The Who Honda Center January 28, 2013
At halftime of Super Bowl XLIV, which aired on CBS, The Who arguably hit their lowest point as band. The rock vets were branded as stiff, boring and, dare we say it, over-the-hill. Naysayers snickered that the band should have hanged it up years ago and that their songs, which were once Baby Boomer anthems, now were no more than tools to promote Jerry Bruckheimer's CSI franchise.
Yet since that fateful day in February of 2010, something strange happened on the way to the rock retirement home. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend slowly began to piece back their legacy as one of rock's thunderous bands when they decided to play and tour behind one of their lesser known (to many) albums, Quadrophenia. When people think of The Who, the overrated Tommy, Who's Next and The Who Sing My Generation usually top many people's favorites. If they focused primarily on singles and hits, then yes, they're correct. But Quadrophenia, the lesser known of the English band's rock operas is their most complete album and they played it in its entirety at Honda Center last night.
The show served as the first night of the second leg of the Quadrophenia and More tour. If fans came in expecting to hear The Who of the Super Bowl, then there were in for a pleasant surprise. Backed by a large screen and three smaller ones raised above the stage, Daltrey, Townshend and their impressive backing musicians not only sounded crisp, but over two-and-a-half hours proved yet again why they're one of the most important bands in rock history.
Townshend's guitar tone sounded as rich and impressive as his salad days, while Daltrey was able to hit 75 percent of the high notes. Considering where they were three years ago, and how difficult Quadrophenia is to play with all of it's complex parts, the band was on-point and played with the vigor and urgency of an outfit half their age. There were tributes to fallen bandmates John Entwistle (projected on screen playing a thunderous bass solo during "5:15") and Keith Moon (during "Bell Boy") but both didn't seem forced or hokey during the scope of the shower.
After Daltrey belted out the notoriously difficult "Love Reign O'er Me," the band hit the ground running with the greatest hits portion of the night. Beginning with "Who Are You," which was immortalized in a season two episode of Louie, running through the never-gets-old "Baba O'Riley" the hits sounded as good as they have in years past.
Considering that Townshend once wrote that he "hoped to die before he gets old," his band is doing a damn good job of not only hanging on, but managing to challenge and reinvigorate their love for their catalog by taking on their most difficult album. While they could have given up in the face of an awful Super Bowl halftime performance, The Who instead sound as sharp and focused as they've been in years. If the band manages to continue on like they did last night, then maybe the fact that they've been counted out so many times won't fool us again.
Critical Bias: The fact that they didn't play "My Generation" for the 2451234 time was a victory in itself
The Crowd: The people in front of me were sitting after the third song
Random Notebook Dump: It wouldn't be a rock concert at Honda Center without some bible thumpers protesting outside before the show.
Set list below:
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I Am the Sea The Real Me Quadrophenia Cut My Hair The Punk and the Godfather I'm One The Dirty Jobs Helpless Dancer Is It in My Head? I've Had Enough 5:15 Sea and Sand Drowned Bell Boy Doctor Jimmy The Rock Love, Reign O'er Me
Who Are You Behind Blue Eyes Pinball Wizard Baba O'Riley Won't Get Fooled Again Tea & Theatre