Gig Review: THE WHO at the London O2 Arena – 23/03/2015

CA - The Who During the mid to late 1970s, Pete Townshend was telling everybody who would listen to him that as he was over the age of thirty, he was too old to be playing rock’n’roll, and that The Who were at best, irrelevant, and at worst, finished. It is not without irony therefore, that he has spent the last twenty years or so unequivocally proving his younger self wrong…
REVIEW: Mark Kelly
(Images sourced as reuseable from Wikipedia)

During the mid to late 1970s, Pete Townshend was telling everybody who would listen to him that as he was over the age of thirty, he was too old to be playing rock’n’roll, and that The Who were at best, irrelevant, and at worst, finished. It is not without irony therefore, that he has spent the last twenty years or so unequivocally proving his younger self wrong.

CA - The Who 1972 Quite what the younger version of Pete Townshend would think of the current model cutting into the opening chords of I Can’t Explain like a rapier at the age of almost seventy we can only guess. However, even the younger version of Townshend wouldn’t dare call the current version irrelevant. The current touring version of The Who have been in existence since 2002, when John Entwistle’s untimely death resulted in his replacement by session bass ace Pino Palladino, and also the recruitment of Simon Townshend on second guitar, in order to beef up the sound. This tour sees Townshend Jr. quite deservedly promoted to the front line of the band, whilst two keyboard players complete the line-up. Pino Palladino stays anchored close to Zak Starkey’s drum kit. CA - The Who 2007
CA - The Who 1975 CA - Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend 2008

*

Pete Townshend had promised some surprises in the set list for this tour, but the opening pummelling one-two of I Can’t Explain and Substitute sticks pretty close to the tradition of gigs gone by. The first surprises come half a dozen songs in with I Can See For Miles and Pictures Of Lily, neither of which had been in the set since the 25th anniversary tour in 1989. Apparently, Townshend was admonished by none other than Jimmy Savile over the smutty content of the latter song.

A quite careful, measured version of My Generation follows. Townshend has a heckler in the crowd in front of him (Pete refers to him as his ‘commentator’) who tells him that the song has appeared too early in the set. Townshend tells him to ‘f*** off’, and then he and Roger explain how difficult putting a set list together is. In recent years Pete’s stage persona could best be described as humorously grumpy. Early on in tonight’s set he does yell at the crowd: “get moving you old c***s!” He does however, thank everybody for attending what is a rescheduled show from December.

CA - The Who 2007 2 Tonight’s version of Magic Bus is comparable to the Live At Leeds version, featuring a snippet of Area Code 615’s Stone Fox Chase (the theme tune to The Old Grey Whistle Test), and ending with a Townshend solo and attendant windmills. We get a few regulars such as Behind Blue Eyes and You Better You Bet, before the band really go off piste with So Sad About Us.

*

However, the night’s real jaw dropping moment comes with the next song, or rather I should say, opus. They play A Quick One While He’s Awayin its entirety. That’s right: ‘Tommy’s Parents’. Moreover it sounds every bit as good as the previous live versions that I’ve heard. It’s one of those moments that you really don’t want to end.

After a lengthy chunk of Tommy, followed by Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again, the band leave the stage after the quickest two hours plus that I’ve ever known. There is no encore, but after finishing on such a high, anything that they encored with would have been an anti-climax. CA - The Who 2007 3

*

At the beginning of this tour, Pete Townshend said that this was “the beginning of the long goodbye”. I’m not so sure. The band seemed to be enjoying proceedings just as much as the audience. It’s true that The Who are no longer the sonic terrorists that they were forty-odd years ago. It’s also true that when Roger throws his mic, he does it rarely and nowhere near as high or fast as he used to. Also it can’t be denied that Townshend’s leaps and jumps are these days more like skips and hops. However, none of that matters. What does matter is that Roger Daltrey’s voice is in fine fettle, and Townshend’s playing over the last ten years or so has arguably been the best that it ever has. Also, the musicians playing with Daltrey and Townshend do The Who’s legend justice. Tonight was a brilliant Who gig. I hope we’ll be lucky enough to see many more of them.

 

Mark Kelly