The Who at The Royal Albert Hall, London - Live Review

The ‘orrible Who? Acoustic? At the Royal Albert Hall?

Pete Townshend on stage

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For a band whose growth spurts were fuelled by eviscerating volume and working-class fury, this Teenage Cancer Benefit show is something of an anomaly, with its champagne bars and private boxes and comfortable seats that swivel towards the stage. But it’s for a good cause. And besides, it’s not quite as advertised. “We’ve had no time to rehearse,” Roger Daltrey admits as the band’s eight-piece line-up take the stage, “so we’re going full-blast.” You can hear the cheers all the way up to Shepherd’s Bush.

The downside of this, of course, is that the band remain unrehearsed, and much of what follows isn’t quite as slick as it should be. More than once Pete Townsend is spotted looking across the stage anxiously at brother Simon, as if to confirm precisely when both should join a particular song. But it doesn’t matter. Tonight is about as celebratory as shows get, and despite the occasional gruffness in Daltrey’s voice it’s often spectacular: I’m Free is a joy, and the climactic We’re Not Gonna Take It – by which time someone seems to have ramped up the volume way beyond this old hall’s normal limits – is triumphant. Throw in a seven-song encore of exultantly performed greatest hits, including I Can’t Explain and an exhilarating Won’t Get Fooled Again, and even Pete Townsend seems delighted.

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Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.