Jason MacNeil - Sun Media
HAMILTON, Ont. - It only took them a mere 44 years after forming to make their way to the steel city, but in the end The Who ensured that Hamilton enjoyed an amazing two-hour journey Wednesday night at Copps Coliseum.
The legendary British band, led by vocalist Roger Daltrey, 64, and guitarist Pete Townshend, 63, thrilled the near-capacity, multi-generational audience even though it took them a couple of songs to work out the kinks (no pun intended) musically.
The fact The Who were playing the second of back-to-back shows after a benefit gig in Detroit could have made for a spotty and slightly sub-par affair. Yet from the opening notes of Fragments, a new song from the band's 2006 album Endless Wire, it was pretty much the way fans should remember the band with Daltrey pushing his voice to the limit and Townshend doing his right-handed windmills.
"Great to be back in Canada!" Townshend shouted after the song. "Wish we were staying longer."
Backed by a four-piece supporting cast including drummer Zak Starkey, guitarist (and Pete's brother) Simon Townshend and bassist Pino Palladino, Daltrey and Townshend definitely hit a new gear during Who Are You and especially the lighter but equally powerful ballad-meets-rocker Behind Blue Eyes which caused cigarette lighters to flicker throughout.
Yet this current tour isn't exactly the typical hits package The Who have routinely tossed out over recent years. One such number was Sister Disco which was decent but paled compared to the groovy Eminence Front that had Townshend occasionally peeking to his left at a sheet stand, mostly likely with the song's lyrics.
By far the biggest highlight of the evening was Baba O'Riley halfway through the main set. Here Daltrey nailed each line with the same brawny growl he's performed it with for decades as fans came close to drowning him out. The second half wasn't too shabby either with Starkey, Townshend and Daltrey fleshing out the rapid-fire finish.
Meanwhile, the tight and usually short My Generation, complete with Daltrey's signature stutters, was a decent run-of-the-mill effort that went off on a tangent and is still looking to find its way back home.
Nonetheless, when the time came for The Who to deliver the precious spine-tingling moments in the show, they never failed. This was especially evident on Love Reign O'er Me and 5:15 as images of a railroad were shown on a video screen behind them during the latter.
The Who said little during the show aside from Daltrey paying tribute to Elvis Presley with Real Good Looking Boy (which showed early footage of the G.I. era Elvis).
Daltrey and Townshend did joke though before the encore, highlighted by Naked Eye and Pinball Wizard, about how The Who rarely returned for an encore in its formative years. Daltrey mentioned how back then there was so much else apart from music to do but Townshend seemed to nail the reason behind the early encore-less performances.
"There was no way we could've come back on because all the gear would've been destroyed," Townshend quipped.
Nobody knows when The Who will finally call it a day, but it's reassuring knowing that Daltrey and Townshend are not going gently into that good night.