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While the decision was one more sign of the sheer amount of manpower and money tied up in large-scale tours like this, when Daltrey and Townshend hugged each other at the start, it seemed going on with the show was the right thing to do.

WHO THEY ARE

Townshend, Daltrey Reaffirm Bonds in Emotionally Charged Hollywood Bowl Performance Dedicated to Entwistle
Even though Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend took the stage dressed in black, the Who’s U.S. tour got underway at the Hollywood Bowl last night and, like the best rock & roll, it was more celebration than wake.

Less than a week after the sudden death of 57-year-old bassist and co-founding member John Entwistle, the band hit the stage after postponing the first two dates of the jaunt Friday night in Las Vegas and Saturday in Irvine, CA.

While the decision was one more sign of the sheer amount of manpower and money tied up in large-scale tours like this, when Daltrey and Townshend hugged each other at the start, it seemed going on with the show was the right thing to do.

After a 15-minute documentary shot during rehearsals just two weeks ago which was greeted with cheers every time Entwistle was shown, the group came out, augmented by second guitarist, Pete’s younger brother Simon Townshend, longtime keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick, drummer Zak Starkey and bassist Pino Palladino.

From the revitalized opening salvo of "I Can’t Explain," "Substitute" and "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere," the Who took the emotion of the night and raised the stakes. They turned their performance into a bittersweet tribute to their mate…much like Paul did for George at his Staples Center show earlier this year.

Daltrey was the first to directly address the issue when he told the crowd, "Tonight we play for John Entwistle… He was the true spirit of rock & roll and he lives on in the music we play," as the band laced into a spectacular "Who Are You," after which Townshend joked with the crowd, "We know who we are."

A couple of more obscure numbers followed, "Another Tricky Day," from Face Dances, with Daltrey apologizing for forgetting the last verse. "We haven’t played that in a long time." And then "Relay" from Townshend’s Lifehouse sessions, which Pete described as a "song about communication." The group, which has been revitalized by Ringo’s son Zak on drums, seemed to lean into the new material with relish, but it was the band’s familiar classics that had the audience on its feet.

Townshend then remarked how hard it was to play these shows, even as he praised how "special" and "beautiful" the day had been for him. "We’re not pretending that nothing’s happened," he said before launching into "Bargain," almost breaking up during the refrain, "I’m looking for you…"

Palladino, who learned all Entwistle’s bass parts in 48 hours, mostly stayed to the side, occasionally glancing out of the corner of his eye at a stand with sheet music, but he came alive for the fret-bending solos in "My Generation."

Particuarly noteworthy was the band’s Quadrophenia segment, which included "5:15" and "Love Reign O’er Me" as well as the less-familiar "Sea and Sand." More recent material like "You Better You Bet" and a funky "Eminence Front" were performed with renewed force, but it was the final "The Kids Are Alright," "My Generation" and "Won’t Get Fooled Again" that had the crowd in a frenzy. The Tommy encore, "Pinball Wizard," "Amazing Journey" into a climactic "See Me, Feel Me," brought the two-hour-plus show to a cathartic finale, with Roger and Pete once again embracing at center-stage.

All in all, a remarkable, life-affirming performance, though perhaps not as dynamic as the band’s Hollywood Bowl concert last year or their show-stopping stint at last September’s Concert for New York City. It was, at once, a rousing, defiant cry not to go gently into that good night and a grudging acknowledgement of our collective mortality—a contradiction the greatest rock & roll allows us to celebrate with dionysian fury.

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