Pete Townshend Feels Orchestra Fills In For Missing Who Bandmates

Pete Townshend feels that the Who touring with an orchestra helps fill in some of the sonic holes left by the late-John Entwistle and Keith Moon.

Townshend, who along with Roger Daltrey, will be back on the road in April along with a symphony orchestra backing the band at every stop, spoke to Rolling Stone and shed light on the Who’s still-evolving live sound: “Two things happened to me over the years. One was dealing with Keith Moon’s death (in 1978) where everything suddenly changed and we needed to replace him not with just another drummer, but with a keyboard player and a brass section. He was actually playing orchestrally, in a sense, as a drummer.”

He went on to say, “And then when John Entwistle died (in 2002), there was another space left. That was because he was filling up so much of the musical spectrum with his bass sound, which was not a traditional bass sound. And so when he was gone, there was suddenly space for me … not so much to try and fill up the void he had left, but a space where I could have a different approach. I started to solo. I had to learn to practice the guitar (laughs), which I hadn’t done much of before. I’ll never be a famous shredder, but I can play better than I could when we were in the Live At Leeds years, for example. . . With the orchestra, it’s a similar effect.”

During his recent Q&A on the “Rock Legends Cruise 6,” Roger Daltrey explained how he insisted on having the upcoming orchestral arrangements play an integral part of the concerts: “Well, Pete’s music suits an orchestra much more — I mean, I’ve seen many rock bands with orchestras, but mostly the orchestras are playing something that could be played on a synthesizer. I don’t want and orchestra to do that. I want and orchestra to be dynamic, I want them to be melodic, I want them to be surprising — I want them to really push the music to a different level.”

Pete Townshend revealed to us that there’s actually a tried and true breakdown of how the Who puts together any given show: “The Who show became, y’know, what you would call in a literary sense, a tripartite show; a show broken into three chunks — which is still the kind of show that I still like the best. Some old stuff to soften everybody up, then the difficult material in the middle, and then a kind of reward for being good at the end.”

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