UPDATE: The Who has announced a rescheduled show for Houston on April 30, 2020 at Toyota Center. All tickets for the original date will be honored.
The second iconic British act in the last few months after The Rolling Stones rolled into Houston to solidify its legacy as one of the most influential rock acts of all time. Unfortunately, the group couldn't make it halfway through its set.
The Who celebrated its 55th year as a band this year and with the remaining living members — singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend — hovering around three-quarters of a century with nothing much left to accomplish in their storied career.
Backed by the stellar session drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr's son); bassist and University of North Texas grad Jon Button; and Pete's brother, Simon Townshend, on backup guitar and vocals, the bandmates acted as if they still had a chip firmly on their collective shoulders. A full-scale orchestra added the requisite dramatics.
Then, after eight songs, it was over.
The Who, formed in London in 1964, always played the younger, bratty underdog to the Big Two in the U.K.: The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. But it made just as much of an impact coming out of the gate with a decade of stone-cold classic albums.
Playing in front of a packed Toyota Center audience, they were set to lean into two of their most influential concept albums: the 1969 release Tommy and 1973's Quadrophenia.
The band came out in fine form, despite the elder Townshend apologizing "the night would start off slow," as they worked through a mini-suite from the groundbreaking album Tommy. "Overture" made it clear the orchestra behind them would make this a special night with extra layers of sound, adding heft to songs from an album that would eventually be turned into a feature film starring Elton John and a hit Broadway play.
And it did start off slow, with "Overture" laying into the orchestral arrangements of the classic Tommy. The band picked up steam through that album's "1921," "Amazing Journey," and "Sparks." Killer single "Pinball Wizard" got the middle-to-older aged fans off their feet, and Townshend sounded fantastic during the sprawling "We're Not Gonna Take It." After the mini-suite concluded, Townshend alluded to the band's history-making set 50 years earlier: "Even when we played at Woodstock, Keith Moon asked the crowd to keep it down because it was a f*cking opera."
The Daltrey-led vocal of "Who Are You," known by a younger generation as the start of the hit show CSI, had the energy in the arena amped up. Then goosebumps were sufficiently raised with "Eminence Front," with an amazing display of guitar wizardry that recalled Townshend as the most inventive guitarist of his generation. It was the start of a fantastic, all-around performance.
A quick break and then Townshend came to the mic to tell the audience the band could not go on.
"We'll come back as soon as we can," Townshend said. "There's a bit of an issue where we do one day on, one day off. ... Roger's vocal surgeon insists he has a day off. So when we can come back, I don't know, but I swear to you, when we come back, we will honor your tickets."
A sense of shock quickly spread through the arena as fans spilled out onto the streets.
The group's killer start added to the unfortunate circumstances of the cancellation. An elder crowd was there to see their heroes, and the room was starting to get into night when the rug was pulled from under them.
Many fans had already scored their mod logo concert T-shirts, and one fan exiting Toyota Center reacted, "I'm disappointed."
The cancellation follows other shows in which Daltrey threatened to shut down the production due to being extremely allergic to marijuana smoke. CultureMap could not confirm this was the reason for the show ending prematurely. A representative from the Toyota Center offers: "Due to unforeseen circumstances, The Who concert tonight has been postponed to a later date. More info will be available soon."
Whatever the reason, everyone in attendance hoped for Daltrey's speedy recovery and The Who's quick return to finish an amazing start of a career-spanning set.
"We're Not Gonna Take It"
"Who Are You"
"Imagine a Man"
"Hero Ground Zero"