Pete Townshend

Live: La Jolla, 23/06/01

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Two CDs capture the second of two fundraising concerts that Townshend played at San Diego's La Jolla Playhouse, and an enchantingly intimate look at the veteran Who man as he chats, jokes, and, of course, plays through a solid set of acoustified classics. The venue itself has some fond attachments to Townshend -- it was here that he premiered the Tommy musical before launching it on Broadway and, hardly surprisingly, the deaf, dumb and blind kid opens the show, via a rousing "Pinball Wizard." Initially, it feels as though the second evening is simply going to be a recap of the first, as "Let My Love Opens the Door" follows on. But "Heart to Hang Onto," "Collings," "Sheraton Gibson," and the Quadrophenia chestbeater "I'm One" all make unexpected appearances amid the previous evening's fare, and Townshend's between-song chatter and joking is even more effusive than it was before. Just two songs are dropped from the set -- "The Sea Receives No River" (which isn't that great a loss) and "St James' Infirmary" (which is); but there's a remarkable "Drifting Blues" to compensate, and "Eminence Front" sounds even better tonight. There's another nod to Tommy, in the form of "Eyesight to the Blind," and once again we're treated to two "Won't Get Fooled Again"s, one a little over midway through the show, the other -- electrified and deadly -- at the end. With both nights of the La Jolla show available on disc, the similarity between the track listings might lead the prospective purchaser to decide that only one of the two is necessary. Don't make that mistake. Townshend is on excellent form, verbally and musically, both nights -- and both pack far too many highlights to let either one pass by.