The Who at MSG: Daltrey and Townshend Still Dangerous

Classic rockers return with their best show in two decades

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Madison Square Garden
New York
May 22nd, 2004
5 Stars 

They are now the Two. A month before the second anniversary of John Entwistle's death, singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend acknowledged the loss that binds them by working the room from a small circle of light at center stage, rarely moving more than a few feet apart. Daltrey was close enough to feel the air rush by from Townshend's windmilling right arm. Townshend was just shy of being strangled by Daltrey's mike-cord-rodeo act. (No small danger: The microphone flew into the crowd when Daltrey lost his grip in "Pinball Wizard.")

The Epic Life of the Who's John Entwistle

But the last time the Who were this great in this town, so full of fight, was in September 1979, at their first Garden gigs without late drummer Keith Moon. This night, they were even better than that. Townshend, in particular, has finally shed his ambivalence toward reunions and his greatest hits: His solos – a high slashing break in "Substitute"; a murderous attack on his low-end strings before the crashing bridge in "Who Are You" – were stunning explosions of commitment. He was also bold enough to debut an acoustic duet with Daltrey on the Lifehouse refugee "Naked Eye" and go to the Who's least-loved album, It's Hard, for the punchy "Eminence Front."

Daltrey appeared to cede a few high notes to Townshend's brother, backing singer-guitarist Simon, but nothing else. Daltrey's blood-lust "Yeeeaaah!" in "Won't Get Fooled Again" is still one of rock's great vocal wonders. Bassist Pino Palladino and pianist John "Rabbit" Bundrick were hearty and precise in the shadows; drummer Zak Starkey played with the combined flair of Moon and Kenney Jones. But there would be no Who at all if Townshend had no heart for it. Instead, he out all he had into a powerful medley about youth, aging, loss and fuck-you: "My Generation"; shots of "Young Man Blues" and "Old Red Wine," the new song for Entwistle; and a blazing "Won't Get Fooled Again." "Pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday," Townshend sang with Daltrey in the chorus, with the joyful conviction of a man wholly focused on tomorrow.

This story is from the June 24th, 2004 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 951: June 24, 2004
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