On Monday night, just about 24 hours before Barack Obama officially won the presidency, I was standing 50 feet away from Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, listening to one of the greatest rock bands of all time, The Who, perform at the Verizon Center. Suffice to say, it’s been a pretty good week.
The Who was one of the pioneering rock ’n’ roll bands that came out of the same British Invasion that brought us The Beatles. More than 40 years later, Roger and Pete are still going strong. Though the other two founding members of the band, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon, have died from drug related causes, the surviving members, with the aid of some fellow rock-and-rollers, are still able to tour with as much vigor and excitement as they did in the ’60s. Granted, now they keep their shirts on when they are on stage — for the most part.
Joined by former Beatle Ringo Starr’s son Zak on drums, and Pete Townshend’s younger brother on guitar, The Who gave a mind-blowing performance to a packed house Monday night on their Maximum R&B tour. With a catalogue as big as theirs, they could easily perform half a dozen two-hour long shows without any overlap, and the set list on Monday did not disappoint.
They played all the old standards, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Who Are You” and “My Generation,” to frantic cheers from the crowd; and mixed in large sections from their operas “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia” for good measure. However, my favorite moment of the night came with the opening to the song “Baba O’Reilly.” All the lights went off as the opening keyboard riff began, and the excitement in the crowd was absolutely palpable as we waited for the moment when the drums kicked in and all the lights came up so brightly that it seemed like we were standing outside in the middle of a sunny day.
Although Daltrey and Townshend have been at this for more than four decades and have definitely been to a party or two, it is amazing to see that they are absolutely no worse for the wear after all that time. Daltrey still struts around stage flinging his microphone back and forth and singing to the exact same level as the original recordings, and Townshend still manages to somehow swing his arm around in circles while perfectly hitting every note on his guitar. They are both truly musical geniuses, and to see them perform is an incredible experience.
I have zero negative remarks to make about the night, but there was one unexpected twist: the opening act. The group who opened the night, a band of three guys from Canada called Inward Eye, was not exactly what you would expect from an opener, because they were fantastic.
Imagine a mixture of Green Day and The Clash, and throw in a little bit of the Sex Pistols for good measure, and you have Inward Eye. I have to say, I was shocked at how great they were, especially in a musical climate where much of what we hear is pretty homogenized and few people can perform live. These boys could really play (I bet Daltrey and Townshend could see some Keith Moon in their drummer) and their songs were both original and truly rock and roll — there was absolutely nothing emo about them, which was an incredible relief. Their first album drops on iTunes in December, and I seriously recommend that you all give them a listen — you will not regret it.
In the end, the night started with a great surprise of an opening performance, and ended with a double encore by a legendary and unbeatable band — basically, it rocked.