Concert Review: The Who Live in Portland

The Who in Portland, OR
Stage shot of The Who

If you missed the Who on Tuesday in Portland, OR at the Moda Center you missed out.

Just passing along a message from Pete Townshend.

Seriously, though, you missed out.

The Who powered through 20 songs for nearly two hours playing a set consisting of lots of hits, well of course! the tour is called The Who Hits 50, (get it?) but also peppered with some deeper album cuts that gave justice to two of their iconic albums and made lots of people happy.

If you’d never been to a Who show before, haven’t been in a long while or only listen to their albums from, if you can believe it, 50 years ago, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that singer Roger Daltrey doesn’t sing like he’s 25 anymore. Worry not, those higher register vocals might be a thing of the past but the Who certainly is not.

The Who Concert Review

The band started off with “Who Are You” which came off a bit rough probably because the nearly 40 year old album version is so widely heard whether it’s on the radio or television thanks to CSI, but “The Seeker” complimented Daltrey’s vocal range nicely and the band pulled off their first gem of the evening with “The Kids Are Alright” featuring video on the backing screen from their movie Quadrophenia.

“I Can See For Miles,” the band’s first hit in the United States all the way back from 1967, came next and by the time they got to the fun and shall we say clever, “Squeeze Box,” they hit their stride and suddenly looked and sounded like a band 20 years younger. Daltrey only got stronger from there.

The emotionally charged “Behind Blue Eyes” wasn’t the first or last time the guitarist Townshend displayed his patented windmill and “Bargain” his favorite song off of 1971’s Who’s Next brought out solid Daltrey vocals.

The two original band members traded stories throughout the evening mostly to help introduce songs though Townsend did most of the sharing. How about this classic – prior to the band playing “My Generation” Townshend said it was the last song played at the Monterey Pop Festival back in 1967 and they didn’t exactly leave the stage as intact as when they started. They’re a bit older now, so no stage or guitar destruction on this night.

Townshend grabbed mic duties on “I’m One,” “Eminence Front” and “Acid Queen” a new edition added to the tract list last week. Daltrey also took a breather while Townshend and the rest of the band performed a soaring “The Rock” just a great instrumental which featured a very effective video backdrop showing turbulent times in the world for the last 40 years or so.

The Who's Roger Daltrey
Roger Daltrey of The Who

The band paid homage to their classics Tommy and Quadrophenia playing three straight off each album during the middle of the set separating the two clusters by injecting the very 80s sounding “Eminence Front” the only tract played off It’s Hard from 1982.  Who’s Next got the most love with four cuts including the show finales “Baba O’Riley and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Daltrey wasn’t relegated to just vocal duties. He helped out on guitar but really shined on harmonica especially his killer solo to close out “Baba O’Reilly” which brought an eruption from the audience which carried over to the crowd singing nearly every word on “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Yeah, you missed it.

Townshend and Daltrey were flanked by six other musicians including longtime drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr’s son), Pino Palladino who took over on bass after original bassist John Entwistle died in 2002 and Townshend’s brother Simon adding an additional guitar.

The two original members, now in their 70s, showed little indication they’ve been around since the 1960s nor did they display any signs of slowing down. Of course, neither of the two exhibited the raucous stage antics or over the top theatrics of yesteryear and they were a bit stiffer in movement then their 20-something year old selves, but Townshend, who turns 71 tomorrow, still spun that right arm around with jaw dropping chord hits and Daltrey, 72, moved about the stage freely and appeared well.

The Who didn’t exactly Sell Out the venue, with a large section of the third level curtained off. But the fans? Fanatics. Dancing in the aisles and just an all-around appreciation of what the true original Rock Music is all about.

The concert was postponed from a date in September after Daltrey came down with a case of viral meningitis but he showed no ill effects and hardly looked his age. His vocals now much lower and at times throaty, the adjustment is not as subtle like other long running bands that produce albums or tour continuously without long extended breaks. The Who went 24 years between studio albums their last, Endless Wire in 2006, which didn’t make the setlist. It takes a bit to get used to but similar to Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon once it settles in you forget all about it.

Oh by the way, that iconic scream at the end of “Won’t Get Fooled Again?”

Daltrey NAILED it.

The Who – Portland (Moda Center) Setlist:

  1. Who Are You
  2. The Seeker
  3. The Kids Are Alright
  4. I can See For Miles
  5. My Generation
  6. Squeeze Box
  7. Behind Blue Eyes
  8. Bargain
  9. Join Together
  10. You Better You Bet
  11. I’m One
  12. The Rock
  13. Love, Reign O’er Me
  14. Eminence Front
  15. Amazing JHourney
  16. Acid Queen
  17. Pinball Wizard
  18. See Me, Feel Me
  19. Baba O’Riley
  20. Won’t Get Fooled Again



2 thoughts on “Concert Review: The Who Live in Portland

  1. Well, I missed the Portland show but I didn’t miss the Who. Saw ’em in Boston on this tour. I concur with your review. A lot of people think, well, they must suck because they’re in their seventies. Not so. They totally rocked. Townshend had said in interviews prior to the tour that he no longer enjoyed performing. Well, from where i sat he was having a hell of a time, bantering with Daltrey and sometimes, the audience. My millennial son went with me and was duly impressed as well. Good show!

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