The Who? In New Paltz? Looking Back at The Iconic 60s Concert

British rock band The Who performed on the SUNY New Paltz campus in 1969. Photo Courtesy:

Thursday Nov. 13, 1969 was not an average day in New Paltz, NY. On an absurdly warm November night on SUNY New Paltz’s campus — particularly the Elting Gymnasium — critically-acclaimed British rock group The Who performed for hundreds of students.

The concert came just four months after Woodstock, where The Who headlined on the third day of peace, love and music alongside Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. According to the Bethel Woods website, approximately 500,000 people attended the music festival, providing the up and coming band with an abundance of exposure to new audiences. 

To kick off the 27-song setlist, the band started with bassist John Entwhistle’s original song “Heaven and Hell.” Two of the band’s tracks, “Sally Simpson” and “Tommy Can You Hear Me” were both played on the night they performed here but neither were included on their initial setlist. The two tracks were not reported on “average setlist for The Who: 1969,” as the two songs were added to the list toward the end of the year, and were primarily played during the 1970 half of the tour. 

Although the rock opera band had gone on tour and played world famous venues, “The Tommy Tour” was The Who’s first named tour following the release of their fourth album, “Tommy.”

They performed some of their biggest hit songs including “I Can’t Explain” and “Pinball Wizard.” In addition to their greatest hits at the time, the group shed light on some of their lesser known songs, such as “Do You Think It’s Alright?,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I’m Free.” 

The show consisted of all four band members on vocals, Roger Daltrey on harmonica, Entwistle on bass, Keith Moon on drums and Pete Townshend on guitar. 

The Who is not the only widely-known band to perform on SUNY New Paltz grounds. Jefferson Airplane played on May 2, 1970, just a few months after The Who. Flash forward 17 years to 1987, when Joan Jett & the Blackhearts rocked this quaint college campus on April 25. Each of these three bands performed here at or just before the peak of their popularity; something that has not necessarily happened on this campus since.

To wrap it all up, the show closed with one of their biggest hits of the 60’s, “My Generation.” The hit song has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and is considered to be the band’s signature song. 

A thread of posts on Facebook started on the “Jedi Productions — SUNY New Paltz Concerts” page unfurled into former students, security personnel and locals who all claim to have seen the show. What started out as a simple question as to whether or not the legendary rock band actually performed on campus became a collective of alumni reflecting on a show that they all saw during their college years. 

The audio recording from the full concert can be found on the YouTube channel “Cloo Boots,” who dedicates their entire channel to bootleg video clips from countless concerts by The Who.