06 July 2019 (gig)
08 July 2019
UK fans were treated to a much-awaited return of The Who at Wembley Stadium on Saturday night with a stunning symphonic concert from their Moving On! tour.
Roger Daltrey’s brainwave to orchestrate a selection of The Who’s back catalogue, as well as their songs including, Hero Ground Zero and Still Waiting for the Big Cigar, made for a dramatic and richly produced show, adding a vibrancy to their repertoire. This was the only UK stop-off in this USA/Canada tour and was a welcome return of The Who to Wembley Stadium, after playing there in 1985 for Live Aid.
For an 80s teenager who was deeply inspired by the movie Quadrophenia and the resulting mod revival, it was a dream come true to finally see these legends of stage and screen performing some of the film’s much-loved tracks live. And what an emotional rollercoaster ride – or should that be scooter ride – it turned out to be.
Despite the passing of the years, age has hardly diminished either lead singer Roger’s still-gritty voice or Pete’s energetic performance on the guitar, with his trademark windmill still very much in evidence (even if his jumps have a tad less spring!). It was evident that both clearly put their heart and soul into every song they play, making it a powerfully emotional reunion with their UK audience.
Crowd pleasers included songs from the hit 1969 album Tommy, including Pinball Wizard, played with an accompaniment of strings, to the hauntingly beautiful and up-tempo combo of See Me, Feel Me/Listening to You, all bringing back so many memories for the audience.
Substitute was another classic with Roger’s vocals sounding as purposeful as they did when the 1966 single reached number 5 in the UK singles charts, during the early part of their epic 50+year career.
Making eyes very misty in Wembley was Behind Blue Eyes, another poignantly written autobiographical song penned by Pete Townsend, a beautiful portrayal of the unseen inner anguish and turmoil and the battling of personal demons.
From the 1973 album Quadrophenia was a rendition of The Punk and the Godfather, featuring Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, who had played earlier. A friend of Pete Townshend, Eddie who was greatly inspired in his youth by The Who, and his characteristic vocals gave the song a contemporary vibe.
This Quadrophenia classic was performed in front of a huge screen backdrop showing a selection of clips from the 1979 hit film, featuring Jimmy, aka Phil Daniels, and his scooter-riding gang, a nostalgic trip back to Brighton for mods of all ages in the audience.
Roger demonstrated that he can still hit those high notes in the powerful and beautiful Love Reign O’er Me, which was poignantly played while the rain poured down on Wembley Stadium, a truly metaphysical experience, it has to be said.
A rare acoustic version of Won’t get Fooled Again saw just Roger and Pete perform the track together and the classic Who are You was another clear audience winner.
Also on the playlist were the catchy Eminence Front, from the group's 1982 studio album, It's Hard, and the soulful Imagine a Man, taken from The Who by Numbers LP in 1975 – one of Roger’s favourite albums, a fact he shared with the audience.
During the concert, Pete Townshend paid an emotional tribute to the legendary Alan Rogan, his guitar technician and friend for over 40 years, who sadly passed away just two days before the show.
Paying homage to the power of music, Pete went on to praise the line-up at this year’s Glastonbury saying: “Wish we were there!”.
His request was swiftly followed by the much-loved Baba O’Riley, which wrapped up the set and was launched straight after Roger hilariously interjected during Pete’s speech that “they’ll bang us up at half past 10!” if they didn’t get a move on! (Like a married couple on stage after all these years!).
This rousing angst-filled anthem to the teenage years raised the crowd’s cheers of appreciation for a song we can all identify with; that wasteland of wild excess, unbridled emotions and the frustrations that transitioning into adulthood brings, so brilliantly encapsulated in poetry and music by Pete Townsend, and vocally by Roger.
The Who were preceded by a stellar supporting line-up including The Kaiser Chiefs who played hits such as Ruby, I Predict a Riot and Every Day I Love You Less, as well as People Know How to Love One Another, from their forthcoming album Duck.
Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam played a number of hits including Black, Better Man, I Am Mine and Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town. Also supporting were Imelda May and the Connor Selby Band.
The Who were playing for two and a half hours but it only seemed like an hour, which just goes to show how time flies when you have the privilege of listening to the greatest English rock band in musical history (in my honest opinion anyway). The song highlight for me was Love Reign O’er Me, so powerfully delivered by Roger Daltrey who seemed to rip every chord of the song straight from his soul, a sublime and deeply moving experience.
*The only criticism I had on the night was not from the performers but the organisers at Wembley Stadium who seem to make it their mission to ensure their stewards keep telling people who are dancing in the aisles to go back to their seats! They seem to deem it necessary to add unnecessary conformity to music concerts, which I think in some ways, destroys the spirit of what groups like The Who are about. Since when did a rock concert become like attending a ballet?! And why the need to put seats at the front of a rock concert when fans should be allowed to dance in front of the stage? Sadly, it is becoming too sanitized now at large stadium venues, whose organisers think that conformity and order are far more important than those trying to appreciate the spirit of performers like The Who. I’ll leave it there!
The Who’s set-list was:
It’s A Boy
We’re Not Gonna Take It
Who Are You
Imagine A Man
Hero Ground Zero
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Behind Blue Eyes
Still Waiting For The Big Cigar
The Real Me
The Punk And The Godfather
Love, Reign O’er Me