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Getting to see The Who during their May 15 visit to Columbus was a personal dream 42 years in the making. It all
started on a chilly winter day in 1973 when my older brother and I paid a visit to our neighborhood IGA store.  
We perused a rack of cut-out albums for $1.97 apiece. My brother spied a copy of “Magic Bus: The Who on Tour” and
bought it. As soon as we spun the album on our bedroom phonograph, I almost immediately fell in love with the music.  
I swore that when I was old enough, I would see The Who in concert.

When that day finally came, I admittedly had reservations. With sonorous rhythm section John Entwistle and Keith
Moon having passed on and survivors Peter Townshend and Roger Daltrey hitting their seventies, I wondered if
The Who would be a pale version of their former selves. Even so, there was no doubting the greatness of their songs
or the talent present.

And what talent that is! Townshend and Daltrey have augmented themselves with master musicians including bassist
Pino Palladino, drummer Zak Starkey, guitarist Simon Townshend (Pete’s younger brother), and three backing
vocalists who doubled on multiple instruments.

From the moment the band opened with “I Can’t Explain,” passion and excitement were in the air. Sliding effortlessly
into “The Seeker” and following with “Who Are You,” the audience got to enjoy three separate periods of The Who in
less than 10 minutes. This was a good sign, as The Who continued to play a fantastic variety of songs from all points
in their 50-year career.

Roger Daltrey’s voice had noticeably deepened with age. Rather than being an impediment to performing the older
songs, the singer’s mature tone gave the material a much bluesier feel, ala John Lee Hooker. This is not unlike his
recent work with Doctor Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson. The front man worked well within his limitations, relegating
the higher notes to the backing vocalists while losing nothing in dynamics.

As Daltrey strapped on a gorgeous Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar, the entourage launched into the 1965 classic,
“The Kids Are Alright.” Driving home this mod anthem were clips from the film “Quadrophenia” projected onto the
video screen behind the band. Seeing re-enactments of young modernists in military parkas astride motor scooters
demonstrated just how much time has passed since The Who first appeared.

Performing a beautifully-played mix of classics from the ‘sixties, ‘seventies, and ‘eighties, The Who created moments
recalling past glories and demonstrating their humanity. Roger Daltrey seemed to become lost on “My Generation,”
missing his cue and improvising lyrics over the bass solos. During “Bargain,” Townshend strummed his Stratocaster
so violently that red stains appeared on the pickguard. While bandaging his index finger, the guitarist told a tale of
using Super Glue to treat a similar injury, leading Keith Moon to co-opt the adhesive to attach furniture to the ceiling
of a hotel room.

“If you knew Keith Moon,” recalled Townshend, “you would realize that he was a little bit crazy.” The typically British
understatement was hilarious.

The wonderful variety of songs continued, including selections from rock operas “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia.”  
A special surprise was the precursor to those epic works, the 10-minute 1966 mini-opera, “A Quick One While He’s
Away.” Townshend and Daltrey performed the story beautifully as the sidemen effortlessly recreated the arrangement
of the original recording.

Throughout the show, the video screen included photographic memorials to departed band members John Entwistle
and Keith Moon. The legacy of the legendary rhythm section could be felt in the way that Pino Palladino and
Zak Starkey almost flawlessly recreated the complex bass and drum arrangements of the original records. It is to
Starkey’s credit that his drumming DNA includes the punch of his father, Ringo Starr, and the complexity of his first
drum teacher, The Who’s own Keith Moon.

In time-honored showbiz tradition, The Who saved the best for last, closing with impassioned renditions of
“Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” two masterpieces from the band’s zenith, “Who’s Next.” Before leaving
the stage, Roger Daltrey wished the audience the best, including luck, personal safety, and a good life. If this proves to
be a farewell tour, as rumored, the band certainly went out on a high note.

The Who of 2015 is no longer the innovative and anarchic band they were in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies. It is obvious
that Daltrey and Townshend have accepted this fact. Instead, they have focused upon being entertainers, and fine
entertainers they are. They are today’s “old masters” who can finally present their classic works honed to
near-perfection, much to their audience’s immense satisfaction. Townshend and Daltrey definitely made this fan’s
42-year-old dream come true.

The special guests on this stop of the tour were Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. Looking considerably younger than
her 56 years, Ms. Jett has not lost any of her punkish defiance, albeit tempered with a self-effacing sense of humor.  
The Blackhearts’ set consisted mostly of classic songs from the ‘eighties and they have aged very well. Their punk
and glam rock side has moved to the forefront while any hair-metal pandering has been lost over time.
The performance gave this listener a newfound respect and fondness for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. This is the
sound of rock ‘n’ roll aging gracefully, and it sounds very pleasing, indeed.
The Who with Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
Nationwide Arena : Columbus, Ohio : May 15, 2015
Photo: Neil Shumate, OOTB