The Who still rocks even in their old age

Attendees were clad in merch littered with homemade buttons and patches, shouting about how they came from hundreds of miles away for this one show. The smell of weed and cigarettes hung heavy in the air – and all the while the median age had to be at least 58 years old. 

The Who, the seminal British rock band whose hits have been heard all over the world, took center stage at the Hollywood Bowl Tuesday to a packed house. Thousands of fans spent what would have otherwise been an uneventful weekday night enjoying the still rockin’ tunes played by The Who as effortlessly as if it was still 1970. As you walked up to the entrance, you could hear snippets of conversation from die-hard fans, eagerly describing previous tours and debating which venue was best to enjoy their classic rock sounds. 

The Who, formed in 1964 by Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwhistle and Keith Moon, is one of the biggest bands of all time, from their rock opera “Tommy” going double platinum in the U.S. to their classic 1971 album “Who’s Next” going triple platinum in the U.S. and selling more than 100 million records worldwide. Their songs dominate classic rock radio stations, and they’re probably one of your dad’s favorite bands. 

Original members of the band, Townshend and Daltrey arrived on stage to riotous cheers and applause. Despite their older age, Townshend and Daltrey proved that they still have what it takes to rock. They were accompanied by both their touring band and a small orchestra, which gave their performance a rich and almost cinematic feel that the original recordings lack. There was a kinetic energy in the air at the Bowl that night, as both the band and fans reflected on what it means to play and listen to all the hits in such a classic venue, where the band played before years prior. 

Townshend showcased his still-impressive guitar skills as he ripped away on hit single “Pinball Wizard” from “Tommy,” while Daltrey’s vocals on a particularly rousing rendition of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” off “Who’s Next” was otherworldly. It’s amazing that even more than 50 years after the band’s formation, they are still fit and fired up enough to play for close to two hours. The crowd loved the passion the band was pouring into every song, with whoops, shouts and cheers following every track. 

Townshend and Daltrey were quite the jokers, sprinkling in amusing anecdotes and small personal messages between songs. Townshend cracked a joke about dilated pupils and getting stoned before they moved into a psychedelic rendition of “Eminence Front”, complete with pulsing green and blue lights that turned the stage into a trip of its own. 

The technical design of the tour was fantastic, as the lights behind the band played kaleidoscope colors, while light rods mixed in between the orchestra players and the band flashed in time with the music. The iconic concentric circles of the Bowl were lit up in mind-bending swirling colors, and sparkles glittered on the outside edge of the Bowl. 

The inclusion of the orchestra made The Who’s already timeless tracks even more beautiful. A particularly stunning example of this was “Behind Blue Eyes”, where Townshend and Daltrey were assisted by Katie Jacoby on violin, Audrey Snyder on cello, and Randy Landau on five-string bass. The song was stripped back, and Daltrey’s vocals soared above the beautiful blending of the string accompaniment. The crowd sang along, even overpowering Daltrey at times. The passion and love that everyone felt for the band was evident. Despite signs of physical aging on the outside, it was clear that everyone at the concert, from the band to the fans, were young in spirit and still as hungry as ever to rock. 

Of course, the show had to end with possibly their biggest hit, “Baba O’Riley.” Ranked #159 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” the iconic opening synth sent the entire Bowl into a frenzy, with people pulling their friends to their feet and wrapping their arms around each other to belt their hearts out. Daltrey led the crowd into a triumphant yell of “They’re all wasted” to close out the show while Townshend shredded away on his guitar to a standing ovation. 

Walking back to the car, it was clear everyone in the crowd was buoyed on a wave of jubilance at seeing one of the greatest bands of all time still play as if they were in their prime. Their tour, aptly titled “The Who Hits Back!,” proved that The Who really can hit back, and indeed, hit every note in just the right way.