Friday, July 05, 2002

The Who at the Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA, July 3, 2002 - Second show past the death of John Entwistle

Great fucking show! Counting Crows did a very good set (when they weren't speaking, or, rather, trying to speak) and had the decency to go on right at 7:30 and get out of the way right at 8:15.

Between sets there was a short video about the Who, with band and crew interviews (including John). Unfortunately, it was still too light out to really see or appreciate this properly. We thought it would lead into the opening of the Who's set, but it ended at least ten full minutes before the real show began.

The Who came out at 8:45, just as the sun was setting. Every last person in the audience rose to their feet, and not a single one of them even thought about sitting down again till the show was over at 11:00. It was loud, and it was powerful, and it was exciting for over two full hours. It wasn't quite Live at Leeds, but put just about any other rock show to shame.

The set list:
I Can't Explain
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
Who Are You?
Another Tricky Day
Baba O'Riley
Eminence Front
Sea and Sand
Love Reign O'er Me
Behind Blue Eyes
You Better, You Bet
The Kids Are Alright
My Generation
Won't Get Fooled Again

Encore: Tommy Medley
- Pinball Wizard/Amazing Journey/Sparks/We're Not Gonna Take It (finale)

Highlights for me included the Quadrophenia set, each of the numbers from Who's Next, Kids are Alright (also a highlight of the Bridge School show here two years ago), and My Generation. The excitement at some points was so great, I thought I'd have a heart attack. After the synth solo in the middle of Baba O'Riley, when Pete comes back in with those power chords, was one of the greatest moments of my concert going life.

The only song I could have truly done without was You Better, You Bet. Relay also didn't wow me. In fact, we'd all so forgotten about that song that during the show we were asking each other, "Is this new or what?" Steve would have also cut out Eminence Front and Another Tricky Day (in other words, anything post Keith Moon). Personally, I dug Eminence Front; screw Steve.

I will agree with him, however, that it would have been nice if they'd pulled out a few surprises from the back catalog, B-sides, or maybe even one of Pete's early solo albums. This was a brilliant show, but we could have guessed 90% of the set list (almost down to the order) before going in. I loved every moment of this concert, but it was a little too safe in the preparation.

The band: Pete and Roger, supported by Zak Starkey, "Rabbit" Bundrick, Pino Palladino, Simon Townshend, and the ghost of John Entwistle causing a bit of feedback, tuning problems other "gremlins" as Pete put it.

Pino still needs a few more rehearsals to be fully comfortable with all the material. But with less than a week to step into some might huge shoes, he did quite well where it counted. He came through beautifully in the bass solo in My Generation and the Quadrophenia mini-set.

It was interesting to look at Rabbit and realize how long he's been playing with the Who, and that he was on the original recordings of nearly a third of the material. Simon, of course, has been around the band a long time as well. Still, it was only Half-Who, and as great as the show was, it was never quite The Who.

Zak continues to amaze with the power of his drumming (this ain't his father's drum kit). Nobody will ever replace Keith, but this kid certainly fills in where it counts. It's interesting, but where we'd kind of gotten used to Moon's absence, the added loss of Entwistle brings back the focus on the whole rhythm section.

Maybe I shouldn't be pointing out what was missing so much. Believe me, this was a hell of a lot closer to a Who show than to a Pete solo show with special guest Roger. But there's no getting around the fact that in addition to being a kick-ass rock and roll concert, it was also a wake.

The guitars: All Strats (Red, Gold, & Beige) for the electrics, and a variety of acoustics for Roger and Simon. A bit of trouble keeping them tuned, but that's typical of this venue. They do all the set-up when it's a dry 90+ degree California day. Then the show starts, and there's a 65 degree fog coming in off the bay, and all the guitars change shape.

There was no intentional smashing of equipment. There were, however, a couple of accidents... Mid-way through My Generation Pete lost his balance and stumbled backwards into a stack of amps. He hit them with his shoulder sending them flying backwards, and bouncing him back to the front of the stage. Pete never missed a note, and the crew got the amps re-set within 15 seconds.

Roger destroyed at least one microphone by giving it a little too much slack while whipping it around. The thud of mike hitting the stage was a bit of a distraction, but again, not a beat was missed.

Roger was more distracted, and more obviously depressed, than Pete was. He got better as the night went on, but it was obvious that he was in pain. At the end, when he and Pete came out to take their final bows, Roger held out both arms, as if expecting band mates to join him from each side. Pete put his arm around Roger, while Roger whispered in Pete's ear and pointed to the empty space to his right.

As they left the stage for the last time, a slide show came on with images of John Entwistle. Some of him alone, some of John and Keith, and some of the whole original band, ending back on an image of John alone. All in all, the show was a fitting tribute, as well as a great concert, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

Wednesday night I was full of the excitement of the show. Yesterday I was too exhausted to think about it much, and distracted by the mid-day terrorism.

This morning, as I'm typing this up, I'm actually tearing up over the loss of this great musician who died one week ago. I don't know what Pete and Roger will decide to do about the future of the Who, but there's obviously still magic, power, and emotion in that partnership, and between the Who and the audience.

"Rock is dead they said, Long Live Rock!"

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