With a clearly undersold US Airways Center for The Who, following a Tuesday night’s sold out serving of Bob Seger, the The Who’s name couldn’t have been more relevant in Phoenix. Hello? The Who just happen to be a title contender for the “world’s greatest rock band ever” – right up next to The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Who know, maybe it’s just a Wednesday night thing. However, this is The Who, and whether its rock operas, drug overdoses, operatic falsettos, windmill guitar riffs or the long awaited new album (Endless Wire), The Who’s name speaks for itself.
With original members Roger Daltrey (63) and Pete Townshend (61) leading the way, the rest of the stage included Pino Palladino (subbing for longtime bassist John Entwistle, who died in 2002), guitarist Simon Townshend (subbing on backing vocals for his brother Pete), keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick (the longest-tenured musician in the band behind Daltrey and Townshend) and drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr’s son). Although the crew failed to capture the raw spark of the original lineup from Leeds or Woodstock, Townshend’s relentless old man punk enthusiasm had baby boomers air guitar with Budweisers in one hand. Sure Townshend actually leaps like a white guy now, and Daltrey can’t hit the high note as well as that guy in Keane. (hence, no Quadrophenia songs played), yet you ad the fury of “Baba O’Riley” with the fist pumping glory of”Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and The Who are almost still the real deal.
As the beginning of show favored 60s hits, ("I Can’t Explain" & "The Seeker"), mixed with Austin Powers styled mod videos, the Who did a fine job of mixing the new with the old as the mini rock opera “Wine and Glass” was followed by “Baba O’Riley” and “Eminence Front" (the later along with “You Better You Bet," providing the night’s most stellar moments). Townshend was forthcoming throughout the show, even mentioning “"Roger and I have been through here doing other things–visiting holes in the ground and maybe seeing a couple of blondes.”
Daltrey even took the time to reminiscence about returning to Arizona, saying, "When I first came here in ’67, it was a one-horse town, literally. I was taken riding in the desert with a Native American, and it only took 15 minutes to get to the desert. Now it will take about three hours.”
For the four song encore, Daltrey and Townshend revisited the rock opera "Tommy" for a four-song medley before closing with the acoustic tune "Tea & Theater." It was during this Tommy segment that the band let loose as Townshend’s spiking riffs during “Sparks” proved there is stills a creative fire brewing within. In the end, instead of a Who cliché of smashing guitars, the two founding members took a gracious bow with their arms around one another, proving his kinder/gentler Who have aged damn well.
I Can’t Explain, The Seeker, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, Fragments, Who Are You, Behind Blue Eyes, Real Good Looking Boy, Sound Round, Pick Up The Peace, Endless Wire, We Got A Hit, They Made My Dream Come True, Mirror Door, Baba O’Riley, Eminence Front, A Man A Purple Dress, Black Widow’s Eyes, You Better You Bet, My Generation, Cry If You Want, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Naked Eye, Pinball Wizard, Amazing Journey, Sparks, See Me Feel Me, Tea And Theatre