Last night, on January 30, 2013 The Who played at Staples Center in Los Angeles. I’ve seen The Who play many many times, all over the world and really – been to quite a few of their shows including many of the “last” shows. The guy sitting next to me had seen them 92 times. I can’t even come close to that number.It was a thrilling evening for quite a few reasons. The first being I had one of my twins sons with me who is a Who fanatic. He’s 16. Never did I dream I’d have any kids, much less a 16 year old right now, considering that when I first saw the band it was 1967 at Monterey Pop. In a condition not worth commenting on here I was distraught that both The Who and Hendrix destroyed their instruments during those performances. That I can recall precisely.I’ve interviewed The Who in many locations, in the US and UK, and then some. I’ve got photos with the guys including ones with bad hairdos – me and them. But enough of that – let me tell you about last night. I’m a long time fan.
The night was filled with Who love. The stage had Pete and Roger of course and Zak Starkey on drums, and Pete’s brother Simon too — along with 6 other impeccable musicians…who wove and made magic of the Who’s material making each song fresh and precise with a dedication that was obvious. We sat in the 3rd row so I got a chance to observe up close Roger’s chest — still exposed, but that aside, watching him as he sang and listened and watched intently to the other guys on stage. Right there Roger– not going through the motions – right there. Pete was smiling throughout the night, Pete Townshend. A magnificent sight to behold. My appreciation for Pete lately has deepened after reading his autobiography and his willingness to lay it all on the line . While it’s true that many members of the audience were like me….boomers…..many were not and The Who’s music remains relevant. The visuals throughout the show were deeply moving as well, not only, going through the Band’s own personal history — there were images from WW2 on including Castro and Kruschev, Brezhnev and Reagan , the Berlin Wall going up and then coming down— and I was having to whisper to my kid who all these people and events were. The images were so thoughtfully assembled and powerful and tumbled off the screens reminding the audience what’s transpired in the 50 years since The Who arrived.
They played Quadraphenia and they played the hits and it brought the house down. The band, certainly Pete and Roger, seemed genuinely surprised and moved at the outpouring of love from the audience. I’ve been to enough shows to know when it’s a rote response but this was from the heart.
The most moving part of the evening were some amazing tributes to drummer Keith Moon, projected up on the screen, playing with all his insanity and passion and humor reminding you instantly on why he crafted a permanent place in rock history. And then there was John Entwistle up there, fingers at lightning speed, remarkably on fire…impossible to imagine in the face of their talent, any of these giants gone, but they are. Tragic that today’s fans are unable to witness their brilliance..
My teenager and I sang along in unison, bought Who t-shirts, talked about the songs as we drove home, arriving around midnight on a school night during finals, no less. This was an education for him in rock and roll history and it just doesn’t get any better than the lesson the Who delivered last night.