Sunday, November 05, 2006

Who am I? A fan of The Who (finally)

Seeing The Who—a band that did its best work before I was born—Saturday night made me want to invent a time machine, so I could have been alive when they owned the airwaves.

Going into the show at the Hollywood Bowl, I wasn't a fan, per se, of the legendary band (as I am say Rilo Kiley) but I know my pop music history well enough to respect and be thankful for the contributions Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon and John Entwistle made to the music I adore now. As we walked out I wondered what happened to music in the last 25 years that distilled out the fierce, rebellious anthems of rock n roll.

Dave and I entered to the overloud, bad 80s metal jams of some band we never learned the name of, only sad b/c I want to hate them in the future and it's hard to hate a nameless band as it is to hold a ghost. Thankfully the band's set consisted of seemingly two really long instrumental jams so they weren't on stage that long.

As the anonymous openers left the stage, the middle-aged, almost 100 percent white audience filed into their seats at the Bowl. As a 31-year-old this is the first concert I've attended since moving to Los Angeles four years ago in which I was in the lowest 25 percent agewise. It was also the whitest environment I've been since moving here, too. And I've spent time in Ventura County! A woman in front and to the left of us, who clearly could have been my mother's slightly younger sister, was telling the people behind her that she was planning to stand. (warning signs going off in my head, and they would be justified.)

By 8:30 The Who takes the stage. WOW!! Roger comes out in blue jeans, black t-shirt and khaki colored button down (unbottoned). His hair is close-cropped befitting a 50+ year old rocker. Right away the audience is delirious. Songs like Won't Get Fooled Again, Who Are You? (The CSI theme song to those who need the assist) have the crowd members reliving their youth (and the kids in the audience perhaps getting a glance at whom their parents were many years ago).

For those who don't like singalong crowds, this would not have been your show. I am usually OK with it, provided no one is belting lyrics at the top of his/her lungs and they can at least reasonably not suck vocally. In our case, the proximal crowd satisfied these conditions. The only thing the crowd couldn't do worth shit was clap with any semblance of fucking rhythm. As you can tell, this IS a huge pet peeve of mine. The worst offender was in fact the woman in front and to the left of us. If you could divide the beat into irrational numbers, she would have found a way to clap on them.

But beyond the minimal requirements of acceptable singalongs, I actually enjoyed the crowd members' voices. There was such joy in their singing. Perhaps they remembered when they stood up to the man; believed that being young and liberal was the only way to believe; re-tasted the optimism of their youth? I don't know, but I didn't want to allow my cynicism anywhere near this concert. Also, they mostly stayed out of the way during See Me, Feel Me. Ruining a quiet song like that would have forced me to kill someone.

So after like a half-dozen or so anthemic oldies to charge up the crowd, it was time to indulge the "reason" for this tour—the new album, Endless Wire. Bad idea. They played the five-song mini-Opera (Pete still hasn't outgrown those). We were bored. Even their most diehard fans took this opp to hit the head or concessions. The worst part was that each song literally got worse. Luckily, since these songs were a five-song series the entire thang took just like 18 minutes. And we were soon able to resume the causing-people-to-enter-the-juvenation-machine phase of the concert.

In the next batch of classics we got My Generation, Behind Blue Eyes and finally, Baba O'Reilly (teenage wasteland). Btw, you haven't even approached irony until you've watched two guys in their late 50s (or early 60s) singing the words "Teenage Wasteland" to an audience of about 16,000 people all basically their age, who is singing along. Despite my observation of the ironic, and Daltrey's straning on the vocals it was also a supercool moment. It was also the moment that sparked envy.

A song like Baby O'Reilly: " Out here in the fields/ I fight for my meals/ I get my back into my living/ I don't need to fight/ To prove I'm right/ I don't need to be forgiven ..." has such an rebelliousness and anthemic melody that I was just swept. Why can't music today do that? U2 certainly creates anthems of hope, but the revolutionary edge was lost by the boys from Ireland years ago. And I'm not sure they ever had it to the degree that Pete, Roger, Keith and John did.

[btw, I'm doing the band and everyone a favor and not reviewing Mirror Door or Mike Post Theme. The one new song I didn't mind was Man in a Purple Dress until ... ]

After a solid, energy-filled 90 minutes the show was finished. Btw, Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura, take a lesson from Mick and Roger about stage presence. As we waited for the encore, we tried to figure out which major songs had we not yet heard. I predicted "I Can See for Miles" and Dave predicted "Pinball Wizard," which we both realized we should have guessed first.

Well they came out with Pinball Wizard, which absolutely smoked for the almost the entire 10-minute version. Along with several other songs, they vamped and jammed a little tooo long here. But oh well, Pete can still light his guitar on fire so no complaints. Talent is sooooo admirable/seductive (to listen to).

They closed with Tea&Theatre, a new song, that was actually quite brilliant. It was just Roger and Pete, playing acoustic guitar. A spare coda about remember, regret, loss, achievement and revelry to the musical revolution they made.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Loved, loved, loved your review-ish thing. Wish I had been there; I, too, would have warned you that I planned to stand. (Can't help it.) Glad to know where to find you on the net!

Robb's m__