Los Angeles came alive when VH1 came to town to honor a rock institution: The Who. The network’s third annual VH1 Rock Honors, staged July 12 at the Pauley Pavilion on the campus of UCLA, was the first time the show celebrated the music of just one band. And oh, what a celebration it was!
The Rock Honors itinerary follows that younger artists come on stage and play the songs of the honoree before the main event. To that end, every band came to bat and hit their marks. The Foo Fighters opened the night with “Young Man Blues” and the classic “Bargain” from Who’s Next. Pearl Jam held nothing back when it came to delivering supereb versions of “Love Reign O'er Me” and “The Real Me,” both from Quadrophenia.
The Flaming Lips played a Tommy medley and Incubus fired off a couple of early Who singles, "I Can See For Miles" and "I Can't Explain." To keep things loose and fun, Tenacious D, featuring Jack Black and Kyle Gass, plucked out a spunky rendition of “Squeeze Box.”
The Who, of course, blew the roof off with a slew of staples including “Baba O'Riley,” “Who Are You,” “Won't Get Fooled Again” and “My Generation.” Throughout the night, Adam Sandler, Sean Penn, David Duchovny and other celebrities made the introductions, while taped tributes from luminaries like Sting, Coldplay and Billy Idol, along with vintage Who film clips, filled in the gaps.
Speaking with reporters, including Vintage Rock, on the red carpet before the show, Roger Daltrey felt that John Entwistle and Keith Moon, the gone-but-never-forgotten rhythm section of the Who, were “here tonight, here in spirit.”
Pressed about a follow-up to the Who’s 2006 album, Endless Wire, their first studio album in over two decades, the singer said it all depends on Pete Townshend. “You never know what he’s writing,” he said. “It might be a rock opera or it might be a Who album.”
Townshend feigned surprise about the possibility of a new Who album. “What new album?” he smirked. Asked about the influence that the Who has had on America, the guitarist unveiled an impish grin before blurting out: “I stole your music!”
Tickets sales from the concert benefited the efforts of various charities including The Double O Charity, Teenage Cancer Trust, The VH1 Save The Music Foundation and select VH1 Classic Rock Autism organizations.
You can catch VH1 Rock Honors: The Who on VH1, VH1 Classic and MHD. Select performances, as well as celebrity interviews and other clips from the event are online at Rock.VH1.com.
~ Shawn Perry
VIntage Rock Videos: The Who Perform
"Baba O'Riley" on VH1 Rock Honors