The Who Re-Viewed Part 7
LONG LIVE (CLASSIC) ROCK
The Who are generally considered to have peaked with Who’s Next; it’s difficult not to hear that 1971 album as the most straightforward, confident, euphoric, loud and downright anthemic of them all. It’s also a record that has aged magnificently over the years: while the songs themselves are indelibly printed on our collective consciousness as dating from a certain era, the production, clarity and sheer force of performance on Who’s Next are enough to send shockwaves of fear through every ambitious new group that thinks it owns the future. The same with the live renditions. ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ suffered somewhat in Bridgeport for Roger Daltrey’s struggle with the high notes, but ‘Baba O’Riley’ was once again transcendent. Its ability to survive the years remains one of those mysteries we should avoid studying too deeply; put simpy, it resonate far more deeply with the American audience than anything Pete Townshend has ever written. In Bridgeport, it was met with a solid two-minute ovation, and though the cynic might suggest that was as much the audience applauding its own familiarity and favoritism as The Who’s rendition, that reception was still enough to take the group aback and allow Townshend a generous smile. (Looking at my review of The Who at Madison Square Garden back in ‘02, I see it met with a similar response then, which I suggested may have been a result of The Who’s performance at the Concert for 9/11.)
‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ feels a little more tethered to its time, yet has proven equally enduring. I find the groove to be The Who’s most rhythmic – certainly the most conventionally danceable of anything recorded with Keith Moon – and with Zak Starkey’s phenomenal drumming, it maintains the syncopated power onstage of the original recorded version. In Bridgeport, at that moment when the synth motif wound back around for the umpeenth time and Townshend kicked in the power chords leading to the final verse, I looked alongside to see a 30-something male – one of the few people in the audience who still seemed connected to the modern world – wipe tears of emotion from his eyes. I don’t know if he’d witnessed the song in concert before, but I have, many times, and yet still I’d felt a similar charge. There are only a few songs in the world capable of unleashing the pheromones like this, time and time again, and The Who have at least two of them. From the same album. Given their effect on an audience, you can’t blame them for playing them.