The Who returned to a triumphant victory appearance at New York City's Madison Square Garden on Saturday, May 22, 2004. The Who have officially recovered musically from the tremendous loss of the late John Entwistle as if that was even a possibility.
The new Who, comprising founding members vocalist Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend, were supported by John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards, Pino Palladino on bass, Zak Starkey on drums, and Simon Townshend on guitar.
The band walked out on stage, assembled itself and launched an unrelenting musical assault on the Garden. The Who were totally "on" right from their first number of the evening, "I Can't Explain", with the audience up on their feet as Townshend rip and wailed on his six-string machine.
Incredible versions of early Who staples, "Substitute" and "Anyhow Anyway Anywhere", were back to back powerhouse performances, reflecting nostalgia and projecting immediacy. Townshend's stage intensity and fierce demonstrative guitar windmills generated enthusiastic responses from the Garden audience.
"Never thought I'd see your f*cking face again", was Townshend's humorous retort to the sold out crowd. Daltrey belted out his vocals on "Who Are You", embellished by his acoustic guitar and aided additionally by Palladino's bass.
Bundrick's keyboard intro supported Townshend's brief vocal for a bombastic take on "5:15". Townshend hopped onto a monitor during animated guitar thrusts and windmills. Starkey's drumming on "Love Reign O'er Me" was especially exceptional as well as Townshend's crying guitar solos.
After announcing band introductions, Townshend stated, "I'm gonna sing one now". Having just joined the sexagenarian set, the British guitarist sang outstanding back to back lead vocals on both "Eminence Front" and "Drowned". With a broad smile, a spirited Townshend cranked on his guitar neck for a tough-edged take of "Eminence Front".
Townshend, alone on stage, appeared possessed by his fierce acoustic guitar playing on "Drowned". Perhaps the major highlight of the evening, Daltrey and Townshend sang together each on acoustic guitar for a tremendous duet on an unrehearsed "Naked Eye".
Townshend's remark, "And this is the NOW bit", was an introduction for one of two new Who compositions, "Real Good Looking Boy". With the addition of Daltrey on acoustic guitar, this power-ballad recalled the band's signature sound.
Palladino contributed his own style for the bass solo on the Who classic "My Generation". The coda segued into an abbreviated new Who song "Old Red Wine", showcased by a fiercely intense Townshend guitar assault.
As an encore, The Who performed a suite of material from their 1969 opus, Tommy. The band romped through a powerful "Pinball Wizard", a double instrumental of "Amazing Journey > Sparks" and the anthematic "See Me, Feel Me". Their energetic medley pumped up the crowd, producing an emphatic standing ovation response.
With a mischievous swagger, Townshend waltzed over to his guitar to offer the Garden a final encore performance of a raw and grungy rendition of "Magic Bus". Quick clips of audience members that sang along to the rousing chorus were shown on the screen. Daltrey's harmonica playing lead a band jam for a crescendo climax.
The British duo specifically scheduled this performance at Madison Square Garden out of their love for the Big Apple. Daltrey and Townshend as The Who are bound for a Summer tour of Japan and Australia, venturing into uncharted musical territory for the band.
NYC setlist: I Can't Explain * Substitute * Anyway Anyhow Anywhere * Who Are You (Roger - Ac Gtr) * Behind Blue Eyes * Baba O'Riley * 5:15* The Punk Meets The Godfather * Love Reign O'er Me * Eminence Front (Pete vocal & Roger Elc Gtr) * Drowned (Pete vocal & Ac Gtr Solo) * Naked Eye (Roger & Pete Ac Gtr Vocal Duet) * Real Good Looking Boy (Roger Ac Gtr) * You Better, You Bet * My Generation > Old Red Wine * Won't Get Fooled Again * Encore: Pinball Wizard > Amazing Journey > Sparks > See Me, Feel Me * Encore: Magic Bus
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Whuo Duo ripe for enjoyment
An animated & energetic Who deliver an overwhelming performance
by Timothy Tilghman