There's just no Substitute for The Who

Review by Simon Pinion

IT HAD been just over a year since I'd last seen The Who. Prior to that it had been a gap of over 10 years. The last two occasions had been for the same purpose - The Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT).

Remembering how good the last gig had been (it had even been the catalyst to me doing a walk through the desert in aid of TCT), I was really looking forward to this occasion.

Arriving for a 7.30pm start, I was unsure whether, as last time, The Who would come straight on, or if there would be a support. Last time, they had been at The Royal Albert Hall for only one night, and their guests (Bryan Adams, Eddie Vedder, Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher plus more) had played with them, on Who songs.

This time, the set up was quite different. This was the fourth of five nights. Marti Pellow (plus others) had played the first night, Oasis the second, The Who were playing the third and fourth (the night I attended - February 8, 2002) and Paul Weller was headlining the last night.

This time, they had a support - The Electric Soft Parade. Although not a household name (yet), their first single (There's a Silence) did well, and will be well known to those listening to radio stations such as XFM. Their second single, 'Silent to the Dark' is also currently receiving radio attention, and is due out on February 25.

Their performance was excellent, and although I knew only two of their songs, I thought the whole set was superb. They said they had come straight from another gig at The Astoria, but this didn't dent their enthusiasm. Supports can sometimes be lacking in effort, but this was not the case here.

The keyboard player in particular, proved to be a character. He ended the set standing on top of the keyboards, playing one of them while standing on the others.

The lead singer also swapped places with the drummer for one tune, proving the versatility of both of them. Their album, 'Holes in the Wall' is out now. I'll be ordering it through Indielondon's Amazon link as soon as I get the chance.

The Who came on around 8.15pm, and didn't finish until 10.45pm. The opening tune, 'Can't Explain' is a great opener, and got the sell-out crowd's attention.

The Who weren't to hang about during this set, and made sure there were few gaps in between tunes. 'Can't Explain' gave way to 'Substitute' and the whole crowd was on its feet, and remained so through most of the night.

The night progressed through many of their hits, but mainly concentrated on those taken from their later years. Hence, it may have come as a disappointment to some that earlier, well-known tunes such as 'Magic Bus', 'Pictures of Lilly' and 'I can see for Miles' weren't part of the set.

However, '5.15', 'My Generation', 'Pinball Wizard', 'Kids are alright', 'Who are you?' and 'Won't get fooled again' were. The last two of these songs were my personal favourites. 'Won't get fooled again' is one of my favourite songs of all time, and The Who, in 2002, are still able to do it the justice it deserves.

When the tune goes silent for a moment, the lights go down, and then 'Daltrey' comes back in with a mammoth "Yeah"; this is a spine-tingling moment.

Daltrey still has his moves (the twirling of the microphone being his most famous), and Townsend still has his trademark 360 degree arm swings. Entwhistle still plays the reserved Bass player role well, his couple of solo moments bringing huge rounds of applause.

Townsend seemed to want to steal the show more than I've seen him want to in the past, though. He seemed to have something to prove, and this occasionally meant his guitar would drown out the vocals or prolong a tune. And this would be my only criticism of the show. His solos would sometimes go on for just too long, especially during more obscure album tunes.

All in all, it was an excellent evening, made even better knowing it helped such a worthwhile cause. Not as good as the show in November 2000, but still damn good.