The Who is one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands. Of that, there is little argument. The group was one of the early inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and even casual fans could probably list all four original players with the same ease as they do the members of The Beatles.
With roots in the mod movement in England in the early 1960s, The Who went on to define arena rock in the '70s, in the best sense: sold-out shows with drummer Keith Moon smashing his drum kit while playing maniacal beats; guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend's long arms twirling madly in windmill strums--and, like Moon, often smashing his equipment. Singer Roger Daltrey's stage presence and powerful vocals made songs like "Behind Blue Eyes" and "Baba O'Riley" classics, and John Entwistle's thundering bass lines anchored it all together.
So how would that legacy hold up in 2008, with Townshend and Daltrey the sole surviving members?
The Who took Washington's Verizon Center by storm Monday, bringing the crowd to its feet over and over with a mix of sincerity and raw power that few groups today can match.
Aided nicely by drummer Zak Starkey--Ringo Starr's son, and a drummer on par with the great Keith Moon himself--the artists showed a nice mix of maturity without abandoning the beautiful, insightful punch that defined them for so long.
Not trying too hard to be young, but not forgetting their roots, either--if only all rock veterans imbibed that elixir.
After coming out to the roar of the crowd, The Who launched into "Can't Explain," a classic from the early era. Townshend was lanky as ever, wearing huge sunglasses, dressed all in black with a short-sleeve collar shirt. Daltry was still in remarkable shape, swinging his microphone in gigantic loops above his head and around his body.
Songs like "Who Are You," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Sister Disco," "Getting in Tune" and "5:15" were among the highlights. Of course one needs to add "Love Reign O'er Me," "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Pinball Wizard"--the list of classics was nearly endless.
Indeed, The Who rocked for nearly 2 hours. At the end, thanking the crowd, Daltrey said, "I feel like I went 10 rounds with Mike Tyson--but I love it."
In the immortal words of Pete Townshend: "Long live rock."