SAN FRANCISCO — Last December, at the end of the first leg of the Who‘s American tour, Peter Townshend announced the group would allow only 21 days for their March/April second round. This meant they’d have to work their way cross-country through 19 dates in 18 cities with split-second timing and mind-boggling speed. They’d have only one night to play at New York’s Madison Square Garden and only a single show at Los Angeles’ Anaheim Stadium. Not surprisingly, it didn’t all work out quite the way they had planned.
At the first date – Boston’s Coliseum on March 9th – drummer Keith Moon looked fat, puffy and bleary-eyed as he flailed away at his kit haphazardly during the opening number, “I Can’t Explain.” Then, midway into the second song, “Substitute,” Moon began to fall backwards from his drums in a faint. Roadies quickly jumped out to support him and carried him from the stage, followed by the other members of the band. A few moments later, Roger Daltrey announced onstage that the concert was postponed until April 1st, when the Who would return on their way back to England. Moon could not continue, said Daltrey, because he had the flu. There was some hooting from the capacity crowd of 16,000, but the auditorium emptied without incident.
Moon’s poor health forced the Who to postpone the Madison Square Garden show from March 10th to the 11th. After announcing the delay on WNEW, DJ Scott Muni dedicated Paul Simon’s “Run That Body Down” to the convalescing Moon.
New York has always been the Who capital, and this single concert meant a great deal to the group, especially to Townshend. Five years ago, the Who played four dates at the Garden and flopped, giving amazingly inconsistent concerts. This time around, the concert was the ticket on this season’s rock & roll circuit, and the audience responded by almost tearing up the hall. It was classic Who, tight and polished.
They ran through a two-fisted set that included “I Can’t Explain,” “Substitute,” “Baba O’Riley,” “Squeeze Box,” “Magic Bus,” a Tommy medley (coupled with a laser show), “Summertime Blues” and “My Generation,” and ended with “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
When it was over, the Garden management begged the Who to return to the stage to keep the crowd from pulling the chairs out. They came back from their dressing rooms to do a set of “Let’s See Action,” “Naked Eye” and Bo Diddley‘s “Road Runner.” Playing as well as they ever have, with Townshend’s guitar work highlighted by his energetic stage leaps, it was the first and only encore of the current tour.
Moon is holding up well and the post-New York shows have been uneventful, except for a cancelled Denver date caused by storm-stalled equipment trucks. The Denver concert was rescheduled for March 30th, following a double date at San Francisco’s Winterland arena.
And will there be a Part III to the Who’s American tour? Bill Graham wants the Who badly for a summer “Day on the Green” at the Oakland Stadium, but Townshend has put a stipulation on his return to America: “I’ll never come back if I don’t win an Academy Award for Tommy.“
This story is from the April 22nd, 1976 issue of Rolling Stone.