New York TimesThe Who Spring Back and Start Their TourMisha Erwitt for The New York Times
Roger Daltrey, left, and Pete Townshend, the two surviving original members of the Who, on Monday.
July 3, 2002
By BERNARD WEINRAUB
HOLLYWOOD, July 2 - A fan waved a hand-painted sign with a British flag and the scrawled words "The Who Lives On." No one at the packed Hollywood Bowl Monday night would dispute him.
In the first concert since the death of its bassist, John Entwistle, last Thursday, the Who began a North American tour with a pounding and mesmerizing two-hour show that was steeped in melancholy. The two surviving original members of the group, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, stepped onto the stage and hugged each other. They wore black trousers and shirts.
"I just wanted to say that tonight we played for John Entwistle," Mr. Daltrey said after opening the show with longtime hits like "I Can't Explain" and "Substitute." "He was the true spirit of rock 'n' roll, and he lives on in the music we play."
Midway through the show, Mr. Townshend spoke in a rambling way about Entwistle, who was replaced on Saturday by Pino Palladino, a Welsh bass player. "For fans that have followed us for many years, this is going to be very difficult," said Mr. Townshend, the group's guitarist-songwriter. "We understand. We're not pretending nothing has happened. A friend of mine just disappeared from the front row. It was too difficult."
The other longtime member of the Who, the drummer Keith Moon, died in 1978 of a drug overdose. Today the drummer is Zak Starkey, the son of Ringo Starr. At the end of the show, pictures of Entwistle at various stages of his life were shown on the large screens flanking the stage of the Bowl, which was crammed with more than 18,000 fans of the group that shot to stardom in the storied British invasion of the 1960's. Many are in their 40's, 50's and higher, and they screamed, applauded, raised their fists and and gave the Who an exuberant welcome. Standing ovations followed most songs, and many people simply stood throughout the show.
"I go way, way back with them," said Stella Plotnik, who is in her 50's. Wearing a flashy "Who" sweatshirt and seated by her husband, Zvi, an engineer in Los Angeles, she said: "We still relate to the music. They wrote it yesterday, but it's still relevant today."
Was Mrs. Plotnik upset about the Who's decision to start their tour so soon? "This is a tribute," she said. "It's a way of honoring John. The music is his legacy."
Entwistle, who was known as the Ox and often played in the shadow of his more flamboyant partners, died in his sleep, apparently of a heart attack, at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The first show of the band's tour was to have been at the hotel on Friday night. Age 57, he had been taking heart medicine, and the Las Vegas authorities said there was no sign of violence or drug paraphernalia in his room. The results of an autopsy are expected in about a week. Entwistle spent 38 years with the Who. Although the band was known, especially in its early years, for its wild-man antics, culminating in the smashing of guitars, Entwistle was known for his quietness and reserve on stage.
At last night's performance, Mr. Townshend and Mr. Daltrey, who met in the 1960's while attending high school in London, performed with the aggressive energy that has stamped their careers. As Mr. Daltrey sang and strutted, Mr. Townshend spun his right arm in exaggerated windmills. Mr. Palladino took the traditionally quieter role of the bassist.
The encores were two of band's classics: "Pinball Wizard" and "See Me, Feel Me," both from their rock opera "Tommy." Tickets for the show ranged from $45 to $505.
The Who's decision to start its tour now - a tour that will probably bring in millions of dollars - was criticized on some local radio talk shows as an impropriety. But Entwistle's son, Christopher, said in a statement that he supported the tour. "He lived for the music and will always live within the Who's music," he said. "This is what he would have wished for." The tour will be in Madison Square Garden in New York from from July 31 to Aug. 4. The North American tour will last until Sept. 27.
The question of whether this would be the band's last tour was on the minds of some in the audience. Mr. Townshend and Mr. Daltrey are in their 50's. "There's a lot of nostalgia here tonight," said Toby Rangel, a 29-year-old corrections officer with the Santa Cruz sheriff's department, who flew into Los Angeles today to see the show with friends. "A lot of us were raised by parents who listened to the Who or older brothers and sisters."
Eating popcorn at his seat, Mr. Rangel said: "My older brother turned me on to them. Their album â€˜Quadropheniaâ€™ tells you more about being a 15-year-old than anything else. I heard that album as a kid, and that was it."
As the lights darkened and the Who came onstage, Mr. Rangel said, "This may be their last tour. How could I miss it?"http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/03/ar...48439b28bb644cCopyright 2002 The New York Times Company