Erik Kabik Photography/ erikkabik.com
Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | 2 a.m.
The Who Baba O’Riley
Being a legend affords a certain latitude: You get to make fun of whatever and whomever whenever you like.
Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend reminded of that status Sunday night at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace. Daltrey meandered across the stage and noticed its tackiness.
“This is a no-slide stage,” he said, stamping his feet along the surface. “I feel like I am stuck in … glue! Is this for Celine or Elton?”
Then Daltrey challenged Townshend to try and slide across the stage. “I’ll do it later,” the guitarist answered. “I swear, I’ll do it later.”
Then Townshend, who turned 71 on May 19, instead offered to “kick over the microphone,” then knocked over the mic stand with a lethargic swing of his leg.
“Wait, that’s not what I meant,” Townshend said, laughing, as he reassembled the equipment. “I meant kick over the microphone, not kick the microphone over.”
Such flippancy was displayed throughout the night, but never at the expense of some of the greatest rock ’n’ roll ever produced as The Who roared through Caesars Palace during its 50th anniversary celebration.
The show was fulfilling the postponed Sept. 19 date. The 72-year-old Daltrey had suffered from “an unspecified virus” at the time, and four West Coast dates were wiped out.
The band was in evident health Sunday. The Who is at once rock royalty and one of contemporary music’s most enduring brands. One of the few remaining active members of the British Invasion, joining The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the Holy Trinity of that collective, The Who can still crank out the classics.
The presentation delivered by the band in its 50th year is loaded with great video effects and dazzling lighting. Repeated images of The Who’s past, including antique images of the late Keith Moon and John Entwistle, played across the Colosseum’s LED screen.
One memorable shot was of Moon, in drag, during “Pictures of Lily.” Silhouettes of the band inside an optic visage punctuated “Behind Blue Eyes,” the glowing arcade game reminded, “That deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball,” and a sheet of precipitation served as the backdrop of “Rain on Me.”
But even in the refined confines of the Colosseum, where Townshend joked that Elton stars in the “I’m a (Effing) Billionaire Piano,” the great appeal of The Who remains as a rock band. They can still deliver that, with Daltrey sounding robust and Townsend effortlessly working his searing solos.
Neither can reach the heights of a generation ago, of course — Townshend proved that by his gymnastics with the mic stand — but they are still impressive musically and vocally. And when Daltrey was called upon to scream at the end of “We Won’t Get Fooled Again,” his shriek of “Yeaaaaah!” filled the theater.
The Who gets it in terms of building a setlist for a show that was all about the hits. “My Generation,” “Baba O’Riley,” “Who Are You,” “You Better You Bet,” “I Can See for Miles,” “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Eminence Front” among the highlights.
Even with this resounding performance, the band is not booked to return to Las Vegas, at all, the next nearby date the all-time legends show at Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif., from Oct. 7-9. The Who joins Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Roger Waters in the three-night event.
That event, also produced by AEG Live, would make a great spectacle for Las Vegas, right? No such luck.
But Daltrey and Townshend did offer Las Vegas nostalgia, recalling an early visit to the city to the very hotel in which they were performing, in 1967.
“We were with Herman & The Hermits, and we were guests of this hotel. We didn’t have our passports and needed to escape our room by climbing out of the windows to the garden,” Townshend remembered. “Maybe they thought we were trying to escape Herman & The Hermits, which at the time we had actually considered.
“ … We weren’t allowed in the lobby of the hotel because it was designated as the casino. … But we saw James Brown, I saw James Brown twice in Las Vegas, and he was (effing) fantastic.”
“They wouldn’t let us in the lobby, Pete, because we looked like a bunch of girls,” Daltrey corrected. “I had hair a lot longer than mine is at the moment. Aaaargh! The hippies are here!”
There was a great deal of laughter at that line, and Daltrey called out, “The kids are all right!” It’s a song title, a way of life, and the ultimate truth for The Who.
Transport yourself to the opulent and excessive Roman Empire at Caesars Palace. But the ever-changing Caesars Palace is far from ancient. The hotel and casino is constantly raising the bar for what visitors can expect in a Vegas resort experience.
Caesars Palace features 3,348 rooms and suites in five towers, including the new luxury boutique Nobu Hotel and Restaurant, which opened Feb. 4, 2013, in the totally remodeled Centurian Tower. Caesars features 129,000 square feet of gaming space, including the Strip’s largest poker room and a 250-seat sports book. Other amenities include about two dozen restaurants, a four-level shopping mall, four pools, a spa, Pure and Poetry nightclubs and Pussycat Dolls.
Dining options include restaurants from world-renown chefs Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay and, on Feb. 4, 2013, Nobu Matsuhisa.
You never know what characters you’ll run into at Caesars with regular performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Bette Midler, Elton John and maybe even the emperor himself.