Soundcheck review by Horace Austin
Busy pre-show. Quick soundcheck recap.
Lasted 65 minutes.
About 150 fans present like last night.
All band present.
Pete and Rog hugged again. Pete was wearing a beanie.
"What would you like to hear?............Fuck off!" - Pete to the audience
"Who Are You"
Review by Dave Lewis
Accept no substitute. The Who still reign o’er us..
The Who 02 Arena - Monday March 23rd, 2015.
Set list: I Can't Explain / Substitute / The Seeker / Who Are You / The Kids Are Alright / I Can See for Miles / Pictures of Lily /My Generation/Magic Bus/Behind Blue Eyes/Join Together/You Better You Bet/I’m One/Love, Reign O’er Me/Eminence Front/So Sad About Us / A Quick One (While He's Away) /. Amazing Journey / Sparks/ Pinball Wizard/ See Me, Feel Me/ Listening to You / Baba O'Riley/ Won't Get Fooled Again.
Now that is what I call a set list…
I’ve been lucky enough to have seen The Who a fair few times over the past few decades – stretching back to the Wembley Empire Pool show in October 1975 some 40 years back – up to the last occasion which was the Quadrophenia show at the Royal Albert Hall in 2010. In between there have been some very memorable shows. The rain soaked thrilling set at Charlton 1976, Watford Town Hall in 2002 and of course the Shepperton appearance in 1978 that inspired my impromptu stage dive and mock fight with Roger Daltrey.
For me, outside of Led Zeppelin, The Who have constantly provided the highest of on stage highs.
Now with what we might term The Who Two celebrating 50 years of hits and hitting 50 years in existence, the opportunity that arose at quite short notice to attend their 02 Arena show on Monday was too good to miss - the TBL projects and other scenarios having to go on hold for a few hours. Boy am I glad I was lucky enough to attend.
Given all the circumstances –ie the passing of the years and physical well being of those involved, well there’s always the temptation that one’s golden memories might be tarnished by a less than 100% performance.
Noting that the combined age of the main players is a quite ridiculous 140, well the risk was there last night for sure. Indeed the two shows they played on Sunday and Monday had been postponed from just before Christmas when Roger succumbed to a throat infection.
I am more than happy to report that the advancing years have done nothing whatsoever to dent any past reputations. Put simply they delivered. And to use one of Pete’s much used on the night expletives - .fucking hell, did they ever…
The venue: This was actually the first time I’ve been back to the 02 Arena since that night of nights in 2007. It’s certainly moved on since then. The overall facilities are excellent and the arena sound was loud and clear.
The audience: A typical Who gathering – mainly male – a few mod elements on show. I always sense a slight aggressiveness amongst a Who crowd which matches the tension on stage. During the show the whole of the audience on the flat area was standing up. At the sides there were spasmodic leaps to get up and boogie (that’ll be me then!) and generally an atmosphere of united celebration. The merchandise areas were doing swift business and for once a programme justified the fee - £15 buying a lavish and informative The Who Hits 50 overview.
Accept no substitute: They were right on it from the start – Roger was in amazingly good voice and Pete looking good in Harrington and trainers defined the years (as they both did) with a staggering energy that never let up. Pete was grumpily happy and was not short on expletives throughout his humorous banter with the crowd.
‘’What the fuck are we doing here!’’ he laughed at one point while his wry comment ‘’I’ve just gobbed over my iPad’’ (which was on a stand in front of him) would not have been something he could have uttered at Woodstock.
I Can’t Explain and Substitute was the familiar initial two song pronged attack –from there the hits just kept on coming in a veritable Who jukebox onslaught. The Seeker was an early standout – it was so great to hear this 1970 stand alone single, The Kids Are Alright was accompanied by some stunning visuals from the Quadrophenia flim. In fact the backdrop screen was a revelation – it made great use of pop art collages, suitable mod images and pics from the glory days with poignant images of John Entwistle and Keith Moon very prevalent.
Back on stage ,a trio of 1960s hits - I Can See For Miles, Pictures Of Lily and an early anthemic My Generation hit the mark. As did a joyous Magic Bus and a dramatic Behind Blues Eyes. Join Together and You Better You Bet were yet more stand outs. There were also excerpts from various Who rock operas – the often underplayed A Quick One While He’s Away (before which Pete talked affectionately of it’s appearance in The Rolling Stones Rock’n’Roll Circus film) – Quadrophenia’s I’m One and Love Reign O’er me (Roger just outstanding on the latter – ‘’an extraordinary part of our career’’ –Pete ‘ ‘’you don’t know what that takes bit it’s spiritual’’ -Roger) and a Tommy segment that featured the brilliant Sparks and the rousing (can it be anything else?) Listening To You. Another surprise was a run through of So Sad About Us, written in 1966 for The Mersey’s and described by Pete as Paul Weller’s favourite song. It should be noted that behind them, Zak Starkey’s brand of percussive brilliance was entirely in keeping with the template Keith Moon laid down all those years ago.
Round off the evening with two of the greatest rock songs ever written - Baba O Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again, and well - this is as good as it gets…
Refreshingly there was none of the pretention of an encore, they and the audience had more than had their fill. A lengthy two hour set that went by in a flash – never dragging or going off the boil.
‘’Thanks for the music Pete’’ said Roger to Pete before they departed the stage to rapturous applause. ‘’’Be healthy, be happy and be lucky’’ were Pete’s final words.
It was a mantra Tom and I took into the night as we walked with a definite spring in our step towards the station home.
Summary: On paper they have no right to be this good given the advancing years – but as I’ve discovered in the past, logic often goes out of the window when one is faced with the phenomenon that is The Who.
There has been talk from within that this may be their last tour and indeed they have to slow down somewhere. On the other hand, you really cannot fathom a time when the lead players will not want to occasionally bring out the juggernaut for another spin. Walking away from it all seems an unwise option now having survived this far.
Evidently on this showing, their catalogue of era defining music is still a crystal clear definition of what rock is all about – in short, this 02 Arena show was a testament to the lasting durability of The Who.
Long may they continue to reign o’er us …
Dave Lewis - March 24th, 2015.
Review by Dante DiCarlo
Roger Daltrey took to the stage telling the audience “Imagine a football team playing back to back matches... that's what we're doing” I won't make any bad jokes about “substitutes” but will instead say that any worry the Who could not play back to back shows was quickly dispelled.
If Sunday was a solid, enjoyable gig, the return leg of the London derby proved they'd just been getting warmed up. Aside from dropping “Slip Kid” in favour of the sing-along “You Better You Bet”, Monday improved upon the previous night in every way and seemed to roll the clock back as the band appeared to be getting younger before your eyes.
Not that there weren't a few vocal flubs and musical miscues. Pete forgot the breakdown in “Substitute” which is on the studio version but was soon dropped from live play. He complained that it was pointless and that he'd lost his flow now. Roger responded by calling him a tart. Later on Roger started singing the final verse of “I Can See For Miles” over Pete's solo. None of this mattered though, as the band were simply on fire. Pete shouted “Everyone at the back we love you!” A move he said he'd got from One Direction, cue an amusing dance across the stage from Mr Townshend. We got plenty of fierce windmills and even a small leap at the end of “Baba O'Riley”, this was clearly a special night for the band, making up every bit for the delay in the gigs being played.
“My Generation” has undergone a slight tweak, still being played in a lower key like the record it does have less key changes though and finishes up in the key of D at the end like most live versions. It seems to be back in the set for good, though I do find Pino's bass solo's too different from John's. He's a wonderful bassist but that solo needs to be a certain way.
The highlight of the night was an incredible version of “Love Reign O'er Me” featuring a scream from Roger on the final verse that sent shivers up my spine and stayed with me long after the concert. It was one of those moments where you can't quite believe what you are hearing – possibly the best version of this song in a few decades.
The band added “Eminence Front” to the set to give Roger some vocal respite, I quite like this track live as not only does Pete get a lead vocal but he often unleashes some brilliant lead guitar work.
The set had been shuffled a bit so that Magic Bus appeared earlier and the night ended with Won't Get Fooled Again, with an added bit of jamming at the end. A great decision in my opinion. So far the best show of the tour and a reminder that the Who are still the best live act in the world.