The incredible atmosphere and energy generated Monday at the Hollywood Bowl — where the surviving members of the Who opened their delayed U.S. tour — made for a truly unforgettable experience. The opening chords struck by guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Pete Townshend — who wore very dark glasses during the first few numbers — sent chills from the stage all the way up and into the star-lit Hollywood Hills.
Band members did not speak directly to the audience until after three or four songs had passed. However, the song titles and the lyrics spoke volumes about their feelings regarding the shocking death of bassist John Entwistle, who suffered a heart attack Thursday in a Las Vegas hotel.
Townshend, his glasses removed, was the first band member to address the packed house in between songs: “Tonight is for John Entwistle, who is the true spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, and who lives on in the music we play.” The Who, with Pino Palladino taking Entwistle’s place, then launched into “Who Are You,” the band’s last hit record with drummer Keith Moon.
The music chosen felt exactly right for the occasion, which in many cases meant the set list included some tunes not usually heard when the Who plays live. These were ferocious, adrenalized performances — “I Can’t Explain,” “Substitute,” “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” (“Right or wrong, anyway I choose, nothing gets in my way”), “Another Tricky Day,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Love Reign O’er Me,” “Amazing Journey.”
So many wonderful songs were played over two hours and 10 minutes, covering just about every phase of the band’s Hall of Fame career, including the closing encore segment lifted from the 1969 rock opera “Tommy,” which brought the incredible music to a close.
Daltrey and Townshend then lowered their instruments and hugged each other, and they waved and saluted as poignant images of Entwistle were shown on two large video monitors.