'To those who think he doesn't care anymore: Pete suffered a bad cut on his hand. He's going to need some stitches. The string went right through.' Roger Daltrey
The Who proved that it can still play with passion and fury last night at the Tacoma Dome. In fact, the veteran band played so hard that Pete Townshend slashed himself on a guitar string and missed the encore.
»To those who think he doesn't care anymore,« singer Roger Daltrey told the capacity crowd, »Pete suffered a bad cut on his hand. He's going to need some stitches. The string went right through.«
But Townshend didn't need stitches after all. He was taken to the emergency room of St. Joseph Hospital, where he was treated for cuts on his finger and the palm of his hand, and released.
Daltrey took over after Townshend was rushed to the hospital, handling the one short encore. He slightly bungled some of the names of band's 12-piece backup group (»This is Pete's job«) and sang a couple of covers, including Jimi Hendrix's mournful »Hey Joe« and Creedence Clearwater Revivals' lively »Born on the Bayou.«
The injury cut the show short, but only by a few tunes. No one could have been disappointed, though, because the band played for almost three hours and did nearly all of its most famous songs. It was a glowing, joyous celebration of the Who's massive contribution to rock 'n' roll, which was fitting because the concert was part of the band's farewell tour.
Before he got hurt, Townshend was a bundle of energy. He attacked the guitar strings with his famous windmill arm motion - which is probably what got him in trouble - and leaped and jumped just like he did a quarter century ago.
Contrary to earlier reports that he would stick to acoustic guitar because electric guitars hurt his already damaged hearing, Townshend played an electric during most of the set and didn't hold back a bit, contributing some fine solos. And he sang beautifully, especially during the »Why should I care?« opening to the song »5:15« and the tunes »A Little Is Enough,« a charming love ballad, and »Rough Boys,« a teasing, hard-driving rocker about macho, both from his solo albums.
Feisty little Daltrey must have found the fountain of youth, because he hardly looked any different from the boy who stuttered »My Generation« more than two decades ago. Muscular and with a head full of curly blond hair, he sang with authority and conviction, especially during the beautiful, slow-building »Behind Blue Eyes« and the powerful, anthemic »Love Reign O'er Me.« He often swung the microphone by its cord, like a lasso, as he has always done.
The other remaining original Who member, stone-faced John Entwistle, played bass as competently as ever, and even sang a couple of his original songs, including »Trick of the Light,« which, he explained, »is about prostitutes and all the good they do for the world,« and the novelty number »Boris the Spider,« done in a rattlingly deep voice.
The big back-up band, the largest the Who has ever performed with, added a lot of punch and color to the music. The five-piece horn section and the three-member vocal group were vital to the songs. Backup guitarist Steve Bolton ably handled many of the solos. Drummer Simon Phillips was unobtrusive, not even attempting to duplicate the unique style of the late Keith Moon.
Two big TV screens flanking the stage provided close-up views of the action. The production was slick, with special effects such as freeze-frame, multiple images and strobes.
The show opened with a condensed version of the rock opera »Tommy,« including the songs »It's a Boy,« »Amazing Journey,« »The Acid Queen,« »Tommy Can You Hear Me?,« »Pinball Wizard« and »We're Not Gonna Take It.«
The band served notice right away that it was back with a vengeance, throwing itself into the performance with gusto, to the delight of the adoring crowd. When Daltrey sang the line »Gazing at you, I get the heat,« the lights went up on the audience, which let out a roar.
»We've been coming to the Seattle area for 22 years,« Daltrey said. »And it's great to be back.«
Daltrey played electric guitar while Townshend sang »Eminence Front,« a song from the Who's last album, 1982's »It's Hard.« That was followed by the 1981 disco hit, »Face Dances,« which gave Townshend his first chance to do some fancy steps in his blue-and-white hightop sneakers.
Daltrey changed the words a little to »I'm a Man,« the Bo Diddley tune the Who covered on its first album, upping the age reference in the song to 25, and adding »It doesn't feel that long.«
The first half ended with a big finish of »Who Are You,« before a 15-minute intermission. »Tea time!« Daltrey explained.
The second half opened with the classic »Magic Bus,« followed by »Baba O'Riley« (aka »Teenage Wasteland«), »My Generation,« »A Little Is Enough,« »Love Reign O'er Me,« and the rocking »Sister Disco.« Townshend did »Rough Boys,« then came »Join Together« (which featured the unfurling of a huge British flag) and the rollicking »You Better You Bet.«
Daltrey praised Hendrix before doing »Hey Joe,« noting that the late star was born in Seattle. He said that »Born on the Bayou« was in remembrance of Woodstock. And he sang it almost 20 years exactly to the hour that the Who took the stage at that historic event. It was heartening to see the band still alive (if wounded) and kicking.