Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 8:38 pm | Fair 53º


Paul Mann: The Who Closes Out First Weekend of Desert Trip

Pete Townshend and The Who perform their classic gems on the third day of opening weekend of the Desert Trip music festival. Click to view larger
Pete Townshend and The Who perform their classic gems on the third day of opening weekend of the Desert Trip music festival. (L. Paul Mann / Noozhawk photo)

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The third day of the historic Desert Trip concert was another hot and dusty one, with fans sporting bandanas over their faces looking a bit like Poncho Villa’s army. The trying conditions didn’t keep music fans from arriving early. For some inexplicable reason, the crowd seemed to be much younger this final day of the first weekend.

The Who opened the show with an explosive wall of sound and an irreverent spirit carried over from their youthful days. The ringmaster of the affair was singer-guitarist Pete Townshend. The feisty wit of the band's chief songwriter was on display throughout the set as he was virtually the only member of the band to constantly banter with the crowd. The septuagenarian Townshend referred to people in the pit as a “couple of old bags” and constantly reminded the crowd of how old they and the band were. At one point the guitarist quipped, “Good luck with the election,” which wryly summed up much of the crowd's feelings.

Townshend joined by original lead singer Roger Daltrey led the current incarnation of The Who through a fierce two-hour set. Although the current version of The Who in concert is more like a Broadway musical version of the original fierce foursome, the sheer quality of the music has stood the test of time. It was impossible to replace perhaps the best rhythm section ever in rock music — drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle. But Daltrey and Townshend have assembled a masterful new band to continue the legacy.

Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr, plays awesome drums and at times seems to channel the moods and expressions of the late Moon. Pino Palladino does a less remarkable job of channeling the energy of former bassist Entwistle, but he is an adequate musician. The brother of Townshend, Simon helps the original guitar legend get through the more complicated solos these days. Three keyboard players augment the sound, making the live performance sound larger than life.

The longest opening set of Desert Trip featured many of the band's classic gems, including "My Generation," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Join Together," "Pinball Wizard," "Baba O’Riley" and "Won’t Get Fooled Again." Daltrey belted out most of the lyrics in fine form, although he had to alter some of the high notes, which he no longer possesses in his vocal range.

Just before ending with the classic "I Can See for Miles," Townshend told the crowd the song came “such a long f***ing time ago — we were 1967’s version of Adele or Lady Gaga or Rihanna or Bieber.” He also said, “Roger and I are so glad to be out here at our age, and I couldn’t do it without Roger.”

Roger Waters closed the massive Desert Trip experience in grand form. While most of the Pink Floyd material he played was the same as his marathon 3½-hour concert at Coachella in 2008, the presentation was far different. That show featured many of the original Floyd props, including the massive flying pig that infamously blew away during the concert. The show at Desert Trip was a much more modern digital interpretation of the songs, although a few of the old props made their way onto the stage, including the giant Dark Side of the Moon multicolored laser prism, and the massive quadrophenic sound system.

Waters did focus more on the 1977 Floyd Animals album than in his tours of recent years. The set included a massive factory backdrop complete with giant emerging smokestacks from the cover of that album. Videos of songs from the album were reworked to show Donald Trump with the body of a pig. Trump's racist rants also were posted across the giant video screens, while the band fiercly played lyrics from the album that aptly fit the politics of the day. A smaller version of the infamous floating pig even made an appearance adorned with Trump's face before a final video in giant letters spelled out “Trump Is a Pig.” Waters also read “Why Cannot the Good Prevail,” a poem he wrote in 2004 during the election of President George W. Bush, obviously alluding to the similarities with Trump.

A group of local children joined him on stage wearing shirts that read “Derriba El Muro” for The Wall track “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” and he finished the set and the first weekend of the festival with “Comfortably Numb.”

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.

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