“I Can’t Explain”: A night with The Who
As The Who came on stage, the stadium quickly filled with the sound of hundreds of ex rockers who cheered for the band that was the voice of their generation. On Feb. 19, they were transported back in time to 1973 when Quadrophenia was the album of their youth. Quadrophenia was The Who’s 6th studio album and second rock opera written by Pete Townshend about life of a teenager in Brighton in the 1970s.
As the band began to play, it was accompanied by footage of them in their youth, mods and rockers in England and events that was significant during the time the album was written. The video tied the show together perfectly and through it, the audience was able to get a sense of what inspired Townshend to write each song. One of the remarkable aspects of the video was how they used it to integrate former members Keith Moon and John Entwistle into the show. When “Bell Boy” came on, written to mirror the lunacy of Moon, clips of Moon singing were used. The same was done for Entwistle as they put down their instruments and integrated an entire bass solo of Entwistle’s during the song “5:15”. Though both were greatly missed, their replacements did justice to these legends of rock. Hearing Pino Palladino effortlessly play the complicated bass riffs that are intrinsic to Quadrophenia it became clear why he was the band’s first choice as Entwistle’s replacement.
On drums was renowned musician Zak Starkey. Starkey, the son of Beatles legend Ringo Starr, is often noted as being a better drummer than his dad. This claim was evident during this concert as he wildly played the drums, never missing a beat. Both Palladino and Starkey did an unbelievable job at recreating the energy of the band’s former members. On backup guitar/vocals, Townsend’s brother, Simon Townshend played vibrantly while he rocked out in a bright red Keith Moon t-shirt. The Who’s two founding members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltery gave an unforgettable performance. These two men, now in their late 60s, deserve a great deal of credit for continuing to get up on stage and rocking out as hard as they did when they were 20.
Despite Daltery’s vocal strain, he didn’t let that hold him back and performed with the charisma he is so famous for. Townshend, the composer of most of the band’s anthology, performed each song with an equal level of intensity as the last. Throughout the night Townshend did numerous of his renowned stage moves including his notorious windmill.
After the band played Quadrophenia, they closed with some classics including, “Baba O’Riely”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Pinball Wizard.” As the audience cheered wildly, Townshend ended the show saying that Ontario was one of their favourite places in the world to perform. This riled up the audience even more — when Townshend says that you know he means it.Seeing your favourite band is an experience that can be hard to articulate. When asked what I thought of the concert, I found myself quoting The Who’s first hit single: “I can’t explain.”