The two surviving members of The Who have enjoyed an improbably successful and almost endless victory lap. With shows in Anaheim (Sunday 5/22), Los Angeles (Wednesday 5/25), Las Vegas (Sunday 5/29), the best choice is probably at Valley View Casino Center in San Diego on Friday 5/27 (unless you have an invite to a private gig on 5/31 in Los Angeles). Although the Vegas venue is the smallest, the former Sports Arena in San Diego has the heritage that just can’t be matched by the larger, shinier venues in OC or LA.
The dates were rescheduled due to Daltrey’s throat issues, but in the interim he has been resting up and doing good things for his Teen Cancer Trust. Past shows by The Who have kept veterans and youngsters astounded by the vigor of the band. Supplemented by several more musicians than when the quartet barnstormed through the US on their first two decades’ worth of tours, the band will deliver a bevy of hits spanning many decades. As with their fellow travelers (only a few of whom are still on the road, more on that in a moment), the strength of The Who’s catalog is in the early years. But Townshend still has a creative spark. Sadly, it looks like he no longer sends the rest of the band off the stage for the last song, a relatively recent duet with Roger called “Tea & Theatre.” It is a perfect capstone as two chaps look back on a remarkable journey.
The Who is one of five such veterans who will be gathering in Indio in October for what certainly seems like the last lap for several of those on the bill. Officially known as “Desert Trip” and affectionately referred to as “Oldchella” the line up features six artists, two per night and duplicated on successive weekends: Rolling Stones & Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney & Neil Young, The Who & Roger Waters. The most interesting pairing is the latter, as it was likely an interesting discussion as to who would be the headliner. In my view, Townshend succumbed to the wisdom he displayed at Woodstock: having already seen Hendrix on the club circuit in London, he knew that the guitarist would blow away The Who. Townshend decided to let Hendrix close the weekend. I am uncertain if Waters matches Hendrix in musicianship, but the former certainly spends more than Hendrix or any of the other five Oldfellas on stage production.
John Entwistle told me in the mid 80s, when pondering Townshend’s wish ‘hope I die before I get old’ that “there have never been old rock stars before, we are trying to figure it out.” Entwistle decided the way to go out was with female accompaniment and some substances in a Vegas hotel room, but those who have survived have shown a remarkable resilience. As noted British journalist David Hepworth mentioned, being a rock star is one of the few jobs you can do in your 70s. Look for his remarkable book 1971 next month, in which he posits that year was the culmination of the best rock and roll ever recorded.
Indeed, half of Who’s Next from that year will likely be heard in San Diego next week.
In that Townshend is a dedicated sailor, look for him on the bay but let him get back to port in time for soundcheck.