Can't explain - Page 2

The Who's Green Day moment

Not that it is weird!"

But what's vaguely weird is the fact that a once proudly forward-looking band such as the Who would sprinkle their set so liberally with favorites such as "The Seeker," "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere," "Baba O'Riley," and "Behind Blue Eyes," almost reluctantly putting forth new songs such as "Fragments," "A Man in a Purple Dress," "Black Widow's Eyes," and those in "Wire and Glass," which cannibalize melodies, devices, and arpeggioed synth lines of songs such as "Who Are You" and baldly lift the curtain on a kind of nostalgia with tunes such as "Mirror Door," which hails sentimental, uncool icons like Doris Day. Even their opening song, "I Can't Explain," was accompanied by target symbols, band insignia and posters, old photos of the band in Union Jack garb, and The Who Sell Out imagery — the latter once primo examples of pop art exploded, literally, in a rock 'n' roll context. The effect was powerful but somewhat of a disservice: the band itself is still hard-hitting enough to deliver its songs with absolute conviction, without the crutch of yesterday's reminders, filled out by Ringo Starr's competent though far from unhinged son Zak Starkey's drum work; a husky-voiced but valiant Daltrey, who mastered his mic-swinging rotary-blade moves by the time the encore rolled around; and Townshend, windmilling and leaping, though with less athleticism than he might have had in the past.

Two hours into the show, all doubters were probably ready to push aside memories of the Who's dead rhythm section, ravaged vocal chords, kiddie-porn controversy, unsmashed guitars, and a commercially stillborn album — and stand up for the "Pinball Wizard" encore. Though you wonder what it means when you're in your late 50s and still singing "Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss" or "It's only teenage wasteland. They're all wasted!" and doing it, as Pete Townshend shouted jubilantly, "out in the fields of Nevada." The song remains the same, but now the band's tone can't help but have shifted. Perhaps you sound put out to pasture, a bit bitterer than you did as the angry know-it-all who was almost too smart for Top of the Pops. Or maybe a bit like Mr. Wilson, shaking his fist at Dennis the Menace and growling, "They're all wasted!" You might sound more wise than nihilistic — can you explain how inspired you once were? *

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