The Who In 1989: Recreating ‘Tommy’ And Much More Besides

It was the year of the band’s 25th anniversary tour, which brought new performances of Pete Townshend’s opus.

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The Who Tommy 1989 GettyImages 561445877
(L-R) Steve Winwood, Patti LaBelle, Phil Collins and Billy Idol join The Who for 'Tommy' at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, California on August 24, 1989. Photo: Ebet Roberts/Redferns

It turned out to be less than halfway through the band’s enduring lifespan to date, but on August 24, 1989, as part of the 25th anniversary tour by The Who, they played Tommy and much more at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.

The LA gig was a star-studded affair. The Who’s performance of Pete Townshend’s rock opera featured guest appearances by Elton John (reprising his role in Ken Russell’s Tommy film as the Pinball Wizard), Phil Collins, Billy Idol, Steve Winwood, and Patti LaBelle, who played the Acid Queen. Robert Plant was billed to perform, but he pulled out of the LA show.

Ticket prices started at $75 and went all the way to $1,500, with proceeds going to charities for abused children and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band were coming towards the end of the massive reunion tour of 1989 by the time they got to California.

Go To The Mirror! (Live U.S. Tour/1989)

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The itinerary began on June 21 in Glen Falls, New York, filling stadiums throughout North America until September 3. In October 1989, the tour finished with four shows in Birmingham, four at Wembley Arena and two closing nights at the Royal Albert Hall.

Pete solo and Who hits

After featuring the whole of the Tommy opus, the Universal Amphitheater gig followed the pattern of the North American tour with a second set of greatest hits, as well as three Townshend solo numbers, “Face The Face,” “Dig,” and “Rough Boys.” The band encored with two more enduring favourites, “Who Are You” and Eddie Cochran‘s “Summertime Blues.”

Some songs from the Los Angeles show were included in the Join Together live album that followed the tour in the spring of 1990, which only nudged the bottom of the US chart at No.188 and the UK listings at No.59.

Listen to the best of The Who on Apple Music and Spotify.



  1. Domingo

    August 24, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    La pelicula Tommy la vi el dia de su estreno aqui en Madrid y despues otras veintitantas veces.
    La tengo en VHS Y DVD.

  2. david livingstone

    July 24, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    always loved this band since i was 12 years old just a pity the tickets are so expensive i cant afford it but all the best my favourite band of all time

  3. Sara

    August 24, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    I wasn’t allowed to see the Rich Stadium show that tour. And it hurt because I’d just fallen for Roger.

  4. Brian

    August 25, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    This was my first Who show. My sister had a co-worker who got dibs on tickets at the venue, so he scored $150 seats and sold them to us for face value. The venue is small and intimate, only around 5,000 seats. Being toward the end of the tour, the band was well-oiled, though its size and the complexity of the song arrangements meant long free-form jams were impossible. It was essentially Pete’s Deep End band. In 2011, I met Roger in Austin for a Tommy show, and he told me that he “hated the marimba band” they had with them on this tour! That may be a little unkind, for at the time you could look past the big band and enjoy the the big three, who were clearly enjoying themselves as well. This still ranks among the best shows I’ve seen.

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