NEW YORK — The Who will play their first live shows in the U.S. since 1976 late this summer in the New York City area, singer Roger Daltrey revealed recently. Long the least-prolific band in rock, the Who apparently have decided, after surviving the trauma of drummer Keith Moon’s death, to become one of the hardest working. In addition to the New York dates – possibly a week’s worth – the band will play a 7000-seat outdoor arena at Cannes, France, on May 12th, during the city’s film festival. The show will coincide with the European premières of the Who’s two movies, The Kids Are Alrïght and Quadrophenia, which are tentatively scheduled for release in the U.S. in June and October, respectively.
Daltrey didn’t explain just how or why Pete Townshend was convinced to return to the stage after balking for more than a year. But he did say that “Pete’s committed to this, and he better not let me down.” Daltrey and bassist John Entwistle have been eager to hit the road for some time. “After Keith’s death we became more honest, owned up to each other about what we did and didn’t like about touring,” Daltrey added.
It won’t be the same Who without Moon, of course, and new drummer Kenney Jones was chosen with the knowledge of that. “He’s just the opposite sort of drummer to Keith,” Daltrey said in his suite at the Plaza Hotel, where he had come after a brief holiday in Florida with his family. “Kenney came from the same stable we did; he’s from London, and he started playing at the same time as the Who.” In order to give Jones some material that won’t force comparisons between his style and Moon’s, Daltrey said, the Who hope to record a single or two for release before the Cannes show.
Jones may not be the only addition to the Who. They have talked about adding a keyboard player and perhaps a second guitarist, but Daltrey wasn’t certain that either would actually be found. Reports from England that a new keyboardist had already joined the band were premature, Daltrey said.
With The Kids Are Alright, a marvelous two-hour documentary of Who history, and Quadrophenia, based on the story line of the band’s second rock opera, out of the way, Daltrey will begin shooting a third film, McVicar, in June. That picture, which will star Daltrey and former pop singer Adam Faith, is the story of John McVicar, a contemporary bank robber notorious for his many escapes from Britain’s squalid prisons. McVicar’s soundtrack will feature music by Pete Townshend and Billy Nicholls, who appeared on Townshend’s first solo LP and his Meher Baba albums. Townshend, meanwhile, will begin work on his third solo record during the summer.
Following that splurge of activity and a few warmup dates in England and Europe come the New York concerts, recording for a new Who studio album and perhaps a tour of the rest of America in early 1980. Any long tour would involve the rather unusual scheduling policy of two weeks on, two weeks off, a concession to Townshend, who has often stated his reluctance to spend much time away from his family. Also possible in 1980 is a revival of Lifehouse, a third Townshend rock opera for which many of the songs on Who’s Next were originally intended.
Of course, it’s questionable whether these grandiose plans will actually be realized. This is the band, after all, that has taken fifteen years to release ten studio albums. But Moon’s death seems to have had a galvanizing effect on the remaining trio. The legendary intergroup warfare has at least been muffled, and not necessarily because Daltrey has “won” control of the band. “I didn’t win,” he says heatedly. “The Who won. We all won.”
This story is from the May 17th, 1979 issue of Rolling Stone.