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It's about that time of year again... the time when I find something actually worth watching on VH1 (it doesn't happen all that often to be honest). This particular event is actually one of the cooler things to watch if you ask me because of all the unique performances and behind the scenes glimpses of famous bands. It's VH1's Rock Honors and this year's honoree is especially close to my heart, because they're one of my favorite bands of all time: The Who.
Although I don't think you can really go wrong playing the music of the Who. It's just so high energy and powerful that you know the show is going to be memorable, but there were definitely more than a few bands performing as part of this tribute that it seemed like a must watch for me.
The line up included Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam (expected as they've always been huge fans of the who and covered them often), Incubus, The Flaming Lips, Tenacious D, Adam Sandler playing a sweet version of "Magic Bus" and of course... THE WHO!
At these tribute shows, the bands really seem to give it their all. I guess it's because they're playing music that they grew up listening to and paying tribute to one of their idols, but the cover performances are always just stellar. This one is no exception with some powerful performances by the Foo Fighters, Incubus and Pearl Jam. The Pearl Jam one was especially great as not only can they put on a heck of a show, but they were playing some of the hardest hitting Who songs around: "The Real Me" and "Love Reign O'er Me" complete with what looked like a pretty good sized orchestra and horn section... definitely cool. I was excited to see the Foo Fighters cover "Young Man Blues", both because I figured they'd really tear it up (which they did), but also because it's just one of my favorite Who songs of all time. I was also thrilled to see the Flaming Lips performing bits of Tommy... not an easy task and they pull it off with plenty of their own flair.
Then of course there was the performance by the Who themselves. I saw the Who a little while back (maybe it was the year before last?) and at the time made the comment that so many modern bands (not all, but many) should take a lesson about showmanship and live performance because simply no band... literally NO BAND... puts on a show like the Who, to this day. Sure, bands like Cream and Led Zeppelin have their massive bombast, but the Who are something else entirely. Their music is more than just heavy, it's like fury and raw energy and that really comes out in their live performances in more ways than just guitar smashing. Also the music definite gets their on it's own, when you see the who live there is absolutely no question why they are the grandfathers of punk, or the fathers of punk or heck... the first real punk band. In this set, driving versions of "Who Are You", "Behind Blue Eyes" and of course "My Generation" hearkened back to the Who of old and maybe woke the crowd up a little as well.
Yeah, that's the other thing I've noticed about these tribute shows: the crowds tend to be a little dead. Now maybe it's just the ones I've seen, or the way the the camera shot the crowd... whatever... but they just seemed a little flat and like they needed to loosen up and get into it. Of course by the time the Who finished their first song they seemed to do just that and by the end of show they were really getting into it, but the Who have a tendency to do that.
Along with great performances this tribute had plenty of great clips of the band the first time around. I really like seeing all this material as it really gives insight into the band, and serves as a great tribute to the members who have passed on. Also, the Who were always known for having very strong personalities and being very volatile in more ways than just their performances. Those personalities really come through in the clips and the interviews, sort of adding another dimension or context to the music. I think these clips, interviews and additional material that goes along with the performances is a big part of why I like the Rock Honors. The performances are always great, but everything else is really fascinating to me.
Well, if you missed the VH1 Rock Honors this year, you missed out on a good one, especially if you're a huge fan of the Who like I am. Don't fret though, I'm sure it will be shown again, probably over the weekend, if not next week as well (one year I saw the show about 6 times... they just kept replaying it), so keep an eye out.
If you can't wait you can check out some photos, videos and additional material on the VH1 website, here: http://www.vh1.com/shows/events/rock_honors/_2008/
Also, I think it's worth mentioning that this even comes at a great time (perhaps it was even planned this way, but it's a little early). September 7th 2008 is the 30th anniversary of Keith Moon's death. It's easy to look towards the most obvious standout figures in a band as the main source of the "sound", usually guitarists and vocalists like Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey. With the Who though, perhaps more so than most other bands, each member is absolutely pivotal. I mean could you imagine the Who without that driving bass? Or that in your face drumming?
Definitely not, so this tribute to the who should be more than just a tribute to their awesome music and the band as a whole, but especially to their fallen members: Keith Moon and John Entwistle.