BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Arriving at the Chase Center Wednesday night to perform for the first time since lead singer Roger Daltrey lost his voice early in a concert in Houston two weeks ago, The Who wasted little time reestablishing their presence as one of the most iconic bands of the rock era. As the unmistakable opening strains of “Overture” from Tommy kicked off a career spanning setlist that provided a far more diverse overview of their catalogue than their most recent Bay Area appearance at Outside Lands in 2017, it was crystal clear that these kids are still quite alright.
Dubbed as the Moving On! tour in advance of the December release of their first new album since 2006, the iconic English rockers are Mod’s no more, a fact later documented by guitarist Pete Townshend’s encore proclamation to the crowd that he Daltrey are just “A couple of co-dependent old chaps.” The band’s well polished two and a quarter hour performance featured a sampling of their most recognizable hits that have become classic rock staples for at least three generations of fans.
Supported throughout most of the night by a 48-piece orchestra fronted by Keith Levenson, Townshend and Daltrey performed 23 songs, all but a handful with the orchestral backing. It did seem they provided more punch during the period they had the stage to themselves, performing early songs ranging from “Substitute” and “I Can See for Miles” to 1982’s upbeat “You Better You Bet,” along with “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Behind Blue Eyes” from the 1971 classic Who’s Next, but there were some great moments where their limitations were clearly enhanced by the extra manpower which included percussion, brass, violin and cello accompaniments from the crowded stage.
Daltrey, 75, has clearly regained his voice enough to continue providing spot on vocals. While the scent of herbal supplements was heavy in the arena, prompting him to quip “Whoever is smoking pot in the front row, can you please smoke it the other way or eat it ?”, the one time pin up idol demonstrated no loss of his showmanship in fronting the still bombastic band, as his many microphone twirls and tambourine bashes continued to demonstrate. The 74-year old Townshend’s vocal contributions to “I’m One” and “Eminence Front” also showed that time has had little affect on his golden pipes as he deadpanned that “Roger is even older than I am,” and that there would be “wheelchairs and oxygen available to fans at the end of the show.”
The two new songs preimered from WHO, “Hero Ground Zero” and “Ball and Chain” provide great promise for the upcoming album. And any production that also includes tracks including the bombastic “Who Are You,” the always epic “Love, Reign O’er Me”, the legendary “Pinball Wizard” or a finale of “Baba O’Riley” (defined in Webster’s as how to play harmonica on a classic rock track with a picture of Daltrey) has clearly left nothing on the table. Yet for a show that provided no encore, one of the most lasting memories will be the nearly five minutes that Daltrey and Townshend addressed the crowd after the music had concluded.
Along with band introductions that included Pete’s brother Simon Townshend on guitar and Ringo Starr’s son Zak Starkey on drums, the duo generously thanked the crowd for it’s support over the years. But Townshend’s tributes to deceased bandmates Keith Moon and John Entwistle “part of the great band in the sky,” along with mentions that October 9th was both Entwistle and John Lennon’s birthday, were more personal moments that will also be remembered from a band that has been in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame since 1990.
For a band that has survived much adversity and played their first “Farewell Tour” in 1989, one must continue to hope that they will grace stages in the Bay Area yet again, but you just never know. As their British colleague Mick Jagger has been known to say, “This Could Be The Last Time.” The tour continues with three shows this weekend at the Hollywood Bowl before heading to San Diego next Wednesday.
Opening act Liam Gallagher, the former lead singer for Oasis, seemingly set a new All-Time record for the shortest set by a musician of his stature, barely clocking in at 25 minutes. His newly released solo album, Why Me ? Why Not has been getting well-deserved strong reviews and continues to help carve out his identity as a solo artist. Hopefully he’ll be returning to Northern California to headline his own shows in 2020.