Review by Kym Horner
The Who Hits 50 World Tour was always going to be a big undertaking, especially given the fact that the two key members in the band have both just hit their 70th year!
The Irish dates were the first casualties of the tour, having been pushed back from November 2014, until June 2015. Many feared that Pete and Roger might not be so 'fresh' having just finished the US leg of their tour.
How fooled were we all...
After a genuine apology from Pete and Roger for being 7 months late, Pete strapped on his strat and went straight into the clangy opening bars of "I Can't Explain". From that moment on it was clear to the Belfast fans that The Who were certainly no worse for wear given their recent travels; if anything, it showed just how professional, entertaining and loud a band who are up in years can actually be!
Over the next 2 hours the band tore through a wide spectrum of material from their back catalogue; from their iconic anthem of "My Generation" (played so early in the set it took many fans by surprise), to the darker tones of "Bargain" from the album Who's Next, and not forgetting the hugely entertaining "A Quick One While He's Away" - a song which makes full use of the talented musicians and backing singers in the band.
As noted from the pre-show information on the big screens, prior to 2013's Quadrophenia tour, the last time The Who visited Belfast was 1967! Why so long you may ask? Belfast unfortunately suffered from years of violence during the 70s and 80s, known as 'The Troubles', with many bands reluctant to play the city.
Both Pete and Roger openly acknowledged onstage that Belfast had been through a lot in its recent history, but that it was a great city, and the one thing that made the city so great, was and still is, its people! The crowd were genuinely touched by this sentiment, and although the Belfast fans might be a bit more reserved and quiet than fans from other countries, it was clear that this was a special and memorable show for both old and young alike.
This isn't just a 'greatest hits' tour; this is a genuine 'give the fans what they deserve' tour with a big Keith Moon-style kiss on the lips to say thanks for all the support over the years.
From everyone in Belfast and Northern Ireland, thank you to The Who for 50 years of life-changing music!
Review by Gerry McNally
The Who rolled into town on Sunday night celebrating 50 years of hits and we were among the privileged who got to go along to 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 Daltrey’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 Oer 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’Riley’ 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.