The Who in Orlando

5 Nov

I met a man Saturday who said that night’s Quadrophenia concert in Orlando was his 40th by The Who.

I told him I was only 36 behind, but if I followed the rest of this year’s tour, I would just about catch up to him by the end of it. Time and expenses might not allow it, but interest would. I haven’t tired of Quadrophenia since I started listening to it 35 years ago; I don’t think another 35 concerts would dull my appreciation, either.

Saturday’s show, the second of this year’s tour, sure didn’t. It was 90 minutes of all-Quadropehnia, then introductions of the band, and then seven more songs — effectively, the encore — to close the show: in order, Baba O’Riley; The Kids are All Right; Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere; Behind Blue Eyes; Who Are You; Won’t Get Fooled Again; and Tea and Theater, a Pete Townshend-Roger Daltrey duet from the more recent Endless Wire (2006).

That was it. No pretext of extended applause and return of the band. Lights go on, audience goes home — without complaint. When your star performers are 67 and 68 years old, they’re not going to waste any energy going to and fro the stage.

“On stage, the band’s two remaining members . . . tackled the ambitious 1973 concept album Quadrophenia with impressive gusto for guys knocking on the door of their 70s,” was reviewer Jim Abbott’s take in the Orlando Sentinel. “(These old guys) are aging gracefully.”

That was pretty close to my view, though I’m guessing Abbott’s was closer to the stage. I don’t want to say we were high up, but if they had Muzak for escalators, Stairway to Heaven would have been appropriate in more ways than one. We weren’t in the top row, but if I was as tall as the basketball players who normally inhabit the Amway Center, I could have reached it with a good stretch.

The Who went a good 135 hard minutes without many breaks — Daltrey left a couple of songs to Townshend — and Townshend and Daltrey were the last to leave the stage. There was no sound trouble as there was on the first night of the tour Nov. 1 in Sunrise when Townshend left early. Nobody worked harder than drummer Zak Starkey, Ringo’s son (as the drummer should on Quadrophenia), and by concert’s end Daltrey’s shirt had appeared to come a bit undone. How many 68-year-olds willingly bare their midriff, or part of it, to an arena about 85% full?

There were video tributes to the late members of the band — drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle, and Moon’s taped vocals on Bellboy drew particular applause — but it was even more a night to celebrate the vitality of the surviving members.

They can’t sing or lead on the guitar or even windmill on it like they did when Quadrophenia was released, but who can? If you went thinking they would, then it’s your expectations that were out of whack.

Townshend wrote on the delicately sung Blue Red and Grey (song 3, side 2 of Who by Numbers) about enjoying “every minute of the day.” That’s what I’m doing with The Who these days: enjoying every minute of their career, even as it winds inevitably down. There’s a time and plenty of reason for cynicism, especially now. Not here. And not Saturday — that was a time to sing and dance with two old guys who were doing likewise.

I dig every second
I can laugh in the snow and rain
I get a buzz from being cold and wet
The pleasure seems to balance out the pain


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