Listening to you, I get the music.
-- The Who
For many music fans who call themselves "purists" -- I call them posers and snobs, but it's semantics -- The Who did not perform the entirety of their 1973 masterpiece "Quadrophenia" at Duluth's Gwinnett Center Arena Monday night.
And they didn't top off the evening with a greatest-hits encore that included classics "Baba O'Riley," "The Kids Are Alright" and "Won't Get Fooled Again."
As one such self-deluded soul sniffed before the three-quarters-full show Monday, "The Who ended for me when Keith Moon died."
Yeah, and you're the guy who sold all his Hanson CDs at a yard sale when Taylor hit puberty.
For the rest of us, those of us who've ridden on Pete Townshend's Magic Bus throughout The Who's amazing 48-year career, Monday was an opportunity to reconnect with one of the band's timeless masterpieces. That the 67-year-old Townsend, 68-year-old Roger Daltrey and their crew of hired-gun tour mates that includes bassist Pino Palladino, guitarist Simon Townshend -- Pete's brother -- and drummer Zak Starkey -- Ringo's kid, who -- all due respect to dad, who was after all one-fourth of the greatest band ever and has retained his cachet all these years later -- is even better on the skins, could pull off such a top-notch musical/spectacle performance of the 40-year-old classic was a gift worthy of the band during its glory days.
For those aforementioned purists, though, the dearly departed Moon and bassist John Entwistle were a dynamic part of the evening, their images projected onto the Gwinnett Center's giant closed-circuit video screens "performing" along with Townshend, Daltrey and the boys. It was a neat trick, the band playing live along to perfectly synched video clips of Moon singing and Entwistle slashing/thumping/plucking his way through a mesmerizing bass run.
From "I Am the Sea" to "The Real Me" to "The Dirty Jobs" to "Is It in My Head?" to "5:15" to "Doctor Jimmy" to the exquisite "Love, Reign O'er Me," "Quadrophenia" as performed Monday was equal parts nostalgia trip, an acknowledgment of the album's proper place in rock history and a reaffirmation of the amazing talent of the perhaps underappreciated Townshend/Daltrey pairing.
If the 17 songs of "Quadrophenia" were indicative of The Who's still-potent musical prowess, the encore was nothing less than blissful. The first five songs -- "Baba O'Riley," "The Kids Are Alright," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Who Are You" and Won't Get Fooled Again" -- and, oh yes, Daltrey nailed that chill-inducing primal "Aaaaayeeeee" scream leading into the song's coda -- were essentially an encapsulated history of The Who, from the band's early days as post-British Invasion mods to its ascendancy to rock-gods status.
The final song Monday, 2006's "Tea & Theatre," was a lovely Townshend/Daltrey duet, the pair alone on the stage with a rapt audience looking on in awed silence. The roar that followed, a loving salute to the surviving members of The Who for a body of work that has been claimed by three generations of fans, surpassed even the reactions to Townshend's windmill guitar blasts and Daltrey's microphone twirling theatrics.
For those whose musical sensibilities have room only for the golden-haired rock god Daltrey, the whippet-thin whirling dervish guitar madman Townshend, the caveman drum-pounding Moon and the bass virtuosity of Entwistle, break out "Who's Next" and pretend it's 1971. For the other 10,000 or so of us who came to Duluth Monday to celebrate a still vital part of rock and roll's rich history, these kids were indeed all right.
Email Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.