The Who rolled into town on Sunday night celebrating 50 years of hits and we were among the privileged who got to go along witness a truly special event. As he takes to the stage we get an apology from Townshend for being late as he acknowledges that they should have played this show in 2014 and ended up having to reschedule it.
From start to finish they belt out the hits. ‘I can’t Explain’, ‘The Seeker’ followed by ‘Who Are You’ all in quick succession showed that even though Townshend and Daltery are now in their seventies they haven’t lost the ability to thrill an audience or rock a concert stadium. Tonight Townshend looks every inch the grizzled rock survivor and Daltery still has a physique that many men half his age desire.
This show isn’t just a nostalgic trip down memory lane though. It’s tribute to what the band achieved over their massive fifty year career and the audience laps it up. Fond tributes are paid to former members Keith Moon and John Entwistle as imagery of both projected are onto big screens. Swiftly we realise that as a live unit it now takes up to eight musicians and some sampled harmonies to recreate what four once did.
In places it’s clear to hear that Daltry’s voice isn’t what it used to be, but he still swings a mean microphone and Townshend still throws out his trade mark windmills with seeming ease. Both seem a lot more at ease in each others company now too as each trade smiles and jokes with each other, although at one point there’s a flash of anger in Townshend especially as he violently struggles with a miss-firing monitor while trying to unplug it.
The gig roars on with seeming endless classics one after the other. ‘I Can See For Miles’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ and ‘Love Reign Over Me’ leave the audience breathless and wanting more. The latter being simply sublime.
Surprise of the night is ‘A Quick One While He’s Away’ the mini-opera that preceded ‘Tommy’. It’s a little clunky in places, but it is a song that we never thought we’d ever get to hear live and has been one of our favourites since hearing it on the re-released ‘Live At Leeds’ album.
‘Sparks’, ‘Amazing Journey’ and ‘Overture’ form a medley of classics from ‘Tommy’. During ‘Pinball Wizard’ the hall erupts and we witness several outbreaks of sporadic drunken dad dancing across the venue. ‘See Me, Feel Me’ almost lifts the roof of the place. and completes the ‘Tommy’ section. It’s a call to the gathered faithful and they respond. The magic is added to by the visuals on the big screen emulating the artwork from the ‘Tommy’ album.
During ‘Baba O’Reilly’ several aged gentlemen beside us take to their feet and the isles to preform some the best dad dancing and crowd wind milling of the night.
Ending the show with ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ which Townshend dedicates to the city of Belfast, the faithful depart happy, inspired and emotional. Fathers hug sons and daughters as they appreciate the special Father’s Day they’ve shared together. One particularly sentimental Godfather almost sheds a tear at having shared the gig with his sixteen year old Goddaughter.
Pete Townsend famously said “I hope I die before I get old”. We are very glad he didn’t. This might be the last time The Who tour and perform together as a band, but they’ve rocked it to the max tonight and inspired a new generation with their timeless tales of teenage angst.