The Who completed their first farewell tour in 1982, but they just keep coming back for more.
The legendary British band’s current Moving On! Tour may or may not be their last, but Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are still moving forward, debuting new songs from a studio album due out in November. They’ll be backed by a full band and symphony orchestra this Friday at the Xcel Energy Center, revisiting their hit singles as well as the deep cuts from a catalog that helped shape rock’n’roll as an album format.
The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were already firmly established as the top bands of the British Invasion when “My Generation” and the album of the same name arrived in late 1965, quickly establishing The Who as part of the scene’s core trio. My Generation featured multiple James Brown covers, with the band impressively leaving their own mark on Brown’s minor hit “I Don’t Mind,” but Townshend was already becoming a restlessly creative songwriter. And he had one of the most dynamic rhythm sections of all time: drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle, who contributed songs including the goofy novelty “Boris the Spider” and the ferocious instrumental “The Ox.”
The nine-minute “A Quick One, While He’s Away” (1966) was Townshend’s first experiment in unspooling a narrative over several tunes, and it laid the groundwork for bigger projects to follow. The Moving On! Tour has leaned heavily on the band’s two most famous album-length rock operas. Recent shows have opened with a suite of songs from 1969’s Tommy, including “1921” and “The Acid Queen,” and closes with tracks from 1973’s Quadrophenia like “The Punk and the Godfather.” But the most notable obscurity in recent setlists is “Imagine a Man,” a beautifully vulnerable song from 1975’s The Who By Numbers that the band had never played live before 2019.
Moon’s death in 1978 and Entwistle’s death in 2002 have left later Who albums lacking some of the band’s distinctive thunder, but hearing Daltrey sing Townshend’s songs remains a unique pleasure. And they’ve had enough gas in the tank for late career highlights like “Mike Post Theme,” an homage to TV theme song composer Mike Post that appeared the band’s most recent album, 2006’s Endless Wire.