That freeze frame of intensity translated well in the hands of several of these local performers, most particularly the drummers, each of whom had a field day taking a run at the inspired racket made decades ago by the late Keith Moon.

That freeze frame of intensity translated well in the hands of several of these local performers, most particularly the drummers, each of whom had a field day taking a run at the inspired racket made decades ago by the late Keith Moon.

Interplay between guitar and bass — and there is no better document of the give-and-take between Townshend and John Entwistle than “Leeds”– got a solid go-round from the likes of Permanent Green Light, John Easdale’s band and the Jigsaw Seen; if they aren’t already working these elements into their acts, perhaps they saw the light Saturday.

The downfall of most performers was the vocal end — perhaps more of a testimony to Roger Daltrey than to Townshend. Being a standout among these 15 performances was as much a case of reverence (Jigsaw Seen) as it was capturing the Who’s vigor (Plimsouls) or lending an individualistic interpretation (Ann Magnuson).

Jigsaw Seen’s “Pictures of Lily” was picture perfect, a tough and impeccable version of gritty British pop circa 1967. The Plimsouls — and in its current state this re-formed band could well make another run for best band in the U.S. — smoked its way through three tracks, none better than the romp on “Run, Run, Run.”

Drummer Clem Burke gave the best Moon impression of the night, swinging wildly yet coherently through passages before busting up the kit and knocking heads and instruments with his bandmates.

Magnuson’s dirgelike reading of “Acid Queen,” with a few snippets of “Teenage Wasteland” tossed in, was the visual stunner of the evening. Wearing a hooded cape over a white evening gown, Magnuson’s words built to a boil before the cape was shed, blood was poured over her from a small kettle, and her torture grew in depth and character. That she retained a level of dark humor throughout — misquoting Townshend, beaming wacky ’60s cartoons behind her, running in place a la Daltrey — made a fan’s shout of “Tina who?” at the song’s conclusion afine commentary on her full-blown reading.

Kudos to promoter Paul Rock, who has turned these tributes into engaging and fun affairs (past honorees have included Brian Wilson, the Kinks and the Everly Brothers), each benefiting a well-chosen charity. (This time out was NARAS’ Grammys in the Schools program). Show was recorded for a future vinyl-only release.

Concert’s drawbacks — beyond the indecipherably horrendous performance by the Muffs — were its snail-like pacing and the overwrought stagehands and emcee , who worried that acts wouldn’t heed warnings not to bust up the gear. This is the Who that was being celebrated — to do it right requires feedback, shoving guitars into amps, kicking over equipment, and a certain level of anarchy.

White Flag and a few pals closed the evening on a ragged “My Generation,” doing a slo-mo demolition act that closed the nearly four-hour evening on an appropriate level of humor.

The Songs of Pete Townshend

Production

The Songs of Pete Townshend (Morgan-Wixson Theatre, Santa Monica; 200 seats; $ 12) Presented by Wild Honey and BMI.

With

Performers: The Plimsouls, Ann Magnuson, the Muffs, John Easdale, Love Jones, the Delphines, Jigsaw Seen, Chip and Tony Kinman, Permanent Green Light, Mike Randle, 7 Deadly 5, Cosmo Topper, White Flag , Ye Olde English, Jon Brion. Reviewed Feb. 10, 1996. The long and varied songwriting career of Pete Townshend was hardly a care at the benefit marathon centered on the Who guitarist's work. The lion's share of performers celebrated the image locked in from 1970's "Live at Leeds"-- the wildman leaping, knees together and bent, the windmill strum of the guitar and the absolute mayhem that preceded the instrument destruction that concluded old Who shows.
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