Breaking Boundaries

The Who was a band without limitations when it came to both the innovative music they created and their captivating live shows.
They took the world by storm with sounds and techniques that were otherworldly and ahead of its time, especially in the 1970s. They were like bottle rockets waiting for the right inspiration to light them up, and music was the fuse.
Collectively, the English rock band, with beautiful front man Roger Daltrey, guitarist and singer Pete Townshend, bass guitarist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon, were a creative force of nature ever since the 1960s.
As early as the ’70s, the band’s sound included integrating synthesizers on pivotal albums like Who’s Next and Quadrophenia, as a basic rock structure beyond the simple “synth sound” of a traditional four-piece band. They adopted intense amplification to create extreme volumes and distortion and they used speaker feedback as part of their guitar sound, both live and in the studio. They were among the first to create the “rock opera,” and the concept album with their signature masterpiece Tommy, which included the monster hit, “Pinball Wizard.”
Many of their songs “Who Are You,” “Baba O’Riley,” and “I Can See for Miles,” showed up on the forensic drama TV franchise “CSI” — “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” for example, was the theme song for “CSI: Miami.”
Turns out The Who was also a destructive force with breaking guitars and Keith Moon’s fascination with blowing things up, like drum kits, hotel room toilets and himself. Even their relationship with each other was volatile and physical.
That violence and aggression could very well have bled into the brilliance of their music.
While they were tearing it up musically with their power pop sound, they accumulated fans all over the world and are considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century, selling more than 100 million records.
They were a tough act to follow in the three eras they were recording and touring relentlessly, so to recreate all that The Who brought to rock music is the most daunting of tasks.
However, a Las Vegas four-piece, The Who Invasion, has kept this timeless music at the very core of the tribute they have meticulously put together. With Keith Steven Caplan as Daltry on lead vocals; Aaron Archer (Townshend’s lead guitar and vocals); Pat Caruso (Moon’s drums and percussion); and Alf James (Entwistle’s bass and vocals), the Who’s music is alive and well.
The guys capture Daltrey’s powerful voice and chiseled physical form, Townshend’s guitar bruising style, Moon’s stick twirling powerhouse drumming, and Entwistle’s bass with total authority.
We talked with Pat Caruso about their take on the music and the show they bring to Harrah’s Laughlin as part of their Summer Beach Concert Series. Here’s his take…

Everything about The Who is complicated because of all the experimenting with sounds, rock opera and concept albums. How did you go about recreating all of that in your tribute?
What we do is we try to cover the three decades The Who recorded — the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. We take a bit from each, and with some of the songs, like the ’70s material we use tracks because of the synthesizer tracks on some albums like Who’s Next, where we play a handful of songs. Obviously, you have to have that. We’re actually working on another song from the ’80s right now that has tracks to it also because of the synthesizer they used for the synthesizer effect to it. So we do enhance that in this band and that’s something we feel is needed. You have to deal with that, you have to include that. It’s important. We try to get it as close as possible. We try to put in the songs everybody wants to hear, and that’s why we cover the three decades.

The Who was a creative force and a destructive force. Hopefully your group doesn’t take their intensity quite that far.
We don’t break things with this band. We haven’t driven into any swimming pools as yet, or anything like that. No flat screens out the window. We haven’t experimented with explosives yet. We’ll see if we get bored, maybe we’ll try that, but we’ve been pretty lucky so far (he laughed).

Talk a little about the group’s background and your approach to The Who.
The band has been together two years this September. Actually the singer Keith, the bass player Alf, and myself were the core members of the band, and Aaron the guitar player joined shortly after that. We kind of worked at it for a good six months musically — we just locked ourselves away rehearsing and researched a lot of the music that we wanted to do and what eras we wanted to do, not necessarily the costuming and things like that. We looked at being our physical resemblances to try and shape the mold of certain eras of The Who that looked good for us and we definitely tried to put the music first vs. the costumes. That’s really the most important factor, the music.

With all the internal fighting, you wonder if they channeled a lot of that emotion and aggression into the live performance, because that was the thing for them.
Yes, there’s definitely a lot of emotion that goes into it, there’s a lot of labor of love into The Who’s music. I’m not saying other bands didn’t have that, but The Who were definitely an entity unto themselves with their approach and physicality that went into what they did. So it’s hard to emulate that in a way now because of the venues that you play in. The venues just don’t let you do that anymore, the way they did it. The venues are stricter and have a lot more guidelines.

The fact the music remains is a testament to how much people really liked what they did.
In the end, I think ultimately it comes down to the songs and the live show, but yet, The Who sold millions of records. They had a very diverse catalogue of music and that’s what made them such a great band because they were very versatile. And as the decades changed, they changed with it, and just kept pushing the envelope and that’s what made them such a great act live and in the studio. Their studio songs went into the stratosphere with what they could do. For the technology at the time, they were on the cutting edge of that stuff.

Do you guys also try to emulate their individual styles or do you do your take on what they did?
Each guy in the band takes it upon himself to delve into it, which is very important and we all do that. It’s very democratic how we do this and each guy puts a lot of effort into his own instrument with this. Everybody takes it very seriously, we have a lot of fun doing it and how can I describe it — you throw yourself into the character and the more you listen to the songs, the more you try to become that person and the personality comes out. We try to do the best we can, you know, it’s hard to be 100 percent. You really can’t, in a way, but you just do the best you can with it. But I think with what we’ve done so far, we’ve created a good reaction every place we’ve played — the smaller venues and the bigger ones — and it’s just getting better every time we do it.

Is there a song or songs that get the biggest response?
There’s a lot of them. A lot of people like the epic songs like “Baba O’Riley,” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” We also do “You Better You Bet” from the ’80s era. We do the Tommy era, so we try to cover all the bases, and we try to please everybody because the fan base seems to be asking for everything, not just one song, or one specific era.

What sets you guys apart?
I think the live performance we do. Like I said, really, we put the music first, and I think it really shows. I’m not saying other tributes don’t, but I’m saying the way we’ve done it and the reaction we’re getting, we put a lot of time into rehearsing, and going over these songs. Everybody really cares about what they’re doing, and I think on stage it really shows. This isn’t saying the other bands don’t do that, but I think we’re onto something here and the audience reaction has been extremely positive. We’re not breaking the mold, but we’re continuing on with our delivery.

Talk a little bit about the show you’re bringing to Harrah’s Laughlin.
We’ll be doing 90 minutes, and once again we’ll be covering the three decades, we’ll be adding to the Tommy segment from the Tommy album. We’re gonna be doing a handful of songs there, and that’s really an exciting part of what we’re doing, and then we finish up with some of the epic tracks from Quadrophenia and Who’s Next.
I’m thinking if the pool’s big enough, we might be driving a limo into it…I’m not sure, but it’s very possible…let’s just see (he joked). We might break a guitar, we’ll just have to see what mood everybody’s in. If things are going well you never know what could happen. It’s a Who show, so please come on out. We’re just looking forward to putting on a great performance. It will be our first time there, and we’re guaranteeing everybody will have a great time. Definitely, it’s all about The Who.


THE WHO INVASION

Harrah’s Beach

Saturday, July 13 (9 p.m.)

Free to the public, all ages welcome