The Who Announce First Album In 13 Years After Surprise Set at NYC's Pace Gallery

Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Polydor Records

Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who Reveal Sir Peter Blake Designed New Album Cover at Pace Gallery on Sept. 12, 2019 in New York City. 

The Pace Gallery’s massive new Chelsea HQ doesn’t officially open until Saturday (Sept. 14), but it’s already seen its fair share of action. At a Thursday (Sept. 12) evening preview of the eight-story space, British Invasion icons The Who dropped by after a DJ set from the Roots’ Questlove to perform a brief concert on the gallery’s rooftop sixth floor ahead of a new album announcement.   

Bathed in purple and blue light while a light spritz of Manhattan rain misted the stage, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend busted out classics such as "The Kids Are Alright," “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”   

It was acoustic, just the two of them, but it was LOUD acoustic, with Pete hammering on his guitar as if there wasn’t a mic within a two-mile vicinity. Before wrapping with “Fooled,” the band gave the art crowd an opportunity to contribute their own vocals -- which, sadly, they flubbed. After Roger and Pete harmonized on the verses, they left the refrain to the audience… but it never came.  

“Where were you?” Daltrey asked with faux exasperation. Even if they weren’t ready to serve as backup vocalists, the crowd still showered them with vociferous applause as they exited.  

The Who’s surprise appearance coincided with the announcement of their first new album in 13 years, out Nov. 22 and entitled WHO (for those keeping track, this is the fifth Who studio album with 'who' in the title). "It's typical Townshend," Daltrey told Billboard of the album in July, when they were still finalizing it. "He's still got the bite and that knack of creating songs with the earworm that climbs into you. How it fits in the modern market I don't know, but I don't care. I know inside me it's good stuff."

The album news arrived with the studio version of "Ball and Chain," a classic Who rocker in the vein of Quadrophenia delivered in sonic CinemaScope that references the U.S.'s controversial detention camp in Cuba: "Down in Guantanamo / we still got the ball and chain," Daltrey growls. "There's a long road to travel for justice to make its claim / so let's bring down the gavel / let the prisoner say his name."

Daltrey and Townshend are joined on WHO by drummer Zak Starkey and bassist Pino Palladino; the album features contributions from Simon Townshend, Benmont Tench, Carla Azar, Joey Waronker and Gordon Giltrap. According to the band's Twitter, pre-orders of WHO by 4pm on Tuesday get you pre-sale access to The Who’s 2020 UK tour. Tickets go on general sale on Friday, 10am BST. Check out tour dates and track list below. 

The Who/Pace connection wasn't entirely random -- within the new gallery was the cover art to the band's new LP, courtesy of Sir Peter Blake, the renowned U.K. artist best known for crafting the cover imagery for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with then-wife Jann Haworth. 

Elsewhere, art from David Hockney, Fred Wilson and late pioneers Alexander Calder and Peter Hujar was on display -- although arguably the standout pieces came from comparative newcomer Loie Hollowell, whose dimensional paintings glowed with a dynamic intensity.

The Who's WHO Tracklist

All This Music Must Fade
Ball And Chain
I Don't Wanna Get Wise
Detour Beads
On One String*
Hero Ground Zero
Street Song
I’ll Be Back
Break The News**
Rockin’ In Rage
She Rocked My World

All songs written by Pete Townshend except *Pete Townshend/Josh Hunsacker **Simon Townshend Produced by Pete Townshend & D. Sardy

The Who's 2020 U.K. Tour Dates
March 16 2020 Manchester, U.K. Manchester Arena
March 18 2020 Dublin, U.K. 3 Arena
March 21 2020 Newcastle, U.K. Utilita Arena
March 232020 Glasgow, U.K. The SSE Hydro
March 25 2020 Leeds, U.K. First Direct Arena
March 30 2020 Cardiff, U.K. Motorpoint Arena
April 1 2020 Birmingham, U.K. Resorts World Arena
April 3 2020 Nottingham, U.K. Motorpoint Arena
April 6 2020 Liverpool, U.K. M&S Bank Arena
April 7 2020 London, U.K. The SSE Wembley Arena