The Who – Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA – May 25, 2016
With media prognosticators ranting that rock music is no longer a force, The Who’s appearance at a SRO Staples Center in Los Angeles proved the naysayers to be wildly off base and nullified that assumption… loudly. As Pete Townshend wrote, “Rock is dead they say, long live rock…”
This was make-up show for the last year’s LA tour date stop, a result of a nasty bout of meningitis for the band’s lead singer, Roger Daltrey, which laid him up in the hospital for an extended period of time. The Who, made up of surviving members Pete Townshend and Daltrey plus a terrific band including long-time members Zak Starkey on drums, Pino Palladino on bass and Simon Townshend, leveled the Staples Center with a Greatest Hits + set canvassing the band’s entire career.
Opening with a thunderous “Who Are You?,” which featured striking footage of mods culled from the 1979 film, Quadrophenia, the group delivered a confident set filled with swagger and passion. Grandfather rock? Hardly. Kinetic renditions of “I Can See For Miles,” introduced by Pete as the band’s biggest hit in the States, “The Kids Are Alright” and “Pictures of Lily” laid blazing testament to the group’s rep as groundbreaking power pop practitioners. In fact, Pete Townshend coined the term “Power Pop” back in 1967.
One of the highlights of the two hour plus show, a performance witnessed by Zak Starkey’s dad Ringo Starr, was the group’s rendering of the Who’s Next jewel, “Bargain,” a song Townshend described as his favorite number from that seminal album. For this reviewer, “Bargain” was where it all clicked. Daltrey’s voice hit his groove and Townshend attacked the music with fury and precision, windmills and slashing power chords.
The slight “Squeeze Box” worked surprisingly well in a live setting, augmented with additional instrumentation, notably banjo; the huge projection screen behind the band was a stirring visual treat with an amusing series of animated vignettes showcasing drawings of the band members purloined from the cover of the Who By Numbers album. “Join Together,” a song that has rarely featured in previous Who set lists, was another standout, its powerful rallying cry drew band and audience together into a communal state of bliss.
A four song survey of the group’s 1973 double-LP Quadrophenia – “5:15,” the dynamic instrumental “The Rock,” “I’m One” and “Love, Reign O’er Me” – spotlighted the lyrical and musical sophistication of Townshend’s writing. Early ’80s FM radio perennial “Eminence Front” from 1982’s It’s Hard album, one of several Townshend lead vocal vehicles of the night, lent him the freedom to demonstrate his supple guitar playing skills, peeling off jazz inflected six-string lines of beauty and power.
Winding toward the finish with a transcendent mini-Tommy set – “Amazing Journey,” “Sparks,” “The Acid Queen,” “Pinball Wizard, and “See Me, Feel Me” – left the audience in a state of mass delirium, which was somehow further intensified by the slam dunk delivery of two final Who classics, “Baba O’Riley (Teenage Wasteland)” and a show stopping “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
There was no encore and frankly no need for one. It was the perfect finish. The Who came, delivered and left it all on the stage, proving that rock is still vibrant, relevant and alive. Somewhere Keith Moon is smiling…
Who Are You
The Kids Are Alright
I Can See for Miles
Pictures of Lily
Behind Blue Eyes
You Better You Bet
Love, Reign O’er Me
The Acid Queen
See Me, Feel Me
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 28, 2016.
Photos by Jim Rinaldi © 2016