Ghosts of Christmas past always come back to haunt.
Many Rock bands from the sixties and the seventies remain there. Most times – songwriting disappears or band members depart for the heavenly stage. Sadly – the chances of seeing or hearing your favorite group live in it’s original glory; slim as a drum stick. Live footage is available only in grainy, low production quality. The Who – in many people’s minds, one of ‘those‘ bands.
Keith Moon , the original drummer – passed away in 1978. According to even the most ardent of fans; The Who died along with him. In concert, Moon provided ‘the show’ while driving the engine periously close to falling off cliffs. Guitarist Pete Townshend wrote the songs, Daltrey delivered the vocals and John Entwistle tried to keep things grounded on bass. Moon’s fills echoed Daltrey and became part of the chorus. Moon’s energy pushed Townshend into another realm of rhythm at top speed. In their heyday – few came close to The Who live.
Following Moon’s death – the songs came few and infrequent. Even the best of the post Moon era paled in energy to The Who in their prime. Daltrey, Entwistle and Townshend all lost their muse. Once Entwistle left via a true Rock Star’s death; The Who were filed away and destined for Classic Rock radio.
Fast forward to the year 2015. The fiftieth anniversary of The Who.
A concert / mini – documentary was filmed at London’s Hyde Park. Townshend and Daltrey – the surviving members, interrupt the live show ( backstage and recorded ) with insights and observations of both the past and the present. An interesting take on a band who arguably sit in position number three of the top Rock bands of all time. The show then goes on to prove why The Who sit behind only The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in Rock history.
A lot of bands (whose best days lay in decades void of the internet) put on nostalgia shows parading hit after hit for outstanding performances. Great songs last and stand the test of time. The tunes endure in the hearts of fans because they remind people of simpler times. It is also a chance for parents to introduce the kids to the music of their youth. Sadly – with exceptions ; these concerts lack the revolt and original feeling of the times when they were released. It’s music’s version of a hockey team’s old-timer ceremony.
The Who Live at Hyde Park not only capture the idea of Rock rebellion – they sell it in dirty shot-glasses at their merch tables.
Without Moon and without Entwistle. Lacking the energy of youth and sans the surprise factor of smashing instruments ; Townshend and Daltrey in 2015 capture the magic of The Who ‘with a little help from their friends’.
Ringo Starr’s son Zak is the muse Daltrey and Townshend lost many ‘Moon’ (s) ago. Starkey’s energy and immense ear for fills and rhythm inject life into half of The original Who. Just as Keith Moon made them forty years ago, The Who 3.0 are relevant on this night thanks to Starkey. Suddenly – songs which could have easily been portrayed as golden oldies in much the same fashion Elton John (2021) does, the tunes take on freshness and a Rock n Roll attitude. Just like that – The Who are ‘Live at Leeds’.
When Moon was alive and Entwistle was safely interacting with hookers – The Who ,on stage and in studio, were four guys calming and creating teen angst. In 2015, as with many artists in the modern age; adding the right amount of backing musicians is more of a law than a felony. The Who can (and) do sound better than 1977 or 1967 live. A fuller sound is now completed by Townshend’s edgy guitar work and Daltrey’s equally ( at times) menacing vocals. The sums of all the above make songs such as My Generation , I Can’t Explain, Who Are You, Pictures of Lily and Behind Blue Eyes new and dangerous once more.
Watching The Who live in 2015 conjurs up ghosts of the present and future. Entwistle and Moon smiling onstage. A pair of ghosts from Christmas past. Enjoying a haunting good time.