The Who Hits Back in Portland, October 2022—Replacing Chaos with Dignity

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Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend earlier in The Who Hits Back! Tour (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for The Who)

When Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey strolled nonchalantly onto the stage at Portland, Oregon’s Moda Center the evening of Oct. 20, 2022, it seemed as though the two surviving members of The Who would be letting the orchestra and band of nearly 50 musicians behind them do the heavy lifting. It has been 40 years since The Who announced their farewell from the concert stage. The frenetic chaos of the band had been forever lost when Keith Moon died four years earlier. Townshend was exhausted, addicted and creatively spent, and Daltrey had admitted that “it would be a relief when it was all over.”

Turns out that wasn’t the end and through countless reunions and farewells the band played on. Still, with Daltrey and Townshend now both approaching 80, what should be expected from these two?

The show kicked off with the “Overture” from Tommy and immediately the chamber-sized orchestra—comprising about 40 musicians from Portland’s symphonic community, including strings, horns, timpani drums and woodwinds—provided the force majeure, the grandeur that Townshend’s first rock opera deserves.

Watch The Who perform the “Overture” from Tommy, with the full orchestra, on May 8, 2022

It was an inspired opening to the show, which continued with six songs from Tommy, but when Townshend whipped through the opening chords of “Pinball Wizard,” the energy shifted from orchestra to band, bringing the audience to its feet for the first time. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” followed, Daltrey coming into his own with reverberating strength. He doesn’t have the angelic falsetto of his earlier self, but his baritone is unwavering; when he sang the “See me, feel me, touch me, heal mechorus it still raised goosebumps. The audience, still on their feet, sang along as the song reached its crescendo with the anthemic I get the glory chorus. Rousing renditions of “Who Are You” and “Eminence Front” closed out the first of three sets.

Watch The Who perform “Who Are You” earlier in the tour

The orchestra took a break for the second set, leaving the touring band on stage for a rocking set that began with “You Better You Bet.” With the focus now entirely on the Who, Townshend demonstrated that his aggression and pin-sharp timing were as potent as always. His bouncy days of acrobatics are long gone but he opened “Won’t Get Fooled Again” with a windmill of power chords and continued to smash those chords throughout the song. Daltrey, too, no longer kicks around the stage like a bucking bronco but he still uses the mic cord like a lasso, albeit in a much tamer fashion than his younger days.

Related: An amazing 55 years earlier, The Who made their NYC debut

Nonetheless, on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” they both proved that their musical skills are still in full force. As the middle synth section of the song came to an end, Daltrey stood center stage with arm raised as if to say, “Wait for it.” You had to wonder if he could still do it. The answer was, yeah, he can, as he lets out a cathartic yowl, rock ’n’ roll’s greatest primal scream. More goosebumps.

Ringo’s son, Zak Starkey, has been a fixture of The Who since the mid-’90s, filling the unfillable shoes of his godfather, Keith Moon. With an omnipresent ray of golden light shining on him throughout the show, Starkey’s’s energy was relentless. He plays with the same fierceness of Moon but uses technical precision in place of Moon’s chaos. His skills were on display all night and he impressively replicated the drum sound that defined the sound of The Who.

Before the concert orchestra returned for the third set, band members and orchestra leaders Katie Jacoby on violin and Audrey Snyder on cello took center stage for a gorgeous rendition of “Behind Blue Eyes,” and Daltrey delivered a soulful vocal that brought a chill to the spine.

The third set of songs were from Quadrophenia. One wondered if it was the right move to have the orchestra return as the arena-rock energy that filled the venue quickly drained away on the next three songs: “The Real Me,” “I’m One” and “5:15.” But then, the instrumental track, “The Rock,” exploded with vivacity as the band and orchestra truly melded into the rockestra of Townshend’s operatic dreams. Townshend was on absolute fire as he led the way through this seven-minute opus, concluding with a sumptuous piano solo by Loren Gold that slowly transitioned to the opening chords of “Love Reign O’er Me.” Daltrey sang with utter vigor and passion and the band and orchestra played with such mastery that it felt as though they had given everything.

Watch The Who perform “The Rock” earlier in the tour

But, they hadn’t, and for the show-closing “Baba O’Riley,” a crowd rushed to the front of the stage like it was 1975. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

The night ended with Townshend giving a heartfelt and appreciative thank you to the audience for “still being there, taking the time, and spending the money” to come see them. And, Daltrey added, “Good night, good health and be lucky.”

Watch the Who perform “Baba O’Riley” in Portland in October 2022

We are lucky, indeed, that 40 years after saying farewell, The Who rock on with dignity, not accepting age as a limitation but rather an invitation to let their unparalleled musical abilities shine.

The Who Hits Back! 2022 Tour (Tickets for the remaining shows are available at Ticketmaster and here)
Oct 24 / AP Center / San Jose, CA
Oct 26 / Golden 1 Center / Sacramento, CA
Oct 28 / Honda Center / Anaheim, CA
Oct 30 / Ak Chin Pavilion / Phoenix, CA
Nov 01 / Hollywood Bowl / Los Angeles, CA
Nov 04 / Dolby Live at Park MGM / Las Vegas, NV
Nov 05 / Dolby Live at Park MGM / Las Vegas, NV

Related: Listings for 100s of classic rock tours

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Randy Miller
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