For the author of the afore mentioned, the 2007 reunion and tour of Van Halen inspires eloquence. Metro's scribble sends me back through the Time Machine to December 2006 and The Who performing at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. For me, anticipation of that show defined 'Excitement!', but I knew that my memories of the classic line-up, that from the band’s prime years of 1966-1978, were what would carry the evening.
What made original The Who line-up remarkable in performance and on vinyl was the tonal separation of the four musicians that, somehow, pulled us into a breathtaking vortex. The individual contribution to the sound of The Who by Roger, Pete, John & Keith created a Gestalt -- the 'power' sound.
Each original Who member was a phenomenal creator and contributor; the absence of any negates the Gestalt, leaving a noticeable void. I find the post-Who Are You? (1978) material to be weaker as the result of Keith's passing; the quality of the post-2002 material Wire & Glass (2006) suffers from the absence of both Keith and John. (I still think John's death was an idiotic way to go).
While covering the standards, Palladino and Starkey each were professional and straight-forward. I did notice Palladino flub the solo on "My Generation", but he made a good catch. Generally, Starkey provided a terrific cover of classic Moon, rarely deviating from the original recordings. The audience roared to life during renditions of "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Baba O'Reilly", "Pinball Wizard" and "Who Are You?". (Yes, Bic lighters came forth to spark clouds of reefer). However, neither Palladino's, nor Skarkey's contribution to the new material equalled the intensity and improvisation of the classic Who line-up. The Gestalt is gone. It simply was not 'The Who'.
Pino Palladino, The Who's current bassist, is renowned for his ability & style. He is a highly respected studio musician, but he isn't John Entwistle. Neither is Zak Starkey a Keith Moon, nor even a Kenny Jones for that matter. (Jones was drummer for The Small Faces and The Faces, before sitting for The Who after Keith's death. Jones has very serious creds in my book). During the TO show's rendition of 'My Generation' in particular, Palladino played 'note-on', but lacked the energy ... the aggression ... of Entwistle. Starkey just does not have that 'Electric Mayhem' element that animated Keith Moon.
Evidence to this was provided during the performance of new material from 'Wire & Glass'. In performance and on the CD release, Palladino's bass is padded and sent to the rear of the mix, whereas the Who bass sound, (Entwistle's sound), is expected to be forefront and chainsaw-like. Starkey's contribution to the new material is pedestrian and unimaginative. Moon was never so staid. However, it is worth to note that Zak Starkey is the son of Ringo Starr, whose best friend and drinking partner was Keith Moon. Both Greats instructed and inspired Zak, and I feel Zak's style is an even balance of the two mentors' contributions.
Townshend qualifies the new line-up perfectly: "The Best Who Cover-Band in The World". 'Tis true, Chairman Townshend. That's what grounded the experience of the Toronto 2006 performance. Though the original line-up is gone, it was still wonderful to experience the collective and absolute shiver, whether it was inspired by actuality, memory, or a combination thereof.