As big fans of The Who, we are happy to report that their songs still packed an amazing punch at last night’s benefit concert at Carnegie Hall. To put this into perspective, it has been nearly four decades since their first hit single, “I Can’t Explain” — performed last night by The Postelles, who absolutely nailed it. From Roger Daltrey’s frenzied stage antics to the falsetto backup vocals, it felt like what we imagine a Who concert was like in the ’60s.
In fact, most of the night felt like an incredible time warp, beginning with the Overture from Tommy performed by the fresh faced kids of the Music Unites Youth Choir and led by bandleader extraordinaire Steven Bernstein while playing his slide trumpet like an electric guitar.
Sondre Lerche stole the show early on with a solo rendition of “I’m a Boy.” Using just his voice and acoustic guitar, he effortlessly filled the massive concert hall, conveying all the tension of the song and then some. We knew Sondre was talented but never realized how great of a performer he is.
Kaki King put her spirited stamp on “Pinball Wizard,” drawing a lot of rhythmic fury from her guitar. Her performance could have benefited from the terrific house band, The sugarCane Cups, who supported many of the night’s special guests including former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell, who performed the chilling ballad “Behind Blue Eyes” with disarming warmth.
Willie Nile didn’t let his crutch stop him from wailing on “The Kids are Alright,” even throwing it aside midway through while lost in song. This energy was embodied by a number of acts including The Smithereens, who ended “Sparks/The Seeker” with an intense instrumental jam, and Beatles cover band The Fab Faux, who costumed up for the occasion with mod threads and the iconic Who t-shirt to deliver a powerhouse medley that began with “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and ended triumphantly with “Listening to You.”
Frankly, we never wanted this show to end, but were a little disappointed with the final act, Gaslight Anthem. We loved their last album and had high hopes for the New Jersey punk band, but they failed to capture the magic of “Baba O’Riley,” largely because they didn’t play many of the song’s difficult riffs. Still, singer Brian Fallon captivated us when he belted, “I don’t need to fight / to prove I’m right / I don’t need to be forgiven.”
They were followed with a surprise performance by Patti Smith doing “My Generation.” She delivered it as a call to action for our generation to continue what her generation began. We usually wince when artists get up on soapboxes, but it was so heartfelt we didn’t mind at all. We love Patti!
The finale brought everyone back onstage for a rousing send off with “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” bringing us to our feet with the rest of the hall to revel one more time in the lasting power of The Who.