The Who, Jobing.com Arena, 2/6/13
The Who @ Jobing.com Arena|2/6/13
If anything stoked the fears that this Who go-round was going to be another case of living legends living off their legends and treading the floorboards only to show off their diminished firepower, it might have been this announcement, which went up on the big screens before The Who took the stage:
Roger is allergic to smoke and would greatly appreciate if you could stick to brownies ;-)
Not only will I never hear "Put out the fire and don't look past my shoulder" as anything but an anti-smoking rant, I now have to reconcile the man who stuttered, "Why don't you all f-f-f-fade away" eons ago now using emoticons.
Anyone who saw the Who's 1996 Quadrophenia tour with John Entwhistle still among us would've went away from that show feeling like it was the last word on Pete Townshend's "other" rock opera, an atonement for having toured behind the album's original release, with a technically flawed and often boring presentation that ensured most of Quadrophenia stayed off the Who set list for the next 22 years. Playing the piece in its entirety now seemed superfluous, especially with a Two's Missing Who count, no guest stars (no Billy Idol or Gary Glitter), and an even more weathered Townshend and Daltrey 15 years later.
And yet what sounded like not such a hot idea on paper turned out to be an incredible night of arena rock as nature intended it to be: big and monolithic, like one massive beating heart worshipping the same love object. No, not Jimmy, the protagonist of the story. The Who. Even Daltrey and Townshend worship those guys that used to be The Who -- and they were in it. Luckily, that reverent attitude has never got quite as bad as the Stones' case of former-self worship; The Who doesn't end up sounding like the World's Greatest Cover Band (Of Themselves) the way Mick and Keef do. The Who still inhabits these autobiographical songs -- even Townshend is on record as saying that Quadrophenia was the last great album the Who made. Clearly, they relished the opportunity to remind you they are still capable of breathing fire.
Melissa Fossum Roger Daltrey, hitting the "notes that matter."
During the Sandy Benefit Concert in December, Daltrey didn't sound especially good, not going for high notes on "Love Reign O'er Me" and occasionally sounding groggy. When he sang his first number "The Real Me" several keys lower than the original, it might've seemed like the law of diminishing returns had gone into effect, the good's gone for good. In truth, much of this rock opera is a bitch to sing and in going easy at the start, Daltrey was pacing himself, choosing his battles wisely and storing energy for hitting the big notes where they mattered most: the bloodcurdling "Yeaaaaah" on "Won't Get Fooled Again," the climax of "Love Reign," where he screams so that the demons will leave his body, his telling Teenage Wasteland just how wasted they are in "Baba O'Riley." He never faltered on any of these larger-than-life moments, even some of the ones I'd forgotten, like the roar above the trains pulling into the station at the end of "Had Enough." And yes, he mic-twirled like days of old, and even though the move doesn't garner instant applause like Townshend's windmilling power chords, it felt encouraging to any fans who make noises whenever getting out of a chair now seeing Daltrey still do it with such agility. He barely looked more than a few years older than he did in 1982.