Who are you? Who? Who? Who?
For many years, Roger Daltrey has been patron of the Teenage Cancer Trust and organises annual fundraising benefit concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, London. This year, it was the turn of the Who.
It's always a different experience to see a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, but this time it was special. We were a bunch of smiling old fogies dressed smartly in our gnawed Who t-shirts and, of course, plenty of beer. All ready to sing along with the band.
Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Simon Townshend took the lead and were followed by a host of musicians ready to give their all after – reportedly – just two hours of rehearsals. Three acoustic guitars (including a Gibson J-200, of course), a ukulele, a violin, an accordion, bass, drums, keyboards and, from time to time, a harmonica.
They started playing Substitute and then Squeeze Box – but Pete was playing on the wrong note! Once, twice, three times - Pete took to telling jokes while laughing at himself, and immediately connected with the audience. The Kids Are Alright sounded weird, and Roger stopped the song, laughing his head off - they were out of sync! They started again, and the audience applauded excitedly... what a show!
After that exotic start, Tatoo, Behind Blue eyes and Real Good Looking Boy (the first time they played it live since 2008) followed.
The time travel journey continued. Pete picks up the microphone and takes us back to 1968, when they were recording Tommy. Simon was about 8 years old at the time and went to see his older brother's concert with David Bowie. On the way out, Simon said to Pete: "I am going to be a rock star like you!" Pete slipped on a classical guitar and they played Break The News. He wasn't happy with the performance, because Simon and Roger were busy doing their own thing and decided to play it again.
Pete asked for a chair, Roger put down the guitar and silence descended, until he started to play She Rocked My World. The acoustic version is reminiscent of a certain flamenco influence.
The band seem to have come out of the pandemic very strongly, but the references to their beginnings are constant. No religion, no politics, no colours and that's what Beads On One String is all about, that's why the colours of the Ukrainian flag in the background, this time, didn't leave anyone indifferent.
With feelings running high, we go ‘back to the future’, 1992, when Pete was doing an interview for TCA (Teen Cancer America) saying "what a wanker he was". And then he got the idea to write Eminence Front. But the ecstasy comes when Pete asks: "Who hasn't seen C.S.I.? Vegas.... how is that possible? Who are you? Who? Who? Who?" The drummer clearly watched the whole series and, out of excitement, pounded the drums directly with his hands.
For years, Pete has been writing and playing solo hits for well-known series and films. Most recently The Adam Project (2022), with Let My Love Open the Door. With this song, they managed to get the whole audience up and singing and dancing like there was no tomorrow.
And to round off the night, Daltrey and Pete were left alone on stage, remembering Baba O'Riley and Won't Get Fooled Again: the whole Royal Albert Hall on its feet and singing in unison made the hairs stand on end.
Were two hours of rehearsals enough? Maybe not, but the result was absolutely brilliant. The concert was definitely too short.
By the way, the opening act was The Wild Things, (Sydney Rae White showed off her love for Gibson Firebirds as well as her splendid voice), but after seeing The Who, nobody remembered them any more.