Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Who play Detroit

Last night, I saw the Who play the Palace at Auburn Hills. I was in Row 14 on the main floor, with a great view of Daltrey and Townsend. The rest of the band consisted of rhythm guitar, bass drums and keys. The sound was just right, plenty loud, but not too loud, and the sound balance was good. The Detroit crowd gave them a pretty warm welcome.

They kicked off with "I Can't Explain", and then ran through "Seeker", "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" (extended version with lots of guitar), "Teenage Wasteland", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Who Are You", "You Better Bet", "My Generation" (extended version), "Pinball Wizard", "Won't Get Fooled Again" (extended version), ending with a medley from Tommy as an encore.

There were a number of new songs interspersed, some of which I don't know the names of. Some of them were quite good ("We Got a Hit", "Fragments"), others didn't make much of an impression on me ("Man in a Purple Dress", "Tea and Theatre"). But I'll probably buy the new album, and also the DVD that they are going to bring out of the show.

Townsend played really well, mostly Stratocaster through a stack of 4 Fender VibroKings, although he also used a big Gibson acoustic that looked like a J200. Plenty of dramatic chording and arm windmilling, of course! But he used his big sound tastefully, and was always both rhythmic and in synch with the mood of the song.

The last time I saw the Who was in 1965, at Nottingham's Dungeon Club, which was a favorite Mod hangout of that era. (I saw the Yardbirds with Eric Clapton there the same year.) Keith Moon's drumming simply blew me away; I'd never seen anyone play like that, and I'd already seen good drummers, like Viv Prince of the Pretty Things. I was 16 years old, and I'd never heard any band play that loud before.

On that long ago evening, Townsend totaled a Rickenbacker in a fit of gratuitous violence. He was also very into scraping the strings against the mike stand and other sonic antics that irritated some folks in the crowd. Paper cups and other items were hurled on stage, and Roger nearly came down to the floor to sort a few people out! It was fun, but also a bit disturbing, to tell the truth.

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