The Who Brings Teenage Wasteland To the Hollywood Bowl

By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos by Randall Michelson

“I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution; take a bow for the new revolution.” These are some of the most iconic lyrics in chorus. The song was “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by one of the greatest bands to come out of the British Invasion era, the Who. This band from London, England, was one of my father’s favorite groups growing up, and he was fortunate enough to share their music with me. When I was younger, I did not quite understand what their songs meant, but I was in love with Pete Townsend’s energetic guitar riffs and Roger Daltrey’s lustful, charismatic singing. They are the only 2 original members left alive, and after over 55 years together, they are showing no signs of slowing down. The Who recently went on the road in the U.S. for the Moving On! Tour, and their last stop was at the famous Hollywood Bowl on October 24th, an outdoor venue I have not yet been to. Opening for the Who was former Oasis leader Liam Gallagher, but I unfortunately missed him.

After getting situated in my box seat, the lights dimmed and out came the orchestra that would be performing with the group. The Who would follow right behind them and got things started with “Overture.” For the first part of the show, the Who performed various songs from their hit rock opera record, Tommy. Pete is still a wizard on the guitar, riffing up a storm on the frets all the while throwing in a few of his famous whirlwind motions. Pete’s younger brother, Simon, nailed the rhythm parts with grace, and he got to pull out a solo or two. Continuing to be precise and cunning on the drums is Zak Starkey (son of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr), who has been touring with the group since 1996. Starkey may not be maniac behind the kit like legendary Who drummer Keith Moon (who was also his godfather), but he crushes those iconic beats. For the whole night, Daltrey gave it his all on the mic. I could tell that his voice has lost some of his youthfulness due to his age, but he still sang like a badass and soared high into the night sky. With the orchestra in the background, who were terrific and in perfect sync with the Who, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers tackled the best of the best of Tommy that included “1921,” “Amazing Journey,” “Sparks,” “Pinball Wizard,” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It/See Me, Feel Me.” Following the Tommy segment, the Who went straight into some of their biggest hits like “Who Are You,” “Eminence Front,” “Imagine a Man,” and “Hero Ground Zero,” the latter of which will be featured on the group’s upcoming new LP, Who. 

For the second half of their performance, the orchestra went back stage and the band played for about 30 minutes, starting with “Substitute.” Rounding off the group was bassist Jon Button, keyboardist/jaw harp Loren Gold, and backing vocals/tambourine Billy Nicholls. During this part of the show, we got to the see the excellent chemistry between longtime collaborators Pete and Roger. I have to say, it was so awesome watching Daltrey rock out on the microphone, twirling and swinging it by the chord like he always does; pure athleticism. The other songs they performed after “Substitute” included “I Can See for Miles,” “You Better You Bet,” and an acoustical version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” where it just the original duo up there. Townsend rocked out pretty hard on the acoustic guitar during that song. Violinist Katie Jacoby came to join the Who and gave a stellar lead for “Behind Blue Eyes,” and it was a breathtaking segment.

We move on to the 3rd act of the night, where the rest of the orchestra returned. For the next song, the Who played another new tune that will be on Who, “Ball and Chain.” Between hearing that and “Hero Ground Zero,” I am really stoked to hear the new album. After that, the fans were treated to 5 songs off their 2nd hit rock opera record, Quadrophenia. From “The Real Me” to “I’m One,” “5:15,” and “The Rock,” just hearing those songs reminded me why Pete was a genius songwriter, crafting out tunes that would make a lasting impact on a person years after they have been written. He cracked out his acoustic once again and sang his classic hit “I’m One” to a roaring crowd, and it was probably the best song of the show. The Who wrapped up Quadrophenia with the iconic “Love, Reign O’er Me,” where Daltrey belted out those classic screams that gave us all goose bumps. The band ended their performance with the song everyone was waiting for, “Baba O’Riley.” Just hearing “teenage wasteland” was so awesome to hear live. Jacoby came back out front and nailed the iconic outro with Pete. Probably the best song to end an excellent performance.

Full The Who gallery below:

After listening to the Who countless times on the radio in my car, I am so happy to finally get see them. Even though they are long gone, I could feel the presence of Moon and legendary bassist John Entwistle in the music. The evening was full of exemplary songs that made me wish I lived in the 60s and 70s. The energy from the crowd was off the charts with old and new fans hanging on to each tune with joy and excitement. The Who have promised to return soon to promote Who, which will be out December 6th, and I will be back to tip my hat to the constitution once again. To the Who, I salute you. Horns up!!!

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