The Who live

Live Shot

Phases and Stages
Photo By Gary Miller

The Who

American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX, September 21

And then there were two. At the end of an alternately magic and depressing two-hour set, the stage emptied and Roger Daltrey fell into Pete Townshend's arms. Daltrey, 58, short, stout, still without an ounce of fat on a physique the Gods on Olympus bequeathed him, is no longer rock & roll's Goldilocks, the golden-tressed deity Tommy. His face reflects the ravages of his musical generation, as does his ragged voice. Townshend, 57, tall, fit, looks the same: He was born a cranky old man. Together, their chemistry still throws up showers of sparks. Not that they did it alone. Pino Palladino was "Ox"-like (unmoving, with long Boris the spidery fingers) filling in for Who bassist John Entwistle, who died June 27 in a manner reminiscent of his rhythm mate Keith Moon's death 25 years ago: overdosed on sex, drugs, and you-know-what. Zak "Son of Ringo" Starkey starred on drums, while Pete's younger brother Simon played auxiliary guitar and sang harmonies. ("Before [Entwistle] tragically died," quipped Pete as he introduced Simon, "his voice died.") Finally, there was "Rabbit" Bundrick, token Texan and veteran Who touring keyboardist complete with enormous Longhorn on his organ. Together, the sextet's chemistry threw showers of sparks. Just hearing/seeing Pete Townshend light into longtime opener "I Can't Explain," riff and lyric every bit as primal as they were in 1965, helped rationalize $150 tickets, though rejoiner "Substitute" croaked somewhat with Daltrey's still stiff vocals. Warming up quickly, Townshend cranked his Stratocaster windmill to life for "Anyhow, Anywhere, Anyway," the guitarist going head to head with Starkey, a drummer of power and finesse -- even if he does look like one of the Oasis boys. "Another Tricky Day," an obscure Entwistle track from the "zenith" of the band's recording career, as Townshend called it, was primer for the only true surprise of the set, cult b-side "The Relay." The material from Who's Next ("Baba O'Riley," "Bargain," and main set send-off "Won't Get Fooled Again") weren't nearly as impassioned as a mid-set trio of Quadrophenia torrents, "Sea and Sand," "5:15," and Daltrey's grand "Love, Reign O'er Me," on which the singer's titanic voice finally kicked in. An extended, folksy "The Kids Are Alright" found both Daltrey and Townshend improvising lyrics about their own kids, while a Live at Leeds-era stab at "My Generation" should've been extended longer. When it was good, rock & roll's eternal flame was exposed. When it was long in the tooth, the same; in both cases it was bittersweet confronting the fact that rock & roll is so very mortal. A video tribute to Entwistle before the encore, remembering him and his gang when they were young, beautiful -- immortal -- was, in fact, sobering, softened only by a stiff dose of Tommy, "Pinball Wizard," "Amazing Journey," "See Me Feel Me." During those 15 minutes, the Who were neither old nor dead.

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