Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Who

In 1980, I happened to set my VCR to record The Kids are Alright, a film by Jeff Stein about The Who covering their history from the earliest mod days through the end of the Keith Moon era. I don't know why I set it to record, I wasn't a big Who fan at the time but in the end, that event changed nearly everything that came after. I watched the movie over and over and over again. Watching Pete Townshend play those black numbered Les Pauls in Baba O'Reilly and Won't Get Fooled Again, seeing John Entwistle walk through his house with guitars and basses covering every inch of wall space, and of course the incredible energy of the music totally hooked me. I had to play guitar and be in a band.

So I bought a guitar (within a few weeks I would have 3 - crappy things from flea markets with brand names like Morse and Silvertone) started taking lessons and started a band with some friends. Over the years, my guitar playing got better, as did the bands. When I was in high school, I was hanging around with the music crowd. In college I helped run a recording studio where we produced and engineered our own songs as well as numerous local bands. One of those recording sessions ended up getting me a job doing recording and eventually running my own business which eventually led me to writing software. Most importantly, I met my wife because I was playing guitar in the dorm freshman year - one of her favorite songs as coincidence would have it - and she had to find out who was playing it. So in a butterfly effect kind of way, it is pretty safe to say that my life would likely be extraordinarily different had I not chosen to record The Kids are Alright.

Last night The Who played at Key Arena in Seattle and Leslie and I went to the show and it was an absolutely amazing experience. First, the show was fantastic - even in their early 60s Pete and Roger still put on a great show and exude all of the same energy that they did back in the 70s save for smashing guitars and knee slides across the stage. The fact that they brought along Pino Palladino on bass (one of my favorite bass players in the world -- simply amazing) and Zak Starkey on drums (Ringo's son who was able to play Keith Moon parts brilliantly) and you have the best group capable of matching the original intensity of the Who from the Kids are Alright era of the band.

They were there not as a "remember us?" band like so many 60s, 70s and 80s era bands today -- they had something to say. They have a new album called Endless Wire (which includes a new mini rock opera) coming out in just a few weeks and much of that album was played during the show. The songs were fresh, yet clearly Who songs and a great part of the show.

It was when they started to play Baba O'Reilly that it all hit me. I was looking at the guy playing the guitar (a Stratocaster this time) and playing the song that completely changed my life and it was happening right there - right down on that stage - right in front of me and I got emotional realizing how connected that moment was to everything that has happened since 1980. Then it smacked me again during Won't Get Fooled Again, Amazing Journey, Sparks and finally -- like a bat upside the head -- in Listening to You.

Listening to you I get the music.
Gazing at you I get the heat.
Following you I climb the mountain.
I get excitement at your feet.

Best concert ever.


Leslie Irish Evans said...

Well said. I agree, it was a fantastic show.

Anonymous said...

The Who is the one british band that for whatever reason never did it for me. I keep trying and it just never works.

However, Roger Waters last night was fantastic. I could have done without the political commentary, but apparently you have to have that in every concert now. The music was fantastic...they did all of Dark Side of the Moon. *sigh* Good Stuff.

-- Rick