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The Who Join Together With 02 Faithful

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The Who 2006 GettyImages 566839503
Photo: Brian Rasic/Getty Images

“It’s supposed to be fun!” said Roger Daltrey in his last words of the show. For more than two hours at London’s The 02 last night, this celebration of The Who’s 50th anniversary had been all that and more.

The band’s two concerts in the capital were intended as the culmination of the UK leg of their anniversary, last December. Instead, after Daltrey’s throat infection caused their postponement, they became the first night of the tour’s new phase, ahead of a first North American leg next month, more European shows including Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time Hyde Park in June, then another run through North America from September.

What thrilled Pete Townshend, as he thanked The Who’s steadfast audience for staying with them, was that there had been hardly any returns from the original London dates. The wait was immensely worthwhile — not for any technical perfection, the band understandably still knocking off a little rust after that hiatus — but for the engaging spirit of bonhomie engendered by the two figureheads.

That was especially so in the context of a set list offering not only their mighty staples, but some lesser-performed gems, all illustrated with stunning backdrop visuals. Both looking almost absurdly limber for half a century in, Townshend and Daltrey are road-hardened campaigners who have seen and survived everything. Last night, their spontaneous rapport bordered at times on the knockabout.

“The set list is interesting tonight,” said Daltrey at one point. “Why?” asked Townshend. “Because I’m trying to remember it,” came Roger’s instant reply. “Lots of words. Too many! Why couldn’t you have written easy stuff?” “’Cos I’m an intellectual,” deadpanned Pete.

Visually, the show has seized the anniversary by expanding on the retrospective themes of their last British dates, during which I saw them give a stunning performance at this venue 21 months ago. Sonically, the current augmentation of the live band encouraged far greater use of harmony vocals and, in turn, some fascinating adjustments to the setlist.

Here, then, was an opening barrage from the early days of ‘I Can’t Explain’ and ‘Substitute’; trips to either end of the ‘70s for ‘The Seeker’ and ‘Who Are You’; then the further formative memories of ‘The Kids Are Alright’ and one that Townshend told us he was especially proud of, ‘I Can See For Miles.’ That mid-1960s period also offered a charming ‘So Sad About Us’ and, later, the intricacy of the nine-minute mini-opera from the same album, ‘A Quick One (While He’s Away).’

The ‘Who By Numbers’ opener ‘Slip Kid’ was another welcome revival, and there was a ‘Tommy’ taster, with ‘Amazing Journey/Sparks’ followed by ‘See Me Feel Me.’ The still-magnificent ‘Baba O’Reilly’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ could have been the conclusion, but there was still a rough and ready journey on the ‘Magic Bus’ to take us home.

Earlier, Daltrey had asked us to join together with the band. That connection is like no other artist-audience relationship, and they’ll be underlining that yet again for the rest of 2015.

Words: Paul Sexton

More information about The Who’s 2015 dates, including Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time Hyde Park on June 26 and Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia at the Royal Albert Hall on July 5, are available at the band’s website
Explore our dedicated The Who Artist Page
Download The The Who app for free! A 3D virtual world modelled on famous moments and landmarks from their 50 year career:
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Format: Union Jack flagUK English
4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Scott Barker

    March 23, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    last night at the O2 was absolutely bloody awesome, seeing my idols in the flesh on stage performing blew me away.
    What added to the great atmosphere was Pete and Rogers banter, like the we’d be bloody skint if it weren’t for you lot at the audience, and Pete and his carrot cracked me right up.
    Btw it was the second time I’ve heard Pin ball wizard performed at the O2, and I’m proud to say my daughter was the first of the two when she performed with the Young voices choir.

  2. Paul Sharp

    March 23, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    it took a while for block 112 to warm up in fact not until Baba O’Reilly by then the seat had taken its toll on the back. It’s true there were spots of rust showing but they were over in a blink and I’m sure not everyone noticed. I thought Zak was on fire , the banter between Roger & Pete was spontaneous with Pete as described previously as dead pan being apt as usual. Slip Kid was a nice addition but my Fav was Behind Blue Eyes. Tonight will probably be a blinder.

  3. Russel Slade

    March 23, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Gutted the original gig was cancelled in dec 2014 but going last night was bloody awesome even better then the quadrophonia set 18 months previous just sad they didn’t do team in the theatre as it would have been a fitting end to a brilliant ….

  4. Helen

    March 24, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    I went on Sunday – after disappointment that London 17th Dec was postponed (17th Dec was my birthday)….well, what a gift. Roger and Peter “you are forgiven (you are forgiven)” for cancelling on my birthday as what was unwrapped on Sunday was out of this world! The sound was amazing, the songs spanning generations yet still fresh and as excellent as ever. they rock, they roll they are THE WHO. I mean they ARE The Who! I danced the night away and made some new Wholigan friends along the way. It was an amazing night with Roger and Pete and their fab band

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