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Five thoughts: The Who at the Colosseum (August 4)

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From left, Daltrey, Starkey and Towshend fill the Colosseum with sound.
Photo: Adam Shane

1. Nice to see The Who mixing up the setlist during its six-show run at Caesars Palace. After the first two nights stayed mostly the same in terms of sequence while featuring a few song swaps (“Pictures of Lily” for “Bargain,” “5:15” for “The Punk and the Godfather”), Friday’s third Colosseum gig found the band diverging more significantly.

After guitarist Pete Townshend announced that vocalist Roger Daltrey had cooked up a rather unusual setlist for the night’s proceedings, the duo and its six-piece backing group sprinkled in a cluster of relative rarities—“Substitute,” “Squeeze Box,” “Relay” (also played night one), “The Real Me,” “Drowned” and “Naked Eye” (!)—while rearranging other parts of the two-hour, 23-song concert. That’s what residencies were made for, and it will be interesting to see how the final three shows unfold.

2. Not unexpectedly, by digging a bit deeper into its catalog, The Who sacrificed some of the glorious tightness the band demonstrated during its 2016 stop at the same Vegas venue, part of The Who Hits 50! tour, in which the setlist remained relatively constant. On Friday, Townshend appeared to signal changes to his bandmates during some of the lesser-played material, and following “Squeeze Box,” Daltrey realized he’d forgotten to include the “She goes, squeeeeze me/Come on and squeeeeze me” section … which he then delivered sans instrumentation, with help from the crowd.

3. Townshend also dealt with some technical issues over the course of the show, most significantly during his acoustic stab at “Drowned,” part of a five-piece Quadrophenia segment. The 72-year-old broke off the song twice, first requesting more sound in his monitor and then grousing that his guitar was out of tune. “I can’t work like this!” he declared, and for a moment it seemed a completed “Drowned” was not to be. But upon receiving a new instrument, Townshend persevered, handing lead vocals off to Daltrey so he could focus on the tricky number’s intricacies.

4. It felt strange seeing The Who without Pino Palladino onstage. An anchor in the bass spot since John Entwistle’s 2002 death, Palladino is touring with John Mayer this summer, leaving The Who’s low end in the hands of Jon Button, a veteran of Daltrey’s solo lineup. Button performed solidly on Friday, but he felt less rock-like—and a bit less audible—within the band’s famously intense musical maelstrom.

5. Though Townshend, who supplied searing guitar work all night (see especially: his two big solos in “Relay” and his furious and frequent volleys during “Eminence Front”), and the still-reliable Daltrey, whose mighty vocals on showpiece “Love, Reign O’er Me” eclipsed the 2016 Vegas version, rightfully remain The Who’s main draws, there’s little doubt that Zak Starkey remains the band’s motor.

Occupying Keith Moon’s drum seat is no easy task, yet the 51-year-old son of Beatle Ringo Starr proves nightly that he’s up to the challenge, providing the sort of just-in-control-without-losing-it power to Tommy cuts “Amazing Journey” and “Sparks” that made Moon a legend in the ’60s. For those of us who never got to see The Who in its heyday, Starkey makes it easy to imagine.

Setlist:

“Who Are You”

“Substitute”

“I Can See for Miles”

“Squeeze Box”

“The Kids Are Alright”

“Behind Blue Eyes”

“Join Together”

“Relay”

“You Better You Bet”

“The Real Me”

“The Punk and the Godfather”

“Drowned”

“I’m One”

“Love, Reign O’er Me”

“Eminence Front”

“My Generation”

“Naked Eye”

“Amazing Journey”

“Sparks”

“Pinball Wizard”

“See Me, Feel Me”

“Baba O’Riley”

“Won’t Get Fooled Again”

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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