Simon Townshend

Simon Townshend


Simon Townshend
The Coach House
San Juan Capistrano, CA
May 1, 2014

Photos and writing by

Being the brother of a successful man doesn’t always mean you have the same skills.  Look at Billy Carter, for example (who remembers Billy Beer?), or Roger Clinton (did you see him in Bio-Dome?), or the Duke de Berry (whose brother, King Charles V of France, definitely made a more reasonable ruler in his day).


But, occasionally, those related apples from a single family tree DO fall pretty closely together.  And such is the case with guitarist Pete Townshend and his younger brother, Simon.

Brothers? Yes.  But the same person?  Absolutely not.  Sure, these Townshend siblings have similar facial features (mostly around the eyes and the hairline).  And, yes, once you hear Simon (15 years Pete’s junior) perform, it’s clear that he and his brother grew up listening to the same musical influences.  And, okay, the two have traveled the globe together and shared the same stage for more than a decade while Simon has been touring as guitarist and backing vocals for his big brother’s band, The Who.   But when you witness SIMON TOWNSHEND as a solo act, there is no doubt that he is indeed his own man.  AND his own musician.   

We recently caught up with Simon at his show on the tiny stage at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.  We’d only previously ever seen him performing at large arenas either with The Who or out on tour with Roger Daltrey (most recently, at last year’s Pacific Amphitheatre show when Roger’s band filled the slot made painfully empty by the untimely passing of Door’s great Ray Manzarek).  But seeing Simon as a solo act was a new experience. What we found was that this brilliant singer/songwriter, SIMON TOWNSHEND, did something that we really didn’t expect: He made us forget that there was just one man on stage.

​Well, one man with four instruments, that is.  Townshend’s only backing band were his four stringed beauties – a Gibson J-200, a Gibson Chet Atkins SST, a really rich sounding Guild 12-string, and a custom Knight mandolin (that was the spittin’ image of a Gretsch G6120 Chet Atkins Hollow Body!) – an arsenal worthy of any wood geek’s envy.

It was apparent as soon as Townshend plucked his first note that his passion for his music and his raw talent are as innate as his quick sense of humor.  And although he stands alone, his stage presence is that of a man ready to front an entire band (he sort of roars towards the microphone –his posture as if he’s about to push a giant brick wall up a hill), and he immediately captures the audience with his amazing guitar playing – a powerful combination of fierce intensity coupled with moments of tender softness.  Whether furiously strumming (okay, another similarity with his older bro), or gently picking, Townshend is definitely a star.

For the next nearly 90 minutes, Townshend took the audience on a walk through much of his extensive catalogue (the first of his seven solo albums released all the way back in 1983) – stopping between songs to enlighten us as to the premise for the next song or to simply comment on whatever was on his mind.  

His lyrics were much the same – storytelling set to music – particularly apparent when he played “Denial”, a clever and beautifully written song whose melody is intricate but natural, and whose lyrics allude to the intimate story of his family’s history with addiction.  Denial also happens to be the title of his latest album, which was just recently released on April 1st (seriously, on April Fool’s Day?  Who does THAT?!?!). 

And when all was said and done and SIMON TOWNSHEND wrapped up the evening and walked off the stage, this man, who could be quite pretentious considering that, at age nine, he recorded backing vocals for one song on The Who’s 1969 album Tommy, and even had a small role in the 1975 film, gladly came back downstairs from the dressing room and spent some time talking to his fans, signing autographs, and snapping a few photos to end the night.

Yeah, SIMON TOWNSHEND definitely didn’t need any brothers on stage to make him a great performer.  But I sure wouldn’t mind sitting around the table at THAT family reunion.  

Visit Simon Townshend’s website:

Video of Simon playing in 2013:


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