New Zealand Herald on Auckland

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Mon Mar 23 10:23:36 UTC 2009 

Review: The Who at North Harbour Stadium
4:00AM Monday Mar 23, 2009
By Russell Baillie

Maybe it died of fright. It's half way through the Who's set and Pete Townshend has called a pause to the peformance because one of his guitar amps has fizzled on him.

Earlier the video backdrops screened old footage of the band, complete with shots of the guitarist's often abusive relationship with his gear. It would be enough to make any box of wires and knobs plugged to the other end of Townshend's guitar nervous to the point of paralysis.

"Amplifiers - they're so well treated," quips the 63-year-old as the equipment is replaced. "It wasn't like this in my day."

It was one moment which gave this show a slightly unsettling but ultimately celebratory spirit. Yes this was a Who show, led by surviving members Townshend and 65-year-old singer Roger Daltrey and four sessioneers filling in for dearly-departed drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle.

Drummer Zak Starkey (son of Ringo Starr, occasional Oasis sticksman) kept it solid rather than do a Moon, who often played like every song was a drum solo. And bassist Pino Palladino was as unmoving as his predecessor, though the sound overall seemed to lack a bit of bottom end.

So this wasn't quite The Who, the band who brought so much chaos to rock'n'roll, just an often brilliant echo of Townshend's "my day".

As such, it did the business for the mostly male middle-aged and fairly beer-goggled audience of 15,000 or so.

Especially with Daltrey in fine form, his voice slightly burred with the mileage it's accrued driving Townshend's songs and still able to hit the blood-curdling scream in Won't Get Fooled Again.

Just as Daltrey's larynx was in good nick - as was his traditional microphone single poi - so was Townshend's rotator cuff.

Those windmilling power chords aside, the show gave plenty of opportunities to experience the glories of Townshend's playing. Yes, he's still got such a subtle wrist, especially in extended versions of My Generation.

They started right at the beginning with the beatpop of Can't Explain before hopscotching through their history. That meant the inclusion of some lumpen duffers like Sister Disco and Eminence Front while passing over Summertime Blues, Magic Bus and Substitute and a few other touchstones.

But the power of the delivery behind Who Are You, Baba O'Reilly and Won't Get Fooled Again reclaimed them from their day jobs as CSI themes.

Tommy and Quadrophenia got a healthy going over, with Pinball Wizard the somewhat inevitable first encore. The second was Tea & Theatre, a ballad on 2006 album Endless Wire which talks about being the last two standing. Delivered by Daltrey and Townshend alone, it might have been an unusually quiet number for the Who to go out on. But bookended with I Can't Explain two hours earlier, it made a poignant ending to a show which reminded of the length, depth and enduring power of the Who's particular legend.

 -Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month! 


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