Who’s Next: Let’s Create Frankenstein Ox
The Who kicked off the American leg of their world tour, their first in over 20 years, in spectacular Philadelphia, a city that, well, doesn’t take concert tailgating too seriously on a Tuesday night.
Nonetheless, my compadre Pete and I proudly counted ourselves among the pre-game drinkers at the Wachovia Center on the 12th, completely bypassing opening act Peeping Tom (we had to ask about 15 people in the lot before we found the name out) in favor of damning the man with cheap beers to avoid the $7.50-per-beer stadium ass-rape special.
As is the case with every Who ticket I’ve acquired, it came from a last-minute call from a friend with an extra. And the reason I didn’t bother to buy one also turned out to be my biggest criticism of the show—
The Ox is dead.
For all intents and purposes, the mighty John Entwistle was the lead guitarist of The Who. While Townsend spends most of his time chugging out the rhythm and kicking the stage’s ass, The Mighty Ox would stand to the side, looking statuesque and frightfully bored, and belt out the most thunderous, low-register, mudbubbling mod rage the world hath ever seen.
So listening to The Who and barely hearing any audible basslines from stand-in Pino Palladino was, to say the least, disheartening.
The other stand-in of the night, however, delivered in fucking spades. Zak Starkey, taking over the coveted Keith Moon seat for the tour, definitely deserves to have the “Ringo’s Son” moniker removed after deftly capturing the maniacal fury and timed explosions of the late great Moon’s aural assault. During “Substitute” and “Sparks,” all I could picture was Keith at heaven’s pub, in drag, getting shitfaced with J.C. and declaring, “right, sonny.” Beautiful.
Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey still maintain a good stage presence. While it’s not the frenzied level of years past, I don’t think anyone wants to see a dislocated hip. Daltrey definitely won the physical aging contest, looking roughly 40 at 62, but he could’ve thrown in a few more mic swings, for Christ’s sake. And Townsend. I have to say, I don’t care how old that son of a bitch looks—when he pulls a windmill guitar chord, it’s still got all the rage and kinetic energy of a teenager whose parents just don’t understand.
What the Last Who’s Standing delivered was a night filled with monster hits and favorites, with a chunk of material from new album Endless Wire shoved into the middle.
9/12/06 Wachovia Center Set List:
I Can’t Explain
Behind Blue Eyes
Real Good Looking Boy
Pick Up The Peace
We Got A Hit
They Made My Dreams Come True
You Better You Bet
Who Are You
Man In The Purple Dress
Black Widow Eyes
Cry If You Want
Won’t Get Fooled Again
See Me Feel Me
Tea And Theatre
Now being a hardcore Who fan, as well as a complete music dork, would I have liked to have heard rarities? Maybe some “Tattoo?” A little taste of Quadrophenia? “A Quick One While She’s Away?” Hells yeah. But hearing the “greatest hits” live, you realize why those songs are considered the greatest. Despite the overall cleanliness of their stage sound and the lack of any thick bottom, these songs totally hold up. They are fucking gargantuan dinosaurs still roaming about the teenage wasteland, pulverizing anyone who claims them to be forgotten, or that Good Charlotte or Taking Back Sunday is Rock music.
As for the new tunes, all I can say is that they sounded very Who-like, with few transgressions from their rock opera period sound, save for a couple tunes performed acoustically by Townsend and Daltrey. I did find myself feeling bad that these guys were going out on a limb with their new material and everybody else was headed to the pisser, but I also found myself headed to the pisser. Hey, you have to go sometime, and these guys are experienced enough to know the drill.
And then, of course, there was the Who moment that all fans of irony crave: a gray-haired, balding, 61-year-old Townsend’s “Hope I die before I get old” line being sung by a 62-year-old Daltrey. This obvious plot hole got me thinking.
Being a superfan of the 60s Rock Explosion at age 26, there is a lot that I’ve missed. Seeing bands from that era perform now is like a box of chocolates. Especially when it comes to ability and new material.
I felt like what carried the Who show was solely the strength of the old material. When I see Neil Young, I never feel like I missed out on some earlier version. He’ll still be incredible when he’s coming out colostomy bag in tow. Dylan, while physically worn and seemingly incapacitated behind a keyboard, still puts on an rollicking live show with the help of inventive song rearrangement and being a band assembler and leader on par with James Brown and Miles Davis.
The Stones, you ask? I know, I know, I hear they are still mind-blowing live, but that claim totally conflicts with my unyielding argument that the Rolling Stones disbanded on top in 1973, following the Exile on Main Street Tour, only to be replaced with poorly-programmed yet invincible disco robots.
I guess I would place the present Who in the middle. Not on par with constant amazers like Young and Dylan, yet much more alive and able-bodied than Crosby, Stills and Nash or The Beach Boys (I’d rather punch myself in the balls all day then have to sit through them now—even at the age of ten I realized that those guys needed to quietly exit the stage and quit raping Brian Wilson’s legacy).
Throughout the show, old graphics appeared behind the band, displaying the achingly young and arrogant mods in bright, multi-colored layouts. I pictured both Townsends meeting on the street, each scowling at the other. The young tough tells the gray-haired man to “piss off you fuckin’ wanka,” but before the last word’s out of his mouth, the elder Townsend responds in kind with a swift backhand to the punk’s face.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, things change, be thankful for moments frozen in vinyl time, we need to create a Frankenstein Ox for the good of all mankind, and don’t ever, ever fuck with Pete Townsend.