MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS
September 17, 2006
Saw The Who last night at the TD Banknorth Garden. Hands down one of the very, very best rock concerts I've ever been to. Those fantastic old men can fucking rock. They've not only never lost it, they maintain a level of quality and ability high above kids a third their age.
Musically, The Who put on a jaw-droppingly accomplished and consummate performace. The presentation, light show, and sensory immersion was top-notch. And look at those two codgers, they look great. They must bathe in formaldehyde. They're not leathery, animated mummified corpses like Jagger and Richards. Nor were they dressed like rock star clowns: Roger Daltrey was in faded blue jeans, blue T-shirt and blue shades; Pete Townshend wore a black shirt and blue jeans. They were dressed like stand-up comedians. They curse like sailors. And holy shit, can they rock.
We also discovered the hidden jewel of the TD Banknorth Garden: The Promenade section. No. it's not a mall in a space station, nerd, it's a hallway that rings entirely around the very top of the arena above the balconies. There's a single row of seats all around with an all-emcompassing view. There are private restrooms, your own snack bar, plenty of space to stretch out, you're separated far away from the rabble; it's great up there. I don't know which band was the opening act but the crowd hated them and let them know it. They even got booed when they said The Who were coming out next before leaving the stage.
Unlike, say, Axl Rose's two hour late arrivals, The Who made us wait a mere half an hour before taking the stage. Speaking of the stage, it seemed very plain compared to a U2 stage, no heart-shaped ramp filled with fans Bono can pull up and dance with, nor a curtain of lights telling us to join The One campaign. (In fact, never once did The Who batter us with their political views or tell us to text message Nelson Mandela's prison number.)
The Who's stage seemed very simple until they arrived, then a sea of lights changing color would bathe the arena while enormous, crystal clear high definition screens broadcast amazing vintage 16mm video of The Who's lives, the places they've been, the people they know, and all the eras of history they've rocked in. (Swinging 60's London seemed like it really was incredibly cool. I understand now how disappointed Austin Powers was in the world after he came out of cryo in 1997.) The effect of the lights, sights, and music was so immersive, you couldn't take your eyes of the stage. They pulled the 17,000 strong in attendance right into the show and never let us go.
Daltrey's not as agile as he was back in the day but he can still swing a microphone around like nunchucks. His mike control is excellent. And no one windmills his guitar like Townshend. Also, I had no idea Townshend loved to shoot the shit on the microphone as much as he does. Between every song, while Daltrey was stretching or pacing the darkened stage, Townshend got on the house mike and spun yarns. He name dropped Jagger and Richards (who got booed - Keith Richards is a heel in Boston?) and the Flaming Lips. Half the time, between the acoustics and his accent, he was unintelligible, but still fucking entertaining. The only thing missing from Townshend's chat's with the audience was an armchair and a fireplace. Also a laptop and some kiddie porn.
The Who are touring to plug their new album which drops in October and most of the new songs are pretty good, as was a tribute to Elvis Presley and a cover "Can't Help Falling In Love". But like any concert, especially by a superband that's been around for decades, the crowd came to hear the hits. The Who delivered "Behind Blue Eyes", "My Generation", "Pinball Wizard", and of course the CSI theme songs: "Who Are You", "Won't Get Fooled Again", and "Baba O'Riley".
"Baba O'Riley" came in about midway through after The Who tore through a medley of six short songs. It was one of the greatest out-of-body experiences I've ever had at a concert. Unforgettable. They carried the entire crowd in the palm of their hands. What was left out of the show was a bit of a disappointment. No "Bargain", "The Song Is Over", or "Love Reign O'er Me", the omission of which traumatized Jeff's brother Alex as we were leaving the Garden. The Who's encore was a few songs from "Tommy".
During the show, I was reminded of the concert held to honor the police and firefighters in Madison Square Garden after 9/11. They carted out people like Jay-Z, Beyonce, and the Backstreet Boys to entertain our brave public servants who put their lives on the line and lost so many of their peers that day, and I remember thinking what a miscalculation it was to have hip hop acts and boy bands out there. The cops and firefighters don't care about the fucking Backstreet Boys. Maybe their daughters did, but the concert wasn't to honor them. When The Who came out to close the show, I remember the pure joy on the faces of those cops and firefighters. They were so happy to hear The Who. Now I know how that feels. I hope those hard-rocking English coots stay healthy, keep rocking, and come around again. And play "Magic Bus."