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The Who of then and now

Legendary rockers breeze through classics but stumble a bit on new songs.

September 14, 2006|From Reuters

Philadelphia — THE Who kicked off the U.S. leg of its biggest world tour in more than 20 years Tuesday with a two-hour set that included a full complement of classic hits, a smattering of new material and some rough edges.

The legendary British rock band, which came to prominence in the early 1960s with songs about youthful rebellion and alienation, has only two of its original members: singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend.

Two other members of the original band, drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle, died in drug-related incidents.

The gray-bearded Townshend, 61, periodically pumped up the capacity crowd at South Philadelphia's Wachovia Center with his signature arm-twirling power-chord style while Daltrey, 62, looking younger in jeans and a blue T-shirt, belted out lyrics from the Who's extensive catalog.

The band, also including Townshend's brother Simon on guitar, Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey on drums, Pino Palladino on bass and John Bundrick on keyboards -- fluently delivered crowd-pleasing anthems.

They were less confident on material from the forthcoming "Endless Wire" album, their first since 1982. They were clearly unhappy with a seven-song "mini-opera" from the album.

"Thank you for putting up with it. I know it's tough to hear new music," Townshend told the crowd.

The new material, such as the Dylanesque "Man in a Purple Dress," suggested a departure from the classic Who style, and the concert featured two duets with just Townshend and Daltrey.

Despite forays into the 21st century, the Who seemed firmly rooted in the 1960s, an impression strengthened by nostalgic videos of 1960s memorabilia and rock icons such as Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley.

The band's focus on its classic songs seemed to please the crowd, some of whom came to relive their college days. Bob Paul, 51, a lawyer, said he had first seen the Who in 1973 when he was a freshman in college and stayed up all night to get tickets.

Steve Toole, a 37-year-old marketing executive who had driven from Washington, D.C., for the evening, said his mother had listened to the Who's rock opera "Tommy" when he was in utero in 1969. "Their music just speaks to me. It's music about 'Who am I?' and I was asking myself the same question."

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