The only band from the late '60s-early 70s Rock glory days worth a damn in the 00s...
After the publication of my final installment of The Ten Best Live Rock Recordings , I was immediately taken to task that I had not included The Who Live at Leeds somewhere in the top three. Perhaps not in the top three, but I did include this Who recording in my final installment of the series, The Ten Best Live Rock Recordings, Part 11The Best of the Rest . In that piece, I wrote,
The Who: Live at Leeds (MCA 11215, 1970)Post- Tommy, pre- Who's Next, Leeds illustrated that Roger Daltrey was the finest rock vocalist of his generation and Peter Townshend the finest composer of his. Loud and proud, "Summertime Blues" sums up the frustrations of the 1960s, repackages them and offers them as a gift to the 1970s.
Since writing this, The Who: Live At Leeds, the Deluxe Edition (MCA 112618, 2001) has been released. The Deluxe Edition restores to history the complete performance of Tommy presented that same night, February 14, 1970. It is a hit and miss affair, but still no greater Rock has been performed.
Fast forward to The Concert for New York City, October 20,2001. This was a star-studded performance for the benefit the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorism in New York City and those public servants who aided those victims. The resulting recording, The Concert for New York City (Columbia 86270, 2001) was largely an artistic embarrassment save for three songs. An aging, incomplete Who took the stage, defending rock and Roll by infusing three defiant concert war-horses ("Who Are You," "Baba O'Riley," and "Won't Get Fooled Again") with radioactive passion and corrosive sincerity. This writer had never heard a band from the dawn of the 1970s and still playing today perform with such conviction.
Fast forward further to Fall, 2002 and the start of the Who's Encore 2002 Tour of North America. The band suffers its largest professional and personal setback since the 1973 death of drummer Keith Moon. Bassist John Entwistle, "the Ox," died in his sleep just before this tour was to begin. The remaining band members, after much consideration, decided to continue the tour, with studio veteran Pino Palladino as Entwistle's replacement.
In an effort to subvert bootlegging of these concerts, the band elected to release official concert discs from every show with the proceeds going to the band's favorite charitable causes. The first released was The Who Encore 2002 SeriesDetroit, Michigan 23 August 2002 and the results, to say the least are staggering.
Picking up where they left off at the concert for New York City, The Who morphed 30 years of their best material into the most fully inspired and realized package that one could hope for. Ringo Starr's son Zack Starkey more than filled the drum chair, providing that familiar controlled chaos that was characteristic of The Who's rhythm section. Pete Townshend's brother Simon provides the ever-important acoustic guitar underpinning to the sound made famous by his brother 30 years previously. Roger Daltrey's voice, while not fending off all of the ravages of time, still maintains a youthful exuberance, tinted with masculine maturity. But the true single star, if there is one is Townshend. Arguably the best rock songwriter/guitarists to emerge from the 1970s, he plays as if possessed. Townshend rages against the night with the most ferocious guitar playing of his career. He shoots nuclear arrows through "Baba O'Riley," "Behind Blue Eyes," and "Won't Get Fooled Again," while adding a diamond coat to "Eminence Front," "Who Are You?," and "Bargain." It is this stimulated guitar playing that raises this already superior concert recording to that of divine inspiration. Like Thelonious Monk Before him, Townshend established his personal repertoire and continued to refine it since its genesis. The Who anthems haven't sounded so vital since the early '70s.
Where the Beatles and Led Zeppelin are now gone and the Rolling Stones haven't had anything to say sensible, old or new, in the past 20 years, The Who emerge to recast their best material in platinum and prove they are fundamental and necessary.
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Personnel: Roger Daltrey--Vocals, Harmonica; Peter Townshend--Guitar, Vocals; Pino Palladino--Bass; John Bundrick--Keyboards; Simon Townshend--Guitars; Zack Starkey--Drums.