East Rutherford, New Jersey
Few people are less romantic about the state of the Who since bassist John Entwistle died than Pete Townshend. “I used to be in a band called the Who,” he recently wrote on his website. “It does not exist today. We are like a tribute band.”
But for two hours in New Jersey, Townshend and Roger Daltrey – with a band including drummer Zak Starkey and bassist Pino Palladino – put on a maximum-intensity blast of pure Who-ness. They dusted off a few rarely played classics (1978’s “Sister Disco,” 1971’s “Getting in Tune”), in addition to their usual live hits (“Baba O’Riley,” “Pinball Wizard”). Prior to “Who Are You,” Townshend addressed the economy. “Times are hard,” he said. “Luckily not for me, but for you guys. We’re going to brighten up your day.”
Daltrey didn’t always hit the right notes, but he nailed the primal scream at the end of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” with remarkable force. After the Tommy medley, Daltrey and Townshend stood alone at center stage for a beautiful acoustic take on “Tea and Theatre,” from 2006’s Endless Wire. The song, about old friends enjoying a cup of tea, was a poignant reminder that the Who’s journey might be close to the end. Townshend might not think it’s the Who anymore, but it’s as close as you’re going to get in 2008.
This story is from the November 27th, 2008 issue of Rolling Stone.