The Who in Concert!

9:00pm Monday, December 17, 1979.  The lights dim as The Who takes the stage to play Washington DC's Capital Centre, a 22,000-seat venue.  You, your date, and eight of your high-school buddies command the best seats in the house.  If life boils down to a few key experiences, this is certainly one of them

These tickets were precious as diamonds in the days preceding.  The band had played the same venue a few nights earlier (Thursday, December 13th).  You were there too, so you know just what to expect tonight.  Your seats were good for that show, but nothing like tonight's.  This second concert was scheduled unexpectedly, and like last week's, tickets sold out in minutes.  Saturday night, as part-time work in your effort to make some college money, you were working the Capital Centre's box office counter in Hechts (a local department store).  It was a quiet evening.   Everybody knew the concert was sold out... and so not to bother asking.  Out of boredom, you queried the computer to see if any seats would come up.   "Section 2, Row A, Seats 1 & 2."  Your adrenalin immediately peaked.  Certainly there must be some mistake.  That's front row, dead center.   With instinctive reflex, you hit the "print" button, and you heard the familiar chatter as two tickets were generated.  You queried and printed four more times.  You didn't know how big this available block was, so you just printed pairs of tickets until the supply was exhausted.  No mistake.  Ten front row tickets.   Buddy, all your Christmasses just came at once!

So there you sit, in a chair that at least 21,999 other people wish they had.   Exactly two weeks earlier, eleven Ohio concert-goers were trampled to death in a stampede to gain entry into The Who's gig there, a tragedy still fresh in everyone's mind.   An experience worth dying for has just been handed to you on a platter.  So, won't you come and join the party, dressed to kill?

The Set List

Main Set:

  • Substitute
  • I Can't Explain
  • Baba O'Riley
  • The Punk And The Godfather
  • Boris the Spider
  • Sister Disco
  • Behind Blue Eyes
  • Music Must Change
  • Drowned
  • Who Are You
  • 5.15
  • Pinball Wizard
  • See Me Feel Me
  • Long Live Rock
  • My Generation
  • I Can See For Miles
  • Sparks
  • Won't Get Fooled Again
  • Dancing In The Streets
  • Dance It Away
  • Magic Bus

Roger Daltrey

Man, this guy's muscles have muscles!  And it's not the grotesque, steriodal look of a professional bodybuilder.  It's just a veteran rocker in peak physical condition.  Roger's dressed to exploit this fact, fortunately not in the bare-chested, fringe leather jacket look with shoulder-length hair of say, Woodstock. Pinned on his short-sleeved black t-shirt is a photo-button of Keith Moon, the band's maniacal drummer who passed away months earlier.  By sharp contrast to Keith, Roger is one dude who exudes self-respect.  Damn, I hope I look that good at his age.

Daltrey is lead singer, who also plays serious harmonica.  He also pulverizes tambourines (more on this later), and though not tonight, he is known to pick up the occasional guitar (e.g. on the "Eminence Front" soundcheck video).   Roger's trademark, apart from bushy blonde hair, is the way he swings the microphone around by it's cord, up high in the air, before catching it.  That's why the mike has medical tape wrapped around it, to keep him from cutting his hands up in the process.  No headset or cordless mike for this guy.  Roger that!

Pete Townshend

As the real creative genius of the group, Pete writes the tunes and plays lead guitar.   Though he leaves most of the singing to Roger, Pete is a seasoned vocalist with some excellent solo albums to his name. 

Pete's trademark, apart from his scarecrow appearance, is his penchant for smashing his guitar at the end of performances.   He'd conspire with Keith Moon, who would detonate explosives loaded in his drumset, to totally wreck the stage, thereby expending any remaining energy.  Pete even rammed guitar necks into speakers and amps!   

John Entwistle

As bass guitarist, John's trademark is doing absolutely nothing.  That's right, nothing.  He does an excellent job playing bass guitar, but as for anything else on-stage, don't raise any expectations.  The man just stands there, perfectly still.  He just stakes out a corner and remains calm, so as to not risk getting hurt.  He's in permanent "energy conservation" mode.  This has earned John the nickname of  "The Ox."

Kenney Jones

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's Who purists whining to the effect, "Aw, the band's just not the same since Keith Moon died."  Of course Keith's shoes were big ones to fill.  But let's hand it to remaining charter band members Roger, Pete, and John.  They made the best of a bad situation, and got on with the job...

Enter Kenney Jones

Honestly, I never saw Kenney before or after these Washington DC gigs, but I am a Kenney-generation Who fan.  Indeed, if he's good enough for the rest of the band, he's good enough for me.  And more importantly, he's doing a damned fine job tonight!   Hey...

The Kid is Alright!  

Besides...  somebody's gotta keep an eye on Pete!


Remember that tamborine I mentioned earlier?  Well, here's Pete playing it. He hands it over to Roger, who in turn pulverizes it through "Goodbye Sister Disco."  You'd seen him do the same thing while performing the same song, at their concert a few nights earlier.  But what did Daltrey do with it when he was finished?  He handed the broken instrument over to a stage assistant, who most likely disposed of it.  (After all, the band would have to start each concert with an unbroken tambourine, and what would the stage assistant do with a stack of old broken ones?) 

You want that tambourine.  You want it badly, so bad you can taste it...  How do you expect to get it?  I mean, you can't just jump on stage and grab it, can you?  Can you?  Of course not!  (Imagine that, having the best seat in the house, but spending the second half of the show in the parking lot!)  You hand your camera to your date.  You stand up.  You reach out your hand. You look lead singer Roger Daltrey directly in the eyes.  You scream, "Gimme that tambourine!!!"  There's no way he hears you, above Pete's power chords.  But he knows what you want.  He sees it in your eyes, and he sees your outstretched hand.  He knows not to hand that thing to his assistant, doesn't he?   He'll throw it to you, won't he?

YES!!!  He throws the tambourine on the stage where it bounces once, from a point between you and him.  Gravity, and momentum, and maybe the hand of God move that baby right towards you, where it bounces a second time at your feet.  You drop to your knees, seize this prize you so richly deserve, and guard it by pressing it against your body while crouching into a fetal position.  The competition for concert trophies is fierce for any rock & roll band, but few would disagree The Who is the greatest band in history.   

Fortunately, the crowd quickly backs off, once realizing you're not parting with your prize.  You know that look on an athlete's face when s/he wins gold at the Olympics?  That look is you, now.  You hold your prize high, for the world to see.  You just caught The Who's tambourine!!!


Dennis Bowler's
'The Who in Oz'
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