Pete Townshend -Vocals, Guitar; Roger Daltrey - Vocals, Harmonica, Guitar; John Entwistle - Vocals, Bass; Kenny Jones - Drums; Tim Gorman - Piano, Keyboards
Phase two of the Who's extraordinary career essentially began in 1978, with the death of their drummer Keith Moon and ended on December 17, 1982 with a pay-per-view television broadcast and global radio transmissions of what was billed as the Who's "Final Concert" at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. So explosive, suspenseful, and innovative a drummer was Moon that he could never be replaced, but with the help of former Faces drummer Kenny Jones, the Who soldiered on into the 1980s. Jones was a great, solid rock drummer, but his more conventional approach changed the band dynamic and not surprisingly, things would never be quite the same. Despite releasing three more hit albums and touring as successfully as ever with Jones on board, the Who planned their 1982 North American Tour to be their last. Roger Daltrey had been quoted in the Daily Mirror as saying, "It has been mine and Pete's decision to quit touring now. We are getting too old to do kick-arse rock and roll every night and it will be a relief when it's all over." To fans everywhere, this was sad news indeed, but the performances were generally strong throughout the 1982 tour, and fans had the global simulcast of the final show still to look forward to.
A CD set titled Who's Last and a home video release were later issued to commemorate this event, neither of which contained the December 17, 1982 performance. That show is presented here, sourced from the King Biscuit Flower Hour masters, when The Who initially bid farewell to the Toronto audience and to legions of fans watching and listening the world over. Despite being recorded before 20,000 exuberant fans in a sporting arena, this recording sounds considerably better than the overly ambient simulcast and will be of interest to Who fans. Many Who classics are here to be sure, but this performance is also intriguing for containing live performances of four songs from the 1982 It's Hard album, which would be the band's last studio album for nearly a quarter of a century. This set is also notable for the increased presence of John Entwistle, who in addition to his trademark "thunderfingers" bass playing, contributes his own songs and leads the group on the "Twist And Shout" encore.
Although now it is obvious that this performance is far from the Who's "final" performance, at the time it was perceived as such, and it was the last performance prior to the first official breakup. Approached as their last ever encore, the Who begins a quick romp through the humorous "Squeeze Box." The Who's cover of Mose Allison's "Young Man Blues" will forever be associated with Keith Moon's drumming, but Jones holds his own here, and the entire band sounds fully engaged. For the theoretical last live song ever, Entwistle leads the way through a number that looks back to the very beginning, "Twist and Shout."
Thankfully, this turned out not to be the end of Townshend, Daltrey, and Entwistle recording and touring together, nor would it be their final performance as the Who. However, it was indeed the end of an era; one that lasted nearly two decades, when the Who was one of the most creative and powerful forces in all of rock music.