Monday 8th June 2013
Wembley Arena, London
Despite it being the last gig of their World tour plus the fact that the album is now unbelievably forty year’s old - The Who and their iconic masterpiece ‘Quadrophenia’ left the Wembley Arena punters in no doubt on Monday night that they still continue to kick arse. So the team might have changed over the years but the product is still premier class. Roger Daltrey’s own production retained bass player Pino Palladino and Pete Townshend’s brother Simon (guitarist/backing vocalist), but bizarrely had parted ways with long time keyboard player John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick. Another notable absentee was drummer Zak Starkey - replaced by Scott Devours who had substituted previously for The Who because of Ringo Junior’s tendon injury. Other new additions were keyboard players John Corey and Loren Gold along with keyboardist/arranger Frank Simes and a brass section.
The then cutting edge of mixing sound bites with music is still as atmospheric as ever – evidenced by the crashing of the waves and the tinkling of the keyboards on the intro ‘I Am The Sea’. Daltrey’s in yer face vocals on ‘The Real Me’ was a dead cert to get everyone out of their seats(was no standing area ageist?) - although most were standing from the start. The ‘Quadrophenia’ overture was made even more powerful with a back screen projection taking us from World War 2 to 1963 and suddenly we were all up for a Brighton beach fight as Pete sang ‘Cut My Hair’ and Daltrey launched into ‘The Punk and the Godfather’. Testosterone levels reduced slightly on ‘I’m One’ with Townshend P. on acoustic guitar and vocals, followed by brother Townshend S. taking over lead vocals appropriately on ‘The Dirty Jobs’ – testament perhaps to the strain of the tour on 69 year old Daltrey’s vocals? Although, to be fair- after Roger and Pete’s vocal sparring on ‘Helpless Dancer’ – I take it all back - and certainly no room for any of today’s lyrical political correctness here.
The cerebral ‘Is It In My Head?’ and the explosive response of ‘I’ve Had Enough’ with Simon T. on mandolin and the driving drums of Devours - booked us a seat on ‘5:15’ – a moving journey in more ways than one - intertwined with an interactive recording and back projection of a John Entwhistle bass solo. Throw in Pete’s first windmill of the night for good measure and we’re out of our brains on the train! ‘Sea and Sand’ and ‘Drowned’ preceded the highlight of the evening - and there was no way they were going to take the ‘Boy’ out of ‘Bell Boy’. Devours stepped up to the plate with his opening drum salvo and Daltrey duly rolled back the years – but it was the poignancy of a recording of Keith Moon singing his anthem which hit home even more – given it was the footage of Charlton ’74 – my first ever gig.
The energy of ‘Doctor Jimmy’ has never waned over those forty years and all the old ‘faces’ present were no doubt up for sorting out that baboon who “cut up my eye – tore up my levis”. ‘The Rock’ not only gave The Who the time to jam outside the shackles of the script, but was also was an opportunity for another pictorial history lesson – the big screen taking us right through to the present and of course the finale - ‘Love, Reign O’er Me’ – OK we didn’t get Daltrey’s iconic blast at the end but it was a powerful end to a stunning performance.
And of course, for those present who did not get Quadrophenia or who had seen the loosely based but cult film – The Who finally reeled off the big hitters ‘Who Are You’, ‘You Better You Bet’, ‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘Baba O’Riley’, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ and finally, the not so well known ‘Tea & Theatre’ – the only track of the night written this century – taken from their CD ‘Endless Wire’. Anyway the night was all about ‘Quadrophenia’. Have waited forty years to see it performed in its entirety and it was well worth waiting for. Stunning.