The Who - Live Review, Phoenix, Oct. 30

The Who – Live Review, Phoenix, Oct. 30

83 / 100

The power of The Who is dead and buried, more like a tribute act. ‘Stale’ would be an accurate description for their whole show and tour.

Written by: Dangerzone



Attending live gigs isn’t exactly a priority for me these days, the list of bands worth seeing being practically zero. Seeing Raven twice within the space of a year in a bar in front of ten people was somewhat engaging, beyond that however it’s hard to care. When I noticed The Who were scheduled to play in Phoenix at the horrendous outdoor venue known as the AK Chin Pavilion, I was on the fence until the day of the show. I asked myself some internal questions to make my decision.

I knew the setlist already and had seen dozens of videos showing how tired and weak the whole thing sounded, especially Roger Daltrey. Calling this lineup The Who is a joke, as it has been since John Entwistle’s death in 2002. The inclusion of an orchestra didn’t help. Having seen them on their last real tour with Entwistle in 2000, I figured that was good enough. But then I dabbled with the notion this would be the last time I’d have a chance to see them. Did it really matter though? The power of The Who was dead and buried, this was nothing more than a tribute act. This gnawed away at me until I ended up getting a ticket.

I made the drive to the location, a sprawling, confusing wasteland that was impossible to navigate in the dark. Finding my seat was almost as impossible, people becoming irritated as I bumped into them trying to find my seat. Of course, some fucker was sitting in it, leaving me to occupy a bunch of empty seats I figured would stay that way.

The Songs

The opening act was uninspired, Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs boring the joint out. There were some new tracks and some stale Tom Petty classics which Campbell wrote in his many decades with the Heartbreakers. Some guy behind me marveled at ‘Refugee’ and appeared to be in convulsions at hearing this track. Most were impartial, eager to get on with The Who. I sat there and talked to a fellow Army veteran in front of me. Some drunk guy next to him overheard us and thanked us for our service. He forced a hug on me and said “thanks man … NO THANKS MAN, I REALLY MEAN IT.” I pushed him off me and tried to find another seat.

The Who took the stage to divert his attention away. I knew the setlist before it even started, the band taking zero risks at this point. Did it matter though? They could’ve played ‘Guitar And Pen’ and it would mean nothing without Keith Moon and Entwistle. I tried to remain enthusiastic, hoping to somehow be stunned. It never happened.

What followed is precisely what I expected, a labored and routine performance some would have you think is the band at the peak of their career. That’s not a joke either, go on a fan page and read some of the comments of sickening die-hard freaks living in an alternate universe. Where The Who still rules as THE live band, even superior to anything they did from 1964-78.

I get it – Daltrey and Townshend are beyond old age pensioners and doing the best with what they can summon at this stage. But what is there to really get behind? Watching Daltrey up there struggling to hit the notes and shuffling around awkwardly is a painful sight. The Who was always based on power and volume, but here there was none. On the odd occasion Townshend sounded somewhat inspired, ‘5.15’ being an example, but it was rare. He seemed to take more pleasure in delivering lengthy rants about the crap venue and booking agency. His rendition of the more than stale ‘Eminence Front’ was a parody, delivering the vocals in a spoken word manner.

It would be accurate to use ‘stale’ as the topical description for the whole show and tour. Why they insist on keeping tired live tracks like ‘You Better, You Bet’ and ‘Who Are You’ in the setlist I have no clue. Clearly it’s all about pleasing the casual punter and they did that obviously by running through ‘Baba O Riley’, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, ‘Behind Blue Ey …….’ just typing those out makes me doze off. It was somewhat amusing to watch the crowd drift away too. During ‘Another Tricky Day’ and ‘Naked Eye’ people started to leave or held ongoing conversations, the music fading into the background. The penchant to continually plunder ‘Tommy’ and Quadrophenia’ is also tired, the orchestra being present for those sections. Most of the time you could barely hear them as it was.

The crowd perked up for the classics, coming alive for ‘Pinball Wizard’ or ‘See Me, Feel Me’ as you’d expect. I often wonder what Daltrey and Townshend think while playing these. Is this something they still enjoy? I’ve always disliked the notion of the band carrying on as The Who and this was firsthand confirmation. Sure, they’ve been at it for 20 years like this, but with my own eyes it was hard to watch. This was karaoke and nothing more.

I tried to look beyond it all, I did. However, the farce unfolding in front of me was too much to overlook. Why I stayed until the end I’m not sure. Five years earlier at the same venue I walked out on Deep Purple, possibly a more shameful display than this. My ears weren’t even ringing, that’s how powerless this version of The Who is.

It seems some people are too afraid to call this out for what it is, another money grab by a band that in no way resembles what it once did. The Who will always maintain its status as my favorite band, most people know they were the most devastating live band that’s ever existed. For some fans to gush over this and become enraged when presented with reality is beyond pathetic. They make me sick.

In Summary

Watching Raven a few weeks earlier in front of 10 people, playing the entirety of ‘Wiped Out’ was how it should be. The Gallagher brothers are well in their sixties but still have the energy of 40 years ago. ‘The Who’ meanwhile were an exercise in futility. I’m glad I went, but perhaps only in a perverse way. It’s truly time to hang it up.

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