Is There a Fix?

Chris Frate cfrate at
Thu Feb 11 06:03:22 UTC 2010

Hi Everyone,

It's been a weird Who week. I've had to defend the guys way more than I should have for the Super Bowl show. One of my friends, a big fan who attended more than 30 showings of TKAA with me back in '79 told me he was "embarrassed" and the guests at his Super Bowl party "guffawed". I certainly didn't get that "Concert for NYC" buzz I was hoping for either. I was somewhat disappointed at the time of the show (not as badly as Scott was), but felt much better after seeing it on You Tube later. I echo the sentiment of some others that the herky-jerky medley takes some getting used to. It was also good to hear Mike's "you are there" perspective. I thought Roger sounded as good as I've heard him in a long time; he did not disappoint, although I think he wore too much clothing. Before that gets misinterpreted (not that there's anything wrong with that), what I mean is, when he gets dressed up he looks - well - almost 66, but when you can see what great shape he's in, he seems much younger.

I listened to "Blues to the Bush" today and also listened to the studio version of the medley (or "mash-up"). The medley is a horrible production in my opinion. the drums are dry, the guitar too low, blah, blah, blah; but I digress. Anyway, listening to these two versions of the band a decade apart reminded me of some things that have been bothering me for a while that were amplified by the recent Super Bowl criticism,  and I wanted to run it past a ready-made panel of experts: all of you. I am going to list four things that I think - if they were corrected - would make The Who once again untouchable as the greatest live band in the world.
  1.. It is obvious that Roger's voice is suffering, but that's a result of getting old. I won't even talk about correcting that, because there is no point; that's just Mother Nature. He held up his part of the bargain: he took good care of himself over the years. I love that he refuses to change keys and fights through it every night. I guess I shouldn't have listed this one since it can't be fixed, but I didn't want to gloss over it.
  2.. I think we can all agree that, however talented he is, Pino is absolutely the worst choice EVER for this band, and it's a tribute to Pete and Simon that they still sound so good. I don't know what Pete and Rog were thinking retaining him past his emergency fill-in status in 2002. Please let me know if anyone disagrees.
  3.. Pete has got to stop "noodling" and play real solos. Does this bug anyone else? I know Pete is the greatest rhythm guitarist in the history of rock and that part of his repertoire is still amazing, but since he came back on electric, every other riff he plays is some variation of a hammer-on up or down the neck. Is this the same guy who played blistering solos on Live at Leeds, or the very tasty solo on "Slip Kid"? It's much more glaring with John gone.
  4.. This one is controversial. I know everyone loves Rabbit; he's been around forever, and he's a good guy who's good with the fans, so I feel bad criticizing him. However, why doesn't he ever stop playing? When was it decided that Who songs needed honky-tonk piano interlaced throughout the entirety of all the songs?! It's nice to have a keyboardist around, because it allows the band to stretch and play some songs that they wouldn't be able to otherwise, and of course Rabbit is terrifically talented, but he must be made to exercise some restraint. Otherwise the stark power upon which the Who live sound was built suffers.
There you have it, criticism (hopefully constructive) borne of a controversial week for the world's greatest rock band; a week which put me in an uncomfortable position on the defensive. Please weigh in on these topics if you see fit. Please feel free to call me out as a twit as well, because when you are one, you're always the last to know. Mind you, I'll still get "Floss" the day it's released, and I'll still pony up a few hundred bucks to take the kids to the next tour once or twice, because they're still my band (and thank God they're my kids' band too). Rock is dead they say - except for when The Who is playing.

-Chris in Cleveland

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