As a friend put it concisely during one of the shows on the Who’s 1989 tour: ”This isn’t the Who. These are three guys who used to be in the Who, singing Who songs.”
So now we have a recorded document of that tour, and on it the three Who guys almost blend into the background.
Yes, guitarist Pete Townshend sings and even talks a little; so does gruff-as-ever bassist John Entwistle. Roger Daltrey sings: hoarsely, some of the time, though often with an ardor that almost belies his age.
But what dominates much of Join Together is the burly sound of a 12-piece backup band. You come away from these two hours of music remembering massed horns, exuberant piano fills, and maybe above all the extravagant drumming of Simon Phillips. He doesn’t explode loudly enough to make you think he might trash hotel rooms the way Keith Moon, the Who’s legendary dead drummer, used to but he blows away plenty of cobwebs.
The songs recorded here involve most of the rock opera ”Tommy” and a generous selection of other Who favorites, including ”You Better You Bet,” ”Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and ”I Can See for Miles.” But in the end, it’s mainly the cheering of the grateful crowd that links these performances with the beloved Who of the past. Whether that’s enough Who for you has to be your call. B-