The Who faced an enormous task when they walked onstage at the Hollywood Bowl on July 1st, 2002. John Entwistle was found dead in a Las Vegas hotel room just four days earlier, right as the group was scheduled to kick off a major American tour. They postponed a couple of dates, but they ultimately decided to go on with the shows. It was a tough choice, but they faced the prospect of losing an absolute fortune and putting a large crew out of work.
Pete Townshend argued they didn’t have much of a choice. “I don’t feel I know for certain that John would have wanted us to go on,” he wrote in his online diary. “I simply believe we have a duty to go on, to ourselves, ticket buyers, promoters, big and little people. I also have a duty to myself and my dependent family and friends.”
Session pro Pino Palladino was flown in to fill Entwistle’s very large shoes, and Daltrey and Townshend embraced each other when they walked onstage at the Hollywood Bowl. “Tonight we play for John Entwistle,” Daltrey told the crowd. “He was the true spirit of rock & roll, and he lives on in all the music we play.” Townshend echoed those sentiments later on in the night. “This is going to be very difficult,” he said. “We understand. We’re not pretending nothing happened.”
Signature Entwistle songs like “My Wife” were taken out of the set list, though Palladino did attempt to recreate Entwistle’s famous bass solo from “My Generation.” Here’s video of “Baba O’Riley” from that night.
The Who have toured pretty steadily since that difficult summer and they even recorded a new album in 2006, but they’ve never quite sounded the same since Entwistle passed away.