The Who's Pete Townshend says playing live still excites him

The Who's Pete Townshend
The Who's Pete Townshend (Image credit: Getty)

The Who’s Pete Townshend says he felt so “excited” that he couldn’t sleep following recent shows in Europe and Mexico.

The guitarist has previously voiced his dislike of performing live, saying that touring “means nothing” to him and is “a load of crap.”

But as he nears “the end” of his music career, Townshend says performing to younger crowds has given him a new lease of life.

He tells Rolling Stone: “For me, the last five weeks of the tour we did, before we came to California to do Desert Trip, everything felt very different. I’m notorious for being, I suppose the word is blasé, but also a bit diffident about performing.

“We’ll do a good show and afterwards, people will say, ‘Were you having fun?’ And I’ll say, ‘No, not really.’ They’ll say, ‘Isn’t it great?’ And I’ll say, ‘Well, glad you think so but it’s just what I do.’ That kind of thing.

“I’m a little bit detached and I put it down to the way that I grew up. My dad was in a band, and I grew up on the road with my dad, and I feel safe on the road. I don’t get nervous on the road. I get a little bored on the road. I don’t have a lot of hose kind of starry buzzes that a lot of people get when they perform.

“Well, this last couple of months, maybe it’s because I can see the end in the distant misty future or maybe it’s something else, I started to feel like what I’m doing is of greater consequence. It means more to me, anyway.”

Townshend continues: “In Germany and Italy, and Bologna specifically, at least 65% of the audience were under 30. Now, when we went to Coachella, we were also playing to an audience that was about 5050 millennials on the one hand – fuck knows why they were there but they were there, and I’m not gonna try and explain it – and people of our age and younger.

“But in the middle, we played in Mexico, and the audience was very young, but they knew the words of every song and they sang them the whole way through.

“And on both nights, when I went to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I was tired, but I couldn’t sleep, and I think it was because the little artist inside me was excited. I feel I’m still riding on a bit of that now.”

The Who will perform 1969 album Tommy in full on their UK tour in April 2017.

The Who 2017 Tommy & More tour

Apr 03: Liverpool Echo Arena
Apr 05: Manchester Arena
Apr 07: Glasgow Hydro
Apr 10: Sheffield Arena
Apr 12: Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

The story behind The Who's Who's Next album artwork

Former TeamRock news desk member Christina joined our team in late 2015, and although her time working on online rock news was fairly brief, she made a huge impact by contributing close to 1500 stories. Christina also interviewed artists including Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and worked at the Download festival. In late 2016, Christina left rock journalism to pursue a career in current affairs. In 2021, she was named Local Weekly Feature Writer of the Year at the Scottish Press Awards.