which segued from punk-rock into an oddly slick groove. “My generation, we f…ed it up — you fix it,” Townshend barked. The main set closed with the brilliant Won’t Get Fooled Again, with the singer nailing the climactic scream.
The encore opened with two classic 1966 numbers, The Kids are Alright — now more a message from the babysitter than a song of mod solidarity — and Substitute, before crowd favourite Pinball Wizard off Tommy. See Me, Feel Me and Listening to You, the finale of that 1969 prog-rock opera, ended the band’s performance, with the fans chanting “Who! Who!” like drunken owls before Daltrey and Townshend sent us home with Tea and Theatre.
Some fans left with requests for Squeezebox and Magic Bus still on their lips, and the Who didn’t dip into 1967 opus The Who Sell Out for their biggest US hit I Can See for Miles.
Earlier, Californian outfit Counting Crows played humourless grunge-tinged commercial rock, including a turgid run-through of their one true hit, Mr Jones.
The 40-minute set had many punters asking not only “Who?” but also “Why?” the 90s has-beens were paired with the rock icons when a younger, hungrier rock band would have relished the opportunity.
It is easy to be cynical when superannuated rockers hit town to play for their pension, but Daltrey and especially Townshend displayed real fire and proved that the only thing that had mellowed was their attitude to us antipodeans.
-Brian in Atlanta
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