The Who has been one of my favorite groups since I can remember knowing about rock ‘n’ roll. I can recall the first time I heard Quadrophenia in junior high and it has been in my main listening rotation ever since. In high school “Baba O’Reilly”, from Who’s Next, was still played regularly at school dances and when I got to college my roommate had a GIANT promo picture of the cover art from Who Are You hanging in our dorm room. I’ve seen The Who several times, including a trip to The Forum in the mid-’70s and the Quadrophenia tour just a few years ago. Including this last show, if I close my eyes and just take in the music I don’t feel that the passage of time has diminished their power and musicality at all. Sure, it’s not the same without Keith Moon and The Ox, but with Zak Starkey on drums and Pino Palladino on bass the creative duo of Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey have found very capable substitutes.
First up was a British group I had never heard of called Slydigs, and per usual I got there early to check them out. Apparently no one else knew the band, or cared much either, since the smattering of fans that arrived early weren’t paying much attention and the arena stayed noticeably quite after the first song. Slydigs, who play an energetic blues/garage/classic rock style that really doesn’t fit into any particular decade, definitely didn’t give up. Their arena-ready sound, full of big hooks and sing along choruses, would fit the times whether they played in 1976, 1998 or 2016. Song by song the audience filled in the arena and got more involved, and by the midpoint of their nine song set Slydigs had a real concert on their hands. Really, by the end of their set I think they could have got an encore out of the now enthusiastic crowd.
Some Slydigs songs (in order) from my seat:
And then came The Who. While this is not being billed as a farewell tour, one has to wonder how many more times we’ll have a chance to see this iconic band. So I made it a point to really soak in every moment of the experience. Starting with “Who Are You” and ending 2 1/2 hours later with “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” The Who played hit after hit after hit. Many of the songs like “I Can See for Miles,” “My Generation” and “Baba O’Riley”are much more than just hits – they help form the foundation for everything that matters in rock ‘n’ roll, both in sound and meaning. These songs are why young fans still avidly listen to groups like The Who a half a century after they began.
On this night The Who played 22 songs (check the setlist here) and even though Daltrey and Townsend are 72 and 71 respectively, they gave no quarter to their age. Yes, Daltrey missed a couple of the high notes – but really, who gives a fuck – they brought the passion, energy, skill and power of a band that was clearly still vital. Who would have ever imagined back in 1966 that bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones would still be filling arenas and Stadiums in 2016? I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to see The Who again, but if they go on tour I will definitely buy a ticket.