Live: The Who

First show of their world tour and a rare off-night from Britain’s premier hooligan rockers.

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The Who’s Sunday night gig at the 02 starts not so much with a big bang but something closer to a late-Christmas cracker popping. This is the first of two shows postponed after Roger Daltrey fell ill back in December.

As hi-tech screen graphics explode into life, Daltrey, Pete Townshend and their extended backing band amble on stage looking like they’d rather be at home watching Mr Selfridge.

But after a rusty I Can’t Explain and some bus stop pensioner-style bickering (Daltrey: “You alright, Pete?” Townshend: “’Oo gives a fuck?”) the Statler and Waldorf of 70s rock find their spark. Sort of. Substitute and The Kids Are Alright thrum with nervous energy.

But this is the first night of a big world tour (including a Hyde Park show this June) that may or may not be The Who’s last. Daltrey is saving his voice, and his new default setting, a bluesy, guttural growl, sounds misplaced on an otherwise sublime I Can See For Miles.

After a rotten run through Love Reign O’er Me they find themselves again, bizarrely, on 1966’s mini-rock opera/period piece A Quick One While He’s Away. From here it’s a predictable run through the CSI-endorsed hits, and the undignified spectacle of Daltrey trying to exit from the wrong side of the stage. An almost good night, then. But not great.


Mark Blake

Mark Blake is a music journalist and author. His work has appeared in The Times and The Daily Telegraph, and the magazines Q, Mojo, Classic Rock, Music Week and Prog. He us the author of Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd, Is This the Real Life: The Untold Story of Queen, Magnifico! The A–Z Of Queen, Peter Grant, The Story Of Rock's Greatest Manager and Pretend You're in a War: The Who & The Sixties.