The Who, In Concert

Not too old to rock and roll.

Mike and I were lucky enough to have seats on the floor at Wednesday night’s Who concert at US Airways Center (formerly America West Arena) in downtown Phoenix. It was an amazing experience.

First of all, the last time we saw The Who, John Entwistle was still alive. We saw the concert at Shea Stadium (I think; you’d think I’d remember something like that), which is a huge venue. Most of the rock concerts I’ve been to have been in big venues: Madison Square Garden (where I always managed to be in the Yellow “nose-bleed” section) for Elton John and led Zeppelin (in the 1970s) , Nassau Coliseum (for Styx and Yes), Shea Stadium (for the Rolling Stones, The Who, and Elton John and Eric Clapton (together, in the 1990s)), and Giants Stadium (for Pink Floyd, Division Bell tour, 1990s). US Airways Center is smaller than Nassau Coliseum (I think), so seeing these legends of rock and roll in such a “tiny” place was a real treat.

Second of all, I was among the youngest people in the place. The average age of concert-goers was approaching 50. Lots of balding heads and beer bellies and overweight women. Mike and I fit right in. There were exceptions, of course. One guy apparently had his son (or perhaps grandson?) with him. And there were a half dozen geeky 20-year-olds who became somewhat of an annoyance by bouncing along with the music past the floor sections, only to be pushed back repeatedly by security. (I would have kicked them out after the second incursion.)

Our seats were 20-30 rows back from the stage. Very nice seats. There was an aisle in front of the row in front of us, so it wasn’t as if we had to look over a sea of heads. Mike did good.

We arrived just in time for the opening act, The Tragically Hip. I can understand how the word “tragic” got into this band’s name. It was a tragedy for us to arrive in time to hear them. It was also a tragedy that they played 5 or 6 songs, all of which sounded pretty much the same to me. And the lyrics:

You’re not the ocean.

You’re not even close.


The lead singer had some kind of weird dance move that isn’t exactly original — Cab Calloway was doing the same thing back in the 1930s a hell of a lot better. And I guess he didn’t understand that the thing he was shouting into was a live microphone, because he found it necessary to scream most of the lyrics.

You’re not the ocean.

You’re not even close.

Yeah. Whatever.

The Tragically Hip exited the stage amidst applause. The roadies came out and started working on the stage. The people who had been watching the opening act, went out to get beer and nachos. (Yes, nachos; very strange for an east coast girl.) The smart people who knew that the opening act would suck started filing in. The place filled up. They were playing recorded music over the loudspeakers. They were in the middle of Led Zeppelin’s When the Levee Breaks when the music died out, the hall went dark, and Daltrey and Townshend took the stage with their band (drummer Zak Starkey, keyboardist John Bundrick, guitarist Simon Townshend, and bassist Pino Palladrino).

Endless WireEveryone was immediately on their feet. And we stayed there for the next two hours, sitting only when the band played a track from their new CD. We were all there to hear the old stuff and they didn’t disappoint.

They opened with I Can’t Explain. And for guys in their 60s, they looked pretty damn good. Daltrey is in excellent shape — he looks like he works out. Even Townshend, who never stuck me as the kind of guy overly interested in appearance, looked good. The show was great, full of energy and the “trademarked” moves Who fans have come to expect: Daltrey’s swinging of the mike (he’s probably the only performer who still needs a mike with a wire) and Townshend’s “windmill.”

The concert lasted about two hours, including a 20-minute encore. They played Teenage Wasteland, Pinball Wizard (leading off a Tommy medley), My Generation, Behind Blue Eyes, and more than my addled brain can remember. (If you were at the concert, please use the Comments link to fill in my memory gaps. You can also read a review here.)

The show was great and kept my attention for the entire time — which is something unusual (I think I suffer from ADD symptoms sometimes). I was energized, dancing and singing at the top of my lungs. (Don’t worry; no one heard me above the sound of the band.)

But the thing I came away with from the experience is this: I’m not too old to rock and roll — and neither are the two surviving members of The Who.

2 thoughts on “The Who, In Concert

  1. This one popped up as ‘recently read’ as I was last looking, and Jeez, did it bring back a surge of memories which betray my age.
    I first saw the ‘Who’ at the Watford Trade Hall, long before they were famous. Our local lads. The Saturday night prelude to the ritual under age drinking and fighting. About 350 in the crowd, admission 35cents (5 shillings).
    They were good but we were Blues fans, so preferred the Stones and Clapton. The Who were considered a bit “moddy”, didn’t really get them until their “Who’s Next” album.
    Saw Clapton many times for the equivalent of about one $ when he played lead to John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers at their regular haunt, the ‘Ricky Tick’ in Windsor (250 people crammed in a cellar). He was special from the word go. Next time I saw him the ticket price had increased 100 fold. (He is still good, try ‘Crossroads Festival’, Clapton and JJ Cale on YouTube.)
    First saw the Stones on Eel Pie Island in a tumble-down pub/ ruin in the middle of the river Thames. Entry £1. After an hour and a half of great music, the beer glasses started to fly through the air and glass shrapnel rained down on the sweaty crowd.
    Ah! Happy days.

    • Jeez, I didn’t even remember this. Funny what pops up here, eh?

      That’s one thing I have to give my wasband credit for: he always got good concert seats. Cost him a fortune, but it was worth it.

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