My mind is coupled to the versions of “Amazing Journey” that live in my memory from both Tommy and Live at Leeds and the linkage is symbolic of my own road to the present moment—sitting in a wooden chair at Winterland next to one of my best friends. Five years have passed since that evening in the library, days full of lessons, adventures, tragedies, and radiant epiphanies. I have no foreknowledge of where I will travel and how I would make my way through the world from this moment—yet I recognize that there has always been something that escorts me through all my fortunate coincidences, and that I have to continue to trust it.
There is no music of my own in my imagination, only words. I am not a master of those words—not then. Nonetheless music permeates me—it’s booming in Entwistle’s bellowing bass, Townsend’s wailing guitar phrases, Moon’s unrestrained clangor of percussion, and Roger’s emphatic voice as he sings “on the amazing journey together you’ll ride.” Music is the guide. I know it at that moment. I remember it now.
Roger moves back to mid-stage and the power trio that is the core of the band stirs like an animal awakening from hibernation. I’ve been waiting for that moment. Pete steps back to the stack of amps, turns some knobs, and the power of the guitar swells. He windmills, leaps, and strikes the instrument with no mercy. Moon keeps up, bobbing his head up and down with each beat, hammering the drums and walloping the cymbals. Entwistle remains rooted to his spot as his bass foundation embraces the other two instruments like a gravitational force that keeps them from flying out of orbit into deep space.
The clarion call of “Sparks” arrives, momentarily easing the cacophony. Moments later the quiet void is reclaimed by increasing volume—Pete once again lays down a series of power chords, his arms and legs outstretched as the guitar hangs from him like a hefty pendant. He picks it up in both hands, lifts it over his head and shakes it furiously once more as it whines in a maelstrom of feedback. Pete stopped destroying guitars years ago, but for a moment I think he’ll heave the instrument to the floor like a hammer. Instead, the music fades and resolves in a few, final major chords. I hold my breath as those last moments pass. There’s an uproar of cheers, roars, and whistles from the tribe.
The Tommy medley continues with “The Acid Queen,” “Fiddle About,” “I’m Free,” “Tommy’s Holiday Camp,”—and closes in an ardent rendition of “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” I’ve witnessed the peak of the set, and though “Summertime Blues,” “My Generation,” and “Join Together” are as commanding as what has come before—once again I have that saturated sensation, as if I have been physically engulfed with music that’s inundated my body and soul. When the band leaves the stage, the crowd roars—and the balcony shakes. I try to speak a few words to Charles, but there aren’t any—I’m speechless. He looks at me wisely and nods. That is as eloquent as anything I can dig out of my imagination.