History LIVE: The Who @ Palace Theatre, 11/10/1969
The day Tommy reached puberty
by Ray Katz
(Originally published on 11-14-1969 Albany Student Press)
Entwistle’s pulsating rhythm danced around the musical twine, painting the words in leather black and the notes in a blood red. The four strings vibrated at a perfect rate to all around them, highlighting and underscoring, poking at the musical tones and aesthetic barbarism. Moon’s flailing arms crashed around the skins that circled him, flagellating the cymbals at a frantic pace, almost pounding the double basses with his flying hair.
Daltrey’s voice played hide and seek with the music, one minute occupying the platform upfront, leading the group down the briar path of primitivism, the next sticking its melodious neck through the chain mail wall of sound. All this while white fringes splashed around him, mikes and wires doing pirouettes through the air and finally settling in his hand.
Townshend’s guitar was a weapon, spitting out its bullets of pure energy into an enthusiastic crowd. With every leap he seemed to stomp out another note, every kick producing a shrill whine, every jump causing the instrument to gnash its teeth, the right arm, a propellor building a rock-n-roll Tower of Babel to reach God. November 10, 1969. ‘The Who” came to Albany.
The Who are a wonderful group of individuals who turn out the best rock-n-roll of most anybody else today, with the possible exception of the Rolling Stones. The group’s debut album, filled simply, THE WHO, gave the listener a feast of good driving rock-n-roll. Their latest and most acclaimed project, the rock opera TOMMY is, again, rock-n-roll.
The Who went through close to seven years of rock development on their own. All this while The Beatles experimented with sixteen-track tape machines and forty piece orchestra’s playing backwards; while Ravi Shankar’s music influenced everyone from George Harrison to the Byrds; while well-known individuals got together to cut extemporaneous albums of midnight jams; while fivesomes added two saxes and a trumpet to become eightsomes; and while Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page made heavy music a top seller. Yet they remained basically the same and never compromised their position or ideas.
There are numerous people who, taken at face value, are individually better at their instruments than The Who. Townshend lacks the technique of an Eric Clapton or the speed of an Alvin Lee; Ginger Baker, it can be argued, is a more complete drummer than Keith Moon; numerous people qualify as better bass players than John Entwistle; Roger Daltrey is certainly not the finest vocalist in music today. However, throw these four personalities together, add a pinch of Chuck Berry, a dash of Elvis Presley, and a hell of a lot of energy, mix well, and the result is a truly meaningful entity.
The four have been together for years and know how the others think and play. Each other’s every move is known. This constitutes something entirely different from groups such as Blind Faith, Led Zeppelin, or the defunct Jeff Beck Group. These groups are transitory in nature, with members being together for a few months or a year and then spitting for another group.
The result is not a music group, but a group of musicians, an entity diametrically opposed to The Who. And it is these groups, the latter, that leave the permanent impressions upon rock music, the Who’s, Beatles, Stones, or Kinks.
Monday night a rock-n-roll group played at the Palace Theater to 2800 people. Monday night a rock-n-roll group put on a phenomenal performance, playing meaningful music. Monday night was the best musical night in Albany in six years. Monday night. Tommy reached puberty. Monday night…