Flashback: The Who Strip Down at Their 1999 Comeback Show
The Who‘s concert at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on October 29th, 1999 was a huge moment in the band’s latter-day history. The group broke up in 1982 after a farewell tour, but just seven years later they reunited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tommy with a massive stadium trek. Much to the horror of their fans, the five-man lineup of 1979-1982 had suddenly swelled to 15 people. Making matters worse, Pete Townshend played acoustic guitar all night. Steve “Boltz” Bolton handled electric duties. It didn’t sound much like the Who, and fans derisively labeled it “The Who on Ice.”
The group sat silent for the next seven years, and when they returned in 1996 to revive Quadrophenia, the big band came with them. Near the end of the tour Townshend finally began playing electric guitar through most of the show. When the band returned yet again in late 1999 he came to his senses and shed all the extra musicians besides longtime keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick. They booked seven shows, beginning with a gig in Las Vegas that was broadcast on the Internet, years before such a thing became commonplace. Here’s a video of “Magic Bus” from that night.
The 1999 shows were an absolute triumph. Long-absent rarities including “Happy Jack,” “I’m a Boy,” “Pure and Easy” and “Let’s See Action” were sprinkled into the set list. The group sounded better than they had since their last tour with Keith Moon back in 1976. In the summer of 2000 they returned to the road for a long tour of England and America. Sadly, it was John Entwistle’s final outing with the band, though he did perform with them a few times in early 2002. That summer he died, the day before they launched another tour. The band carried on, but they’ve never sounded the same.
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