The Who, it may concern
Classic rockers bring their all on The Who Hits Back tour
Date: May 23rd, 2022
Do yourself a favor and don’t google the ages of Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend. Just know that the two living members of the Who still have the energy, the verve, the sheer temerity to stand before 20,000 souls and perform for nearly two hours.
And yes, Daltry still has the scream for which he’s so justly famous.
Monday evening’s show at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., commenced with Townshend thanking the crowd for coming out, even as the pandemic continues to rage. The guitarist then introduced not less than two dozen some instrumentalists joining the rockers on stage, whom Townshend said were from the “state capital orchestra,” whatever that is. (Later, he corrected to say they were all locally hired except for their favored first violinist and first cello.) Wasting no more time, Townshend said “Let’s get into ‘Tommy’!”
From there the full complement of onstage musicians kicked into a mini-set from the famous rock opera, employing some serious light effects on the “Tommy” overture, with Daltry gamely tapping out on two tambourines. Daltry’s voice was serviceable, if not especially strong, on “1921” and “Sparks,” but he revved up the gas for “Pinball Wizard,” the first highlight of the evening. The “Tommy” set concluded with a medley of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “See Me, Feel Me,” coming to a fine crescendo and some serious shredding by Townshend.
After a quick chat with the crowd—in which Townshend thanked the absolutely splendid blues opener, Amethyst Kiah—the Who launched into long-treasured tunes “Eminence Front” and “Who Are You,” with the F-word not at all left out of the latter. The orchestra members left the stage shortly thereafter, and thus it was Daltry, Townshend and their coterie of backup rockers—including drummer Zak Starkey, whose pop is none other than Ringo Starr—who took the audience on a tour back through some of the band’s greatest numbers, including “The Seeker” and “You Better You Bet.”
But the evening truly came alive with “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” with the stage lighting producing a kaleidoscopic trip throughout the arena accompanied by that so-familiar tune. The crowd held their breath for a collective gasp, waiting to see if Daltry would offer his trademark scream.
Boy, did he! That primal rock rage is not only still there from a half-century-old song, but Daltry and his nearly eight decades positively destroyed the venue with a rafter-shaking howl. Somehow, his voice was actually improving as the night went on.
From such heights, it was time for a bit of a chill vibe with “Behind Blue Eyes.” The band’s resident violinist Katie Jacoby and cellist Audrey Q. Snyder were front and center for the “Who’s Next” song as much as Daltry and Townshend.
The full orchestra was back for the final stretch of tunes that included “The Real Me,” “I’m One,” “5:15” and “The Rock.” Pianist Loren Gold vamped on a theme, toying with a familiar melody for a few minutes on a spirited solo before he allowed his playing to turn into “Love Reign O’er Me.” Daltry didn’t belt for the rafters as much as he does on the recording itself, but he was nonetheless still in fine form.
Townshend then introduced and thanked all the members of the band, including Gold and his own brother, Simon Townshend, on backup guitar. Pete Townshend again voiced appreciation to the local Washington musicians who had rehearsed with the Who only earlier that day—and before anyone knew what was happening, those glorious synth notes signaled that “Baba O’Reilly” and it’s “teenage wasteland” would close out the proceedings. Jacoby was back at center stage with her fiddle for the lengthy final section of the powerhouse song, with Daltry gamely dancing alongside her. It was a fitting end to a fine evening.
How long the Who can keep this up is anyone’s guess. Granted, John Entwistle and Keith Moon have long since departed this mortal coil, but their surviving bandmates—to say nothing of the amazing ensemble backing them—prove that rock n’ rollers may get older, but the music never dies.