Friday, March 01, 2013

Long Live Rock

On the way to see The Who last night it hit me that this could be the last time I was to see them perform as a band. It was the last performance of their US tour and you have to wonder if they would ever be up to another one. So many variables to consider, the least of which is just knowing when to say when. Add the fact that they just spent almost a year playing a massive production of Quadrophenia - a record that was built upon the personalities of the four original members - a show that at times seemed like a career retrospective with archival videos projected on the huge screens and included performances by both John Entwistle and Keith Moon. If this was the note - pure and not so easy - that they would go out on, it would have been a high note to be sure, but it still made me feel a bit melancholy that this might be the wrap up to a relationship that had started when I was a teenager.

 But a funny thing happened on the way to the old Felt Forum. After a blistering set by Elvis Costello, who ran through a parade of classics like the building was on fire, The Who took the stage to perform what was billed as a "greatest hits" show. In actuality, it was little more than the extra songs that they had been playing on the tour to close the shows. But there was a difference last night - a big difference. The huge stage had been stripped down for the smaller venue but the distinct change was that the ghosts stayed backstage. During the tour, one of the highlights of the evening was John Entwistle's bass solo, played "live" thanks to the magic of modern technology as Pino Pallidino, who stepped right into Entwistle's shoes after he passed, respectfully left the stage. However, when they played the song last night, there was no video and it was Pino who brought the thunder. They didn't play "Bell Boy" so Keith's bit wasn't a part of the show, but his god son Zach Starkey made it clear that you can draw a line from the past to the future, bringing something new while embracing the old. Roger was giving his all as he always does. A Who show always lives or dies with Pete, and he was alive and well, going for some of the high notes this time around and wrangling, strangling and slapping his guitar - to the point where I almost thought we might see one meet the stage floor only to be spared at the last moment. 

They had been ending the shows with "Tea and Theater" from "Endless Wire" with only Pete and Roger on stage. That song, with it's retrospective lyrics (we did it all, didn't we?) made you feel that this may be a their swan song. But last night, after ending with "Won't Get Fooled Again," the band lined up across the front of the stage and left us with rock's greatest anthem ringing in our ears.

 It may be all speculation on my part, but it felt as if there was a very conscience effort to show that this was a band with a long history, a loud and proud, history, but that the story is not quite finished. This isn't The Who that was, but The Who that is, here and now and, quite possibly, for another amazing journey somewhere down the line. I know I'm ready for it and as far as The Who - well I can tell you that the kids are alright.