Tuesday, December 4, 2012

UConn Plays at Garden Tonight, But Who's Playing There Tomorrow

Madison Square Garden is the "basketball Mecca" again tonight, when Texas faces Georgetown at 7 p.m., followed by UConn-NC State, all part of the Jimmy V Classic. But tomorrow night, MSG becomes Whoville.

The Who (or, more aptly, The Two) will play at the Garden Wednesday night. I strongly considered staying overnight and catching tomorrow's show, but I figured a 2:30 a.m. train ride back to New Haven made a lot more sense (not). Actually, I'm going to the show on Sunday night at Mohegan Sun. Thought about going to the 12-12-12 benefit show back at the Garden next week, but a little too pricey for me.

The Who are my favorite band of all-time. I've loved the Stones longer and probably like their overall catalog better (heck, Pete Townshend himself says they're his favorite band ever); the Beatles obviously were better songwriters; U2 approaches The Who in terms of great albums and great live performances; Bowie, Clapton, Dylan, Zeppelin, Nirvana, Costello, Hendrix -- they're all great.

But The Who are No. 1 in my book. Why? Here's why:

*** For better or worse, what other band can lay claim to being at the forefront of punk ("My Generation"), heavy metal ("Young Man Blues," most of 'Live at Leeds'), power pop ("I'm a Boy," "Pictures of Lily") and art rock ("A Quick One," 'Tommy'). And you don't get Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' or Green Day's 'American Idiot' without 'Quadrophenia,' folks.

*** Mick Jagger felt so upstaged by The Who at the Rock 'n Roll Circus in 1968 that he delayed the release of the film for nearly 30 years. Who else can upstage the Stones?

Quite simply, The Who are the greatest live band of all time. I remember reading a review from a guy who saw The Who at the Fillmore East in 1969 or '70. He said it seemed Pete Townshend's feet were on the ground for maybe about two or three minutes of the two-hour show. Check out their performance at the aforementioned R 'n R Circus. Or 'Live at Leeds.' Or their performance at Woodstock. Or the Super Bowl ... er, forget that last one (though it was certainly better than Madonna's lip-synched, Cirque du Soleil nonsense last year).

*** 'Who's Next' is the greatest album of all time. "Baba O'Riley."  "Song is Over." "Getting in Tune." "Going Mobile." "My Wife." "Won't Get Fooled Again." I've never even particularly cared for "Behind Blue Eyes" or "Bargain," but they're both FM rock staples.

And 'The Who Sell Out' is one of the most underrated albums ever. Besides "I Can See For Miles," you probably don't know any songs from this album. But you should. A delightful burst of psychedlic power pop that rivals anything (even 'Sgt. Pepper') that was out at the time.

*** The Who are like baseball. Some consider them boring, pretentious, a product of another era. I can see those points at times; I go through times where I don't need to hear a Who song for a while. But there's something organic, heartfelt, tangible to their music that always brings me back. (Football? Big, loud, dumb, incredibly popular, overrated -- yeah, that's Led Zeppelin. Except I like Led Zeppelin).

*** Keith Moon is the greatest drummer of all time. Not technically. Technically, he's actually one of the worst. Seriously. But he created his own sound and style that has never been duplicated. And all the master drum technicians of rock -- Neil Peart, John Bonham, Phil Collins, Dave Grohl -- list him as a major influence.

Plus, those double bass runs towards the end of "Bargain" are pretty awesome..

*** Pete Townshend once slammed his guitar over Abbie Hoffman's head and booted him off the stage at Woodstock. He also did this at Long Beach Arena in 1971. Keith Moon once drove a Bentley into a hotel swimming pool. And collapsed onstage after consuming a half-dozen elephant tranquilizers. And super-glued all his hotel room furniture to the ceiling. And was banned from Holiday Inns for life. Oh, and did I mention that Pete once slammed his guitar over Abbie Hoffman's head? That, people, is rock 'n roll ...

*** ... and yet, has there ever been a more articulate, thought-provoking rock star than Townshend? He often wrote about alienation and human frailty. He spoke for the disenfranchised youth who couldn't quite put into words what they were feeling ("I Can't Explain"), or who were frustrated by a power structure they weren't a part of ("Won't Get Fooled Again"), or both ('Quadrophenia'). Writing a song like "Bell Boy" as Moon's theme is pure brilliance.

And how many Townshend lyrics have become catch phrases. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss," "Hope I die before I get old," "the kids are alright" (the latter a must for any story about a rookie-dominated sports team).

Leave Vikings, hobbits and riding white mares in the footsteps of dawn to Led Zeppelin. I'll take, "We're the slaves of the phony leaders/Breathe the air we have blown you."

And Pete cared. I'll never forget a line from a Spin magazine article more than 20 years ago about loving The Who: "Like Mick Jagger gave a (bleep) about a young kid living in the middle of winter in Denmark. Pete cared. He spoke for us, and to us."

*** They're also one of the most underrated bands of all-time. Among their peers, they're one of the few never to have a No. 1 album or song. Bands you'd never consider (Jethro Tull, Moody Blues, Yes, the Guess Who) accomplished one or both of those feats. "Peers" like the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Floyd and the Dead sold tons more albums and/or concert tickets. Of their peers, only The Kinks were probably more underrated than The Who.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but it's time to focus back on hoops. Should be a good one tonight with UConn-NC State. And a good one tomorrow night with Pete and Rog. Do yourself a favor, if you've got an extra $150 or so and you've never seen The Who, zip down to the Garden tomorrow night or Mohegan Sun on Sunday and check them out. This time may truly be the last time.

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