Beginning with a sterling rendition of "I Can't Explain," the Who -- also consisting of longtime members Zak Starkey (son of Ringo Starr) on drums, Pino Palladino on bass, Pete's younger brother Simon Townshend on guitar and several keyboardists/back-up singers -- delivered material that's part of any rock fan's DNA with precision, remaining faithful to the original recordings. While there were some alterations, such as an extended jam that elongated "My Generation," the music sounded as if it was blaring from your car stereo.
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But just listening at home or in the car would mean being deprived of the mini-history lesson that Townshend provided throughout the show. The typically acerbic performer, inviting the crowd to celebrate the band's "50th f---ing anniversary," seemed intent on stressing the nostalgia, delivering a chatty running commentary about their early days in which they were "dressed up like psychedelic Christmas trees."
"Here's another one that we played at the Monterey Pop Festival," he said as a preamble to "My Generation," adding that anyone old enough to have been there should take advantage of the venue's "special buses, wheelchairs and breathing apparatuses." He prefaced "Slip Kid," the only number that deviated from the tour's standard set list, by saying, "This one gets a lot of requests… I don't know why." And before performing "A Quick One (While He's Away)," he jokingly commented, "It's ten minutes long… so I think you should sit down and have a little rest."
The instruction was dutifully followed by an audience that greeted the extended number respectfully. But the crowd was otherwise on its feet for most of the familiar classics -- "I Can See for Miles," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Who Are You" and "The Kids are Alright." The evening ended in powerhouse fashion with a series of numbers from Tommy and the epochal "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again."
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Townshend hasn't lost a step in his playing, delivering his trademark power chords and eliciting an ever-varied palette of sounds from his electric and acoustic guitars. By this point, Palladino and Starkey have long proved that they more than live up to their esteemed predecessors John Entwistleand Keith Moon, with Starkey anchoring the music with his anarchic yet tightly controlled drumming.
Daltrey was also in fine form, although he at times seemed to be struggling to hit his high notes. His voice has inevitably darkened, something he seemed to acknowledge by concluding "Love, Reign O'er Me" with a dark, rumbling bass. But he delivered his thundering scream in "Won't Get Fooled Again" with full force, even if it elicited concern that he might shred his vocal cords.
He seemed to acknowledge this at the show's end, declaring that the massive tour was "uncharted territory" for the band at this point in its career and admitting, "As a singer, it's getting tougher every day." But if this is indeed the Who's last major jaunt, it shows them going out in fine style.
Recent Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductees Joan Jett & the Blackhearts delivered a rousing opening set featuring hits like "Bad Reputation," "I Love Rock 'n Roll," "I Hate Myself for Loving You" and her Runaways classic "Cherry Bomb." The seemingly ageless Jett, still capable of rocking a skintight red spandex suit at 56, pointed out that she has a long history with the Who, having also opened for them during their 1982 "Farewell Tour." What goes around comes around.
The Who will be resuming their North American tour in the fall, including a Sept. 21 date at Los Angeles' Staples Center.
I Can't Explain
Who Are You
The Kids are Alright
I Can See for Miles
Behind Blue Eyes
You Better You Bet
Love, Reign O'er Me
A Quick One (While He's Away)
See Me, Feel Me/Listening to You
Won't Get Fooled Again