It would have been easy for these Sixty Somethings who have achieved everything there is both artistically and commercially in the business, to have gone through the motions, saving their energy for better conditions and a place (such as London) where the accolades of the press were to be garnered.
If anything adversity spurred them on and it was difficult to appreciate that you were witnessing a band whose halcyon recording days are twenty years in the past, and a full thirty seven years down the road from their seminal album “Who’s Next”.
The passion and commitment seemed undimmed, and no one in the 20,000 strong crowd could claim to have been short changed. Oasis please take note.
At 39 we were at the young end of the audience demographic who nevertheless seemed determined to grow old disgracefully, and there was as much energy here as at a Muse gig, the Devonian outfit being current holders of the live Olympic music beacon which has passed through such hands as Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, U2 and the Manic Street Preachers.
All the hits were there intermingled with a few songs from their new record, the rather patchy Endless Wire which is the first original Who long player since 1982’s It’s Hard, but the emphasis was most certainly on the back catalogue with Man in a Purple Dress and Fragments the best songs from the latest offering.
One of my favourite Who songs is an obscure album track from the It’s Hard record, Eminence Front, and I was gob smacked to hear it included and indeed eulogised by Townshend during this set.
Clever use of video was made to enhance the music, and the homage to the title sequence in Mike Hodges’ classic film Get Carter was an effective backdrop to Who Are You?
There was one really odd moment when Townshend said; “If you have small children, cover your ears”. You could feel a collective sharp intake of breath, and I thought for one horrible moment he was going to give some explanation of non music related issues, but it was simply so he could swear whilst introducing a song. Whew!
Townshend related the story, which I had assumed until now to be apocryphal, which was when the 1973 classic album Live in Leeds was recorded it had been done because the intentional album Live in Hull had failed due to faulty equipment…. And that indeed the Hull gig had been the superior show.
So Michael may have instead wondered that he was sure that the Who were from London, and not Hull when perusing the Who Live in Leeds album in HMV. Think about it.
Hi lights were many and of course the best political song ever written, Won’t Get Fooled Again did not fail to raise the hairs on the back of the neck.
But the ultimate who moment for me is the chorus to Baba O’Riley and it’s echoes of ‘Eighties student days where the line “It’s Only Teenage Wastelands” was drunkenly bellowed across the bars and streets of Ireland.
So for The Goss, Simon, Martin Kelly Belly and everyone else, here it is the real thing……