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November 30, 2012

Chicago: The Who's Kind Of Town

The Chicago Tribune reviews The Who’s show last night at Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL


A swaggering Who blasts through ‘Quadrophenia’

By Joshua Klein, Special to the Tribune



The Who's Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend during the band's show at the Allstate Arena on Thursday.


Photo by Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune


“Hope I die before I get old.” Pete Townshend will never escape those fantastically fatalistic words he wrote – and Roger Daltrey first sang – nearly 50 years ago. There is no way around it: Pete Townshend is old, Roger Daltrey is old, the songs are old, nearly everything about the Who is old. If the Who’s previous reunions have proved that “old” and “timeless” are not mutually exclusive, it’s always been up to the surviving pair of Townshend and Daltrey, along with their latest recruits, to inject life into material frozen agelessly in the minds and hearts of millions.


Even at its most precarious the band has seemingly taken the burden seriously, and it was no accident the Who sounded renewed at the Allstate Arena Thursday. The 1978 death of drummer Keith Moon and, in 2002, bassist John Entwistle left holes in the Who that many thought could not be filled, but Townshend and Daltrey transformed tragedy into opportunity, firming up the group’s foundation with the addition of drummer Zak Starkey and journeyman bassist Pino Palladino, a pair of invaluable additions that helped boost the first night of two complete performances of “Quadrophenia” to its full grandeur.


Decades of overpraise as Townshend’s reigning achievement have robbed “Tommy” of some of its power — or at worst reduced elements of it to kitsch — “Quadrophenia” has only gained in stature. The 1973 album still courses with an energy and violence befitting the Who’s roots, and therefore suits the band’s swaggering live resurgence. Best of all, the album’s numerous split-personality characters take some pressure off Daltrey, who got to occasionally rest his surprisingly well-preserved pipes while both Townshend and, sometimes, Townshend’s younger brother Simon got turns at the mic. Even so, despite blasting out of the gate with “The Real Me,” the first half of the show found the group easing into the material, with Daltrey and Townshend strong but somewhat restrained.


But then came “5:15″ (or, as lovers of the double-album might know it, the start of side three). Suddenly the energy level lifted, with the barrel-chested Daltrey belting his heart out and Townshend slashing away at his Strat through an extended solo. From “Drowned” though “Love, Reign O’er Me,” the set maintained this high output for the remainder of the night, finding time to pay tribute to its late members (by way of video montage) while daring you to take your eyes off the surviving principals on stage. Townshend and Daltrey frequently smirked and smiled to themselves when struck by certain line readings, and provided plenty of their trademark mic-swinging, arm-windmilling moves, much to the enjoyment of the crowd, which respectfully remained on its feet the entire evening.


Maybe Daltrey and Townshend performed a little less physically than they used to, maybe a little more in check. Certainly the three keyboard players and two horns provided some extra support. But watching the group pound through a short encore of hits, from the anthemic “Baba O’Riley” to the immortal “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” having a blast while celebrating its past, suddenly getting old didn’t seem like so bad a deal. Who knows how many more tours the Who has in it, but if Thursday night was any indication, it intends to go out swinging.






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15 Responses to Chicago: The Who's Kind Of Town

Dan says: December 1, 2012 at 9:34 am

So glad my friends south of the border are enjoying another Who masterpiece !
Reflecting on thirty plus years as a loyal supporter…
It’s been one hell of a journey.
I saw them one week ago in Toronto , and I’m still hearing rave reviews from friends and perfect strangers.. So fitting!
Especially when some lame ass radio stations(Q107) here in T. O expected The Who to go crawl under a rock , When founding members past..
But, Pete and Roger never sounded better!
If I want excited enough about the Toronto show. Well I can’t wait for the second leg in Hamilton ! Just like always..
Long Live The Who!!

jeff davison says: December 1, 2012 at 7:33 am

Was there both on the29th and 30th. have been to a dozen plus who shows since 1982. Absolutely awesome. Roger has never sounded better. The additional musicians just enhanced the overall sound without overpowering Daltry/Townsend. Hopefully they come back to Chicago at the end of the tour. Anybody who was a doubter because of the last several years of hit/miss shows should be a believer if they have seen the current version.

Mike says: November 30, 2012 at 10:59 pm

My very first Who appearance, all I can say is brilliant!! The numbers behind the age of Roger & Pete mean nothing. They perform their craft at a level that is simply unachievable by the majority of musicians these days. To play such a complex piece of music straight through such as Quadrophenia, LIVE, I was there in total awe of these two men, and the rest of the band. The very tasteful way they incorporated John on 5:15 kicked that song to another level, and I was wondering who was going to sing Bell Boy, and again, Keith was there in all his glory. It was as if we were transported in the mighty Who machine back in time. I find myself very lucky to have witnessed this up close and personal. The Who is still very much THE REAL DEAL!!


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