I’ve been a fan of The Who for just about as long as I can remember. For anyone who doesn’t know The Who, they are one of the greatest rock bands of all time. The four original members of the group were Keith Moon (drums), John Entwistle (bass), Roger Daltrey (vocals), and Pete Townshend (guitar). Moon and Entwistle are gone. Daltrey and Townshend are not. In fact, these two founding members still front an excellent band that tours every now and then as The Who.
I first saw The Who in 1980. Since then, I’ve been hooked. I’ve seen them every time they’ve come to the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve caught them on the road a few times as well (in places like Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and even Fresno). I’ve also seen solo shows by Townshend, Entwistle, and Daltrey. Yes, when it comes to The Who, I’ll take it anyway, anyhow, anywhere I can. In whole or in part, their music calls me like no other.
So, when VH1 announced plans for a tribute concert in Los Angeles for The Who—and featuring The Who—I had to be there.
The Mother of All Lovefests
The VH1 show took place on July 12, 2008 at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. The red-carpet event featured Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Incubus, Flaming Lips, and Tenacious D covering Who songs. With celebrity introductions and video montages celebrating the band’s history and legacy, it was the mother of all Who lovefests.
The best thing for me about the VH1 show was the feeling of everyone coming together for the singular purpose of showing their appreciation—their love—for The Who. I enjoyed all of the tribute bands, but Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam, in particular, caught my attention with their powerful renditions of Who classics.
As for The Who, they played for about 45 minutes. I enjoyed their performance too, but overall it had a different vibe for me than a typical Who concert. I can’t really put my finger on why I thought this. Maybe it was the fact that the band hadn’t played together for a while. Maybe it was because of sound problems on stage. Maybe it was the pain Pete Townshend felt after ripping off a fingernail early in the show. Or maybe it was something else entirely or even nothing at all. Maybe it was simply my imagination run amuck.
In any event, I’m a greedy bastard when it comes to The Who, and I readily admit I left the arena wanting more. Fortunately, I wouldn’t have to wait very long to get another dose.
The Right Job at the Right Time
A few nights after the VH1 tribute, I attended a private corporate party at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. I don’t normally have an opportunity to go to private parties, nor do I have a job that offers many of these types of perks. On this night, however, the stars were in perfect alignment. I happen to work for a company that works very closely with the companies throwing this party. So, it was by sheer luck really that I got an invite to this exclusive event featuring none other than my favorite band of all time.
I didn’t know what to expect at this gig. For all I knew, The Who might walk onto stage as a quick promotional stunt and call it a day. As soon as they launched into their set, however, I could tell that this was going to be an amazing night. From start to finish, they sounded as good as I’ve ever heard them. It was a tremendous performance, and, for what it’s worth, Daltrey, Townshend, and the rest of the band really seemed to enjoy themselves on stage. The audience loved it, too.
As the show went on, I came to the realization that this was one of the best concerts I’ve seen in nearly 30 years of seeing The Who. I felt extremely lucky to be in attendance.
Who Knows What’s Next
Whenever I see The Who these days, I can’t help but wonder if it’s the last time. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey rock very hard on stage, but they don’t tour very often any more and they’re no spring chickens. So, it seems only natural for me to wonder whether or not I’ll ever see them again in concert. Then again maybe I shouldn’t be so pessimistic.
I recently went to a Mose Allison concert at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. For those of you who don’t know Mose Allison, he’s a one-of-a-kind piano man who blends jazz, blues, and a very unique style to comment on the world as he sees it. I first learned about him from The Who when they covered one of his songs on their “Live at Leeds” album. Mose Allison is 80 years old now, and he still puts on a great show.
At any rate, seeing Mose Allison the other night got me thinking again about The Who. While their brand of music certainly requires a lot more energy than sitting at a piano stool, it’s not unfathomable that they can keep performing for many more years if they want to and if they remain healthy. The greedy fan in me can only hope The Who keeps on rocking like Mose Allison for many years to come.
Later in 2008, The Who is scheduled to play a handful of shows in Japan and the United States. It’s not the full-blown tour their fans crave, but I know I’ll be on hand to continue my lifelong appreciation for the greatest band of all time.