Article and Photos by: Matt Stasi
Think back to when you were eight years old. Do you remember what you were doing? If you were anything like myself you’d have been ghost-riding your BMX bike into the walls of the local grocery store and having BB gun wars with your neighborhood friends… just for kicks. Simon Townsend of The Who, however (Pete’s younger brother), when eight years old had already learned to play guitar. And the piano. And he had written his first songs as a songwriter. Then at the ripe old age of nine he recorded vocals on The Who’s rock opera TOMMY as well as played the Newsboy in the film of the same name as barely a teenager. Cut to several decades and numerous solo albums later to this past Tuesday night where he was beginning a US tour of his own with a show at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, CA. That’s where our story begins.
Coming from his rich musical background one might assume that Simon could be a bit jaded or stand offish. And they would be completely wrong in this assumption. Upon arrival, Simon graciously took the time to grant myself and videographer Turhan Caylak an interview, and he was a complete charm the whole time. I had no idea, but this professionalism would be a precursor as to how the show would go throughout the night.
The audience started lining up outside the famed Hollywood venue (more than a handful came equipped with paraphernalia in hand for the rock legend to sign) long before Simon would go on and already you could feel the electricity in the air. Having never seen him perform live, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement.
Finally, it was time. Simon took the stage. He’s a musician who for decades has played with a laundry-list of who’s who (pardon the pun) of legendary musicians, opened up his heart and bared his soul to a roomful of eager fans. He was relatable, thoughtful, and unapologetically flawed (a quality that he expresses with absolute beauty in so much of his music… especially in his latest album, Denial). He expressed true emotions about love, loss, fear, disappointment, shame, joy, and hope. It was when he got to his song “Mother” that I looked around the room and saw more than one set of teary eyes. This carried on through the next songs, “Denial,” and “Heal.”
Simon sang the cuttingly personal lyrics that deal with addiction and shame with a passion that can only come from someone who has lived it, then took it up a notch (or ten) with “Time Bomb.” The bluesy, hard-driven guitar riffs had this audience, that once stood in silent reverence, thrusting their fists high in the air as he belted out the song’s explosively charged lyrics.
By the end of the night, Simon had taken his audience on a personal journey down the roadways of his life that only a true artist can do. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He made us question. And ultimately, he made us rejoice for what little time we have on this spinning rock. Because as he puts it, “time keeps ticking away,” so, “Get hold! Man you better get some”.
I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Townshend. Thank you.