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Pete Townshend latest rocker to silence the heckler

Updated: March 4, 2013 7:22PM



When I heard about Pete Townshend mouthing an obscenity at a father and his young daughter at a Who concert in Hamilton, Ont., I thought: What a jerk.

Not Pete. The dad who brought the kid to the show.

The Toronto Sun reports 50-year-old Eric Costello took his 7-year-old girl to the concert, where she perched on her father’s shoulders waving a sign that read, “SMASH YOUR GUITAR, PETE!”

From the Guardian of London: “Something about the scene made Townshend furious.”

Well, yes. When you see a sign urging you to do a circus trick from a half-century ago, one can imagine it’s annoying.

“Don’t wave that sign,” Townshend said onstage. “Don’t bring your children [to a Who concert]. I want to tell you two words but I can’t because you have a child on you.”

Townshend then reportedly mouthed those two words to Costello, who later told the Sun, “I expect a 70-something-year-old man to respect there’s a 7-year-old girl standing in front of him. … I’d like him to know in some small way he broke a little girl’s heart.”

Oh please. How about if we expect a 50-year-old man to know better than to bring a 7-year-old girl to a rock concert and to perch her on his shoulders with an obnoxious sign?

That said, Townshend — who is actually 67, by the way — has conveyed a gracious apology to Costello and has offered to meet with the family in April.

Good on Pete. I still say a first grader has no business at a rock concert.

Acting up in the stands

We all have our stories of dealing with talking-texting-late-arriving miscreants at the movies, and enduring heckling-cussing-beer-spilling clowns at sporting events.

Concerts can bring out the worst in audiences. Nothing like the last chucklehead in America who still believes it’s the height of humor to yell out “Freebird!” during an acoustic number.

These days I’m hardly attending live shows where kids with their eyes closed are gyrating to the sounds of Daft Punk or Swedish House Mafia — but often the average 22-year-old concertgoer is better behaved than the typical 50-year-old.

In fact, over the last 15 years, the two worst examples of concert-audience loutishness occurred at shows where the median audience age was about 62.

Bridge this troubled water

The legendary — and legendarily contentious — duo of Simon & Garfunkel brought their “Old Friends” tour to the United Center in October of 2003. Had to see that one. I remember hearing “Mrs. Robinson” on a neighbor’s portable 45RPM record player way back in the day and thinking: There might be a lot more going on in this world than I know.

Somewhere around the middle of the show, as Paul Simon was singing “Homeward Bound,” the guy behind me decided he was Garfunkel. And Simon.

Only louder.

He sang along with “Homeward Bound.” He chimed in on “Slip Slidin’ Away.” And sure enough, he did not take “The Sounds of Silence” literally.

I turned around for a moment, hoping the guy would get the message. A while later I turned around for a not-so-brief moment and looked the guy right in the eyes, hoping he’d figure it out.

No luck. When you get to that point — whether it’s at a concert or a ball game or a movie—you’re no longer enjoying the experience. You’re on the edge of your seat, waiting for the next outburst of rude from the character behind you.

When “The Sounds of Silence” ended, I turned around yet again and said something like, “You know, I didn’t pay to hear Simon and Garfunkel and you. Can you keep it down, man? You’re singing louder than they are.”

He said something like, “I can do what I want,” and there were a few more words exchanged. Geez. Would there be anything more embarrassing than getting tossed out of a “Simon & Garfunkel” concert for fighting?

But at least it worked. The guy stopped singing.

I didn’t have as much luck at a Crosby, Stills & Nash reunion concert about 10 years ago. The two couples seated behind me talked throughout the show, as if they were watching a PBS special at home and not attending an actual live show. All efforts to get them to stop met with failure.

There are people who attend live entertainment to watch the show. Others are so desperate, oblivious and/or rude they become part of the show.

That’s almost never a positive thing.



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