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Long Live Rock, The Who Decides

June 30, 2002|STEVE GORMAN | REUTERS

The two surviving members of veteran rock band The Who will carry on with their North American tour despite Thursday's death of the group's bassist, John Entwistle, the group said Friday.

In a surprise announcement issued by their management, lead singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist-songwriter Pete Townshend said the tour would open on Monday at the Hollywood Bowl "as a tribute to John Entwistle and to the loss of an irreplaceable friend."

"The Entwistle family is in full support of the decision to continue and feel this is what John would have wanted," the statement added.

Entwistle's son, Christopher, added that his father "lived for music and will always live within The Who's music. This is what he would have wished, and our love goes out to the remaining band members and the entourage that makes up The Who family."

Entwistle, a founding Who member regarded as one of the most influential bassists in rock music, was found dead in his Las Vegas hotel room, a victim of what was widely believed to have been a heart attack. He was 57.

An autopsy was to be performed by the Clark County coroner in Las Vegas.

Entwistle's death, 24 years after The Who's original drummer, Keith Moon, died of an accidental pill overdose, came on the eve of what was expected to be one of the marquee U.S. concert series of the summer.

Townshend, Daltrey and Entwistle originally were scheduled to launch a three-month, 24-venue tour on Friday in Las Vegas with an ensemble that included drummer Zak Starkey, son of former Beatle Ringo Starr. That show was canceled, along with a concert planned for Saturday in Irvine.

The Las Vegas and Irvine shows will be rescheduled, the band's managers said.

A source close to the band said Thursday night that a devastated Daltrey and Townshend spent several hours in Los Angeles after learning of their bandmate's death. Entwistle had arrived in Las Vegas ahead of them to open a traveling exhibition of his artwork.

The Who's last tour of North America in 2000 grossed $21.1 million in ticket sales, 21st among all touring acts that year.

Although the band decided to return to the road without Entwistle, his death left in doubt the outcome of a new studio album the group had begun preparing. It would be their first since 1982's "It's Hard."

It also leaves The Who without the figure who had been the band's anchor from its beginning nearly 40 years ago. Affectionately nicknamed "The Ox," Entwistle was the calm, stationary presence at the center of the explosive stage antics of Daltrey, Townshend and Moon, and his musicianship stood out as no rock bassist had before him.

His kinetic playing style, punctuated by fills, counter-melodies and other embellishments, brought his bass lines to the forefront of the group's sound as a quasi-lead instrument.

Tributes to the bearded, taciturn musician poured in from around the world Friday.

Bill Wyman, the former bassist for the Rolling Stones, called Entwistle "a great friend for many years--the quietest man in private, but the loudest on stage.

"He was unique and irreplaceable--I am shocked and devastated," Wyman said.

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