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December 17, 2017

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The Who surpasses expectations for the Colosseum’s first rock residency

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Ethan Miller/Getty

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend during The Who’s first residency show at the Colosseum on July 29.

Two immediately striking things from The Who’s show at Caesars Palace on Tuesday, Aug. 1:

1. This is the first rock-band residency to hit the Colosseum since the venue made its debut in March 2003. That might not be completely surprising, considering this is the house that Celine built, and that the other highly successful headlining shows feature more pop-oriented performers like Elton John or Rod Stewart. But there were two country music residencies (Shania Twain and Reba McEntire with Brooks & Dunn) signed up before rock arrived with The Who on July 29. It’s another mark in the continuing evolution of live entertainment on the Strip, but it probably could have happened several years ago.

2. At 72 years old, Pete Townshend is still doing the power slide. That’s incredible. Townshend has many classic guitar stage moves in his arsenal — he utilized the windmill several times on Tuesday night, too — but the power slide is the one, plastered all over YouTube with videos titled “The Coolest Thing Ever,” and further immortalized by Jack Black in his Tenacious D movie. There’s never been any report of Celine power-sliding across the Colosseum stage.

Famously fronted by surviving original members Townshend and Roger Daltrey, 73, The Who’s current touring band is eight strong, anchored by Zak Starkey on drums and John Button on bass. Its residency setlist is very similar to the band’s first show at Caesars in May 2016, although one difference from Tuesday night was opening with 1964’s “I Can’t Explain.” Townshend and Daltrey both sound terrific and powerful, with the charismatic frontman Daltrey easily hitting strong, high notes in “Love, Reign O’er Me.” The audience was on its feet for most of the show, with “Pinball Wizard” serving as the strongest singalong. The hits exploded, but the band was at its best during “Behind Blue Eyes,” and the rollicking “5:15” from the band’s second rock opera, 1973’s Quadrophenia.

Townshend’s between song banter was dominated by jokes and sarcasm about playing Vegas, and whether or not The Who fits on the Strip. After a fun run through “Pictures of Lily” early in the set, he playfully jabbed, “They just love those rarities, the Las Vegas audience.” Earlier, introducing “My Generation,” he questioned whether anyone in the Colosseum was anywhere near his age, but there were plenty of happy concert-goers in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Townshend has indicated The Who could have a longer future in Las Vegas, and after all the joking around, he reinforced that while they are so successful they don’t need to be here, they’re here because they want to be. Then, after “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” they introduced the band and left the stage to massive applause, leaving — for now — five more Colosseum shows.

The Who wraps up its run at Caesars Palace with concerts on Aug. 4, 7, 9 and 11. Find info and tickets at thecolosseum.com.

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