The Who is one of the most iconic and influential rock bands of the 20th century. Formed in 1964, the band helped define the sound of rock and roll in the 1960s and 1970s with hits like “My Generation,” “Pinball Wizard,” and “Baba O’Riley.” The Who was known for their energetic live performances, pioneering use of feedback and power chords, and destruction of instruments on stage.
Despite the death of drummer Keith Moon in 1978 and bassist John Entwistle in 2002, the Who continues to perform live concerts today with singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend as the remaining original members. So yes, the Who is still actively touring and performing their classic hits and newer material in front of adoring crowds.
Brief History of the Who
The Who was formed in London in 1964 with original members Roger Daltrey (vocals), Pete Townshend (guitar), John Entwistle (bass), and Keith Moon (drums). They became known for their energetic live shows which often included instrument destruction.
Their first hit song was 1965’s “I Can’t Explain” followed by “My Generation” with its famous line “Hope I die before I get old.” The band was very influential in the 1960s mod and counterculture movements.
In 1969, they released the rock opera Tommy which catapulted them to further success. Other notable albums include Who’s Next, Quadrophenia, and Who Are You. Tragedy struck when Keith Moon died of a drug overdose in 1978.
Despite the loss of Moon, the band continued successfully with replacements on drums. John Entwistle passed away in 2002 on the eve of a Who tour, but Daltrey and Townshend decided to carry on as a duo with touring musicians.
Who are the Current Members?
The Who’s current lineup consists of:
– Roger Daltrey – Vocals
– Pete Townshend – Guitar, vocals
– Zak Starkey – Drums (joined 1996)
– Simon Townshend – Guitar, vocals (joined 1996)
– Jon Button – Bass (joined 2017)
While Daltrey and Townshend are the only original surviving members, the new lineup adeptly performs classic Who material to the delight of longtime fans. Zak Starkey, son of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, has drummed for the Who since the 1990s and provides powerhouse percussion. Simon Townshend, Pete’s younger brother, also plays guitar and sings backing vocals.
What Songs Do they Play?
Despite being half a century old, many of the Who’s songs remain staples of FM rock radio today. As such, you can expect to hear all the big hits and fan favorites at a modern Who concert:
– “Baba O’Riley”
– “Who Are You”
– “Behind Blue Eyes”
– “Pinball Wizard”
– “You Better You Bet”
– “Eminence Front”
– “The Seeker”
– “My Generation”
– “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
Other tracks that are often rotated into set lists include “The Kids Are Alright,” “I Can See For Miles,” “I Can’t Explain,” “See Me Feel Me,” “5:15,” “Squeeze Box,” and many more.
While Daltrey’s vocals have understandably changed, the band still delivers high energy renditions of their classics. Townshend’s guitar playing remains top notch.
Do They Play New Material Too?
In addition to performing their catalog of hits, the current incarnation of The Who continues to put out new music. In 2006 they released the album Endless Wire, which included the song “It’s Not Enough” that became a top 5 hit on the Billboard US Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
In 2019, they released WHO, their first album of new material in 13 years. Songs like “Ball and Chain” and “I Don’t Wanna Get Wise” prove that Pete Townshend can still write great anthemic rock well into his 70s. The Who weaves new tracks into their live set lists, representing the band’s continued artistic vitality.
What are The Who Concerts Like?
Fans who attend a modern Who concert can expect a career-spanning set of classics and new material, delivered with the band’s characteristic energy and musicianship. Roger Daltrey’s voice may not hit the highest notes like it used to, but he remains an engaging frontman. Pete Townshend’s windmilling power chords on the guitar are always a thrill to behold.
The visuals have been upgraded over the years as well. State-of-the-art lighting, lasers, and video projection effects now accompany their performance. But The Who keeps it a relatively stripped down, guitar-driven rock show as they always have. The band feeds off the energy of the crowd as they have for over 50 years.
Here is a typical setlist and highlights from a recent show in Seattle to give an idea of what a Who concert is like today:
|Who Are You
|Iconic opener with Daltrey nailing the scream.
|Pulsing synth-heavy deep cut.
|Imagine a Man
|Melancholic new song from ‘WHO’ album.
|Singalong favorite during acoustic set.
|Behind Blue Eyes
|Townshend on solo acoustic guitar and vocals.
|Ball and Chain
|Powerful new rocker with full band.
|Won’t Get Fooled Again
|Epic closer with synthesizers and rocking guitars.
The band often shakes up the setlist by drawing from different eras, but this gives a representative overview. Expect about a two hour show with multiple encores. The blend of early mod rockers, 70s anthems, acoustic ballads, and new material makes for an exhilarating concert experience.
How Long Will They Continue Touring?
In a 2019 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Pete Townshend stated that he didn’t know how much longer The Who would continue to tour, saying “I’ve got to go out there and I’ve got to do my best. And if at the end of this I think, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ – I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to tell Roger [Daltrey]. And he’ll go, ‘If you go, I go.’”
However, both Daltrey and Townshend have expressed that playing live is something they still enjoy. As long as their health permits and fans keep showing up, The Who will likely keep performing periodically. But a final world tour or farewell concerts could happen anytime in the next few years.
Townshend is currently 77 years old and Daltrey is 78. Even though Townshend has struggled with some hearing issues and tinnitus, he seems able to still play electric guitar capably. As a vocalist, Daltrey remarkably still retains much of his range and power in his mid to late 70s.
Realistically, within 5 years or so it’s likely we’ll see a retirement from touring. But given their lifetime commitment to their music and fans, Daltrey and Townshend will likely keep playing as long as they are physically able.
What Led to The Who’s Longevity?
Several factors help explain the incredible longevity of The Who:
– **Timeless songs and classics**: Many Who songs like “My Generation” still resonate today and will live on long after the band is gone. Their catalogue spans early rock singles to concept albums to stadium anthems.
– **Still active and creative**: Unlike many legacy acts, The Who continue to put out new music and generate excitement for their contemporary work. Staying creative keeps them inspired to continue.
– **Legendary live act**: Even with just half the classic lineup, The Who’s live shows maintain their energy and musicianship, satisfying older fans while gaining new ones.
– **Loyal multigenerational fanbase**: They amassed millions of lifelong fans starting with their 1960s success who continue to support their tours and music. Their fanbase keeps regenerating with younger generations discovering their work.
– **Surviving members’ commitment**: Despite setbacks, including deaths of Moon and Entwistle, Daltrey and Townshend are as dedicated to their music and touring as ever. Their unflagging passion for performing keeps The Who going.
– **Musicianship**: Even at their ages today, Townshend and Daltrey retain skills on guitar and vocals that allow them to credibly perform Who material in concert. They prioritize quality over resting on past success.
Against the odds, The Who continue to embody the rebellious, energetic spirit that has sustained them across more than 50 years in music. Their songs, legacy, talent and continued ambition is what allows them to “still perform” today.
To summarize, yes the legendary rock band The Who are absolutely still actively performing live concerts today despite being formed back in 1964. The current line-up consists of original members Roger Daltrey on vocals and Pete Townshend on guitar, now in their late 70s, along with a talented backing band. Their shows feature a career-spanning setlist of smash hits, beloved album cuts, and some new material off their latest records. The band delivers these classic anthems with the same energy, passion, and musical chops that made them famous. While retirement may come in a few more years, The Who continue to entertain generations of old and new fans with their iconic brand of hard driving rock and roll. If you’re a fan who hasn’t seen them, now is still a prime opportunity to catch one of rock’s greatest live acts ever while you still can.