REVIEW – THE WHO

The Who Logo@ Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, June 20 2013

At 10.35pm, as their fellow musicians trooped off stage, a 68-year-old guitarist and a 69-year-old vocalist stood alone in front of the sell-out crowd.

The strains of Pete Townshend’s windmill power chords on Won’t Get Fooled Again had whipped the audience to a fever pitch after an evening few will ever forget. 

And now for The Who’s piece de resistance. After playing Quadrophenia, Townshend’s 1973 concept album in its entirety and then most of the band’s  best known hits, there was time for one more song.

The Kids Are Alright? My Generation? The perfect end to a perfect night?

Well, no, actually, Instead, the Townshend unplugged and switched to an acoustic guitar while alongside, Roger Daltrey, clutching a mug of hot tea, apologised that his vocal chords had been hindered by a nasty bout of hay fever (news to everyone present by the way, so note-perfect had been his delivery throughout).

And then the pair played the gentle, unheralded Tea And Theatre from 2006’s Endless Wire.

After 110 minutes of finely crafted Herculean rock, it shouldn’t have worked but it did. Gloriously.

“We did it all, didn’t we?” sang Daltrey and collectively, we yelled an emphatic yes.

“Jumped every wall, instinctively.” Well actually no. They catapulted them with a performance which didn’t just roll back the years but at times, defied time.

“A thousand songs still smoulder now. We played them as one. We’re older now.”

If Townshend and Daltrey were in reflective mood as they played probably the last song they’ll ever perform in Newcastle, what had preceded Tea And Theatre was raucous, rousing and a eulogy to their place on rock’s pantheon.

Quadrophenia, as Townsend acknowledges, is neither their most accessible album nor the easiest to perform live but their decision to take it on the road was vindicated.

With a two-piece brass section beefing up the music and three circular screens on stage providing close-ups, flashbacks, film and graphic, there was plenty to focus the mind during the near-80 minute reprise of The Who’s second soundtrack.

The surviiving duo’s homage to late colleagues John Entwistle and Keith Moon was as poignant as any such tributes I’ve ever witnessed, featuring a trademark solo from the bassist’s archives during a breathtaking 5.15 and Moon coming to life during an appropriately madcap Bell Boy as he shared vocals with Daltrey, who, I swear, had tears in his eyes as he gazed at the big screen.

The band played Quadrophenia straight through after which Townshend greeted the audience – “those from both sides of the rivers because I’ve got family from each,” he said. A nice touch.

Then came the classics. Who Are You, You Better You Bet, Pinball Wizard, Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again. Musical heaven.

I wonder if they’ll be as good as this when they get old.

Ian Murtagh

I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.

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