by Thorsten Leitgeb (Vienna, Austria)
We had started the day with a wonderful London Rock Tour bringing us to lots of Who-sights in Shepherdsbush, Acton and Ealing. That had our mood tuned in a wonderful way.
After our entrance we had to wait some time but then I had my first adrenalin rush to get inside the arena and witness the soundcheck of what I consider the greatest rock band in the world. What an appetizer that was!
Then again a bit of waiting, Vintage Trouble did a brilliant job bringing the crowd on their feet and about half past eight you could finally hear the words: can you see the real me? Can you? Can you??!! The Who conquered the stage with the brilliant rocking opener The Real Me. Roger swirling his microphone, Townshend windmilling, every doubt that the might not bring it anymore was gone within a second. What followed was a spiritual occurrence that left us open-mouthed. How are Roger, Pete and their brilliant backing band still able to deliver the music so powerful?
Sometimes a gig is more than just a gig. It was pure magic. Pete’s powerchords still leave you trembled. Roger’s voice was fantastic. He did a magnificent job on Love Reign O’er Me. And the rest of the band created a wonderful sound that really did justice to the legacy of Moon and Entwistle. The on screen tribute to the best rhythm section ever did let me shed tears. After Quadrophenia the encore was one more blast – Roger’s scream in Won’t Get Fooled Again curdled my blood. And then there were only our two heroes left: Roger and Pete. Acoustically doing Tea And Theatre. A wonderful way to end this celestial show that left me smiling.
So what is there more to say – Thank Who & Long Live Rock!
I’m still smiling…
by Amy Bryant
“Quadrophenia’s about where we’re all at today…maybe you too” announced a kinky-haired Roger Daltrey onstage in Philadelphia in 1973. As a montage of historic events, some after and some before the release of ‘Quadrophenia’, flit across circular screens you realise what a truly incredible feat it is to have made music that’s still relevant and worthy of a 52 date tour some forty years later. We see footage of The Beatles stepping out into America in 1966, an exhausted Roger Bannister crossing the line for his four minute mile, Princess Diana waving at the adoring public, Elvis combing through gelled hair; snapshots of eternal change to a soundtrack that remains a complete tangible constant.
Elements of tonight lean towards the off-key. For one, the entire audience of the O2 are seated, ruling out any excessive mod jiving that would otherwise be a high priority for these fans. On top of this, we don’t hear a peep from Roger Daltrey or Pete Townshend until ‘Quadrophenia’ is played through, in tracklist order, to the end and they move on to hits like ‘Pinball Wizard’ and ‘Baba O’Riley’. Why? Well, because they’re The Who (the greatest get-out-of-jail-free-card in rock) but mainly because at heart it’s a rock opera; an album that journeys above and beyond conventional boundaries of rock. It requires uninterrupted enjoyment.
Daltrey and Townshend enter with Pino Palladino on bass guitar, Scott Devours on drums, Townshend brother Simon Townshend on guitar, Frank Simes on keyboard/vocals, Dylan Hunt covering the heavy use of brass that John Entwistle incorporated, Reggie Grisham on horns and John Corey on piano. Who classics interweave themselves into the opening track, which if you hadn’t already guessed from the backdrop of crashing waves, is ‘Quadrophenia’’s opening instrumental ‘I Am The Sea’. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined ticking off The Who from my mental bucket list of bands yet there was Townshend’s genre defining windmill arm and Daltrey’s sky high mic spin only two tracks in. Best of all, it’s still delivered with as much ardour at nearly 70 as there could be found at 30.
The “me, me, me”’s of ‘The Real Me’ echo and dissolve into the cheers and claps of the crowd. The theme of tonight is ‘nostalgia’ and the air is thick with it as Townshend heads the epic soundscape of title track ‘Quadrophenia’. Trumpet fanfares, historical footage, posters for ‘The High Numbers’ (a band name they toyed with in summer 1964) and an abundance of roundels makes for an emotionally charged crowd, a feeling that is only heightened by the voice of a news reader reporting the mod vs. rockers raucousness that opens ‘The Punk and The Godfather’.
Grey suit jacket removed and the most famous chest in rock bared, Daltrey two-steps – with less rhythm intolerance than you might expect – punching the air with both arms as Pete’s brother Simon Townshend leads ‘The Dirty Jobs’, a song that requires big vocals for the impassioned lyrics “I’m getting put down/I’m getting pushed round /I’m being beaten everyday”. Simon fights his way out of a corner of allegations for perhaps riding on his brother’s coattails with almighty vocals and a mastery of his guitar. The coming months for Simon are a cocktail of performances with The Who and solo gigs with his touring band.
Despite rumours of potential tension between original members, Daltrey and Townshend seem like quite the pair. Roger sings to Pete, Pete plays to Roger and a laugh between the two is audible during ‘I’ve Had Enough’. My thoughts turn to ‘Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who’, the band’s documentary that maps the relationship between the pair amongst other elements of their career. They grew notably closer after the death of their bassist John Entwistle. “I love him” says Pete about Roger. “I’ve always loved him” says Roger about Pete, and as waves of water under a bridge fill the screen behind them, you can’t help think of the possible meanings…although it’s more than likely to be just a pleasing bit of cinematography.
The Who continue to prove that actions speak louder than words with a spell-binding performance of ‘5:15’, complete with signature lung-launching scream from Daltrey, cymbal-thrashing and an energetic Townshend pounding the body of his guitar, making the riff reverberate furiously around the O2. Moments later we’re watching John Entwistle on bass, fingers travelling at immeasurable speeds across the fret, archival footage from the Royal Albert Hall in 2000 that’s met by roaring applause from the crowd. It’s not long before we see Keith Moon on the screens. It’s ‘Bell Boy’, also known as ‘Keith’s Theme’ with original footage of a shaggy-haired Moon sat behind his kit recording his part in cockney whiles. “Bell Boy! Always running at someone’s bleedin’ heel” says a cheeky Moon on top of whistles, cheers and claps from a crowd who will never forget. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Incredible.
After ‘Doctor Jimmy’, ‘The Rock’ and ‘Love, Reign O’er Me’, the rock opera is over and it’s time for the band to get a little playful, starting with ‘Who Are You’, performed as a montage of all the band’s logos across the years pass across the screen. “We’ve been all over the f***ing place” voices an uncurbed Pete before launching straight into “proper sing along” ‘You Better You Bet’. The crowd is now almost entirely on their feet as the unrivalled ‘Baba O’Riley’ fills the room. A synchronised audience howls “Don’t cry/Don’t raise your eye/It’s only teeeeenage wasteland”, an uncontainable moment that becomes the climax of the evening. They leave us on ‘Tea & Theatre’, solitarily delivered by Roger and his tea, and Pete with his acoustic guitar. Perfectly sentimental and hauntingly heart-breaking.
”There’s life in the old f***ers yet. Rock til you drop”. You’re not wrong there, Roger, you’re not wrong there.
by Calli Malpas
Back in 1996 at the tender age of 14 my wonderful (slightly mad and totally unconventional) Dad took me to see “The Who” play “Quadrophenia” live in Hyde Park. That moment changed my life! and started me on my musical journey. As he fought the crowd to get me as close to the action as possible I remember him holding on to me so tightly as the music hit me almost as hard as the crowd did, being pushed and pulled around by the thousands of people who were totally under the spell of the musicians they were watching. I later came to realise a session musician playing that day was Geoff Whitehorn and all these years later I have come to share credits on an album with him, as my dream of being a singer had been realised. My Dad would have been so proud. sadly I lost him in 2000 so this this I chose to spend Father’s Day watching The Who play at the O2 and whilst I could only dream that my Dad could be there with me, I know he was in spirit.
The show hit me on every emotional level possible, I laughed I cried, I sang at the top of my lungs (in a desperate attempt to say I sang with Roger Daltrey, one of my idols). It was a very very special day for me and I felt so honoured to be able to relive a cherished memory.