One can tell how great a noble cause is judging by the people who get involved with it. So far, in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust, the Royal Albert Hall has seen Don Broco, Deaf Havana, Paul Weller and Madness give outstanding performances. How does one follow up this motley of exceptional artists? With a band that not only kick-started Teenage Cancer Trust back in 2000 but whose frontman Roger Daltry is a Teenage Cancer Trust Honorary Patron. The band, which has sold over 100 million records to date, is The Who.
Following the set from support band The Wild Things, The Who addressed the stage as part of a nine-piece acoustic ensemble. Traditionally known for powerful rock cacophonies and their late drummer Keith Moon’s powerful drumming, a more detailed sound and reinterpretation of The Who hits was offered with percussion drumming, a violin and accordion. Furthermore, Pete Townsend’s brother Simon joined the band on guitar and wrote some of the finest material on The Who’s latest 2019 album: Who.
The Who, who were pleased to be performing their first gig since February 2020 to an all-seated Royal Albert Hall, opened with “Substitute”. Daltry and Townsend followed up with “Squeeze Box”, a song recently covered by Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’, which influenced The Who’s rendition of this song which had to be restarted twice because Pete was playing in the incorrect key. It wasn’t the third time lucky; it was the third time perfect.
From the outset, The Who strived for and achieved perfection. They restarted “The Kids Are Alright” to include an extended encore and the Simon Townsend written “Break the News” from Who owing to sound difficulties temporarily impacting Roger’s vocals. The warm, exciting reception to “Break the News” with enthusiastic handclapping throughout was a testament to a band that could still produce fresh tunes just as they began six decades ago. The Who also played “She Rocked My World” and a song they hadn’t played live yet “, Beads on One String” (in support of Ukraine) from Who. The image of LED backdrops of blue and yellow amidst the Royal Albert Hall waving their phones in torch mode was truly emotional during “Beads on One String”.
With so many classic The Who songs dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, emotions were inevitably going to reach impressive altitudes. With this being the first The Who gig in over two years, emotions inevitably reached new zeniths. These zeniths were reached at the Royal Albert Hall with unison singing to the lyrics of “Behind Blue Eyes”, “Who are You”, “Pinball Wizard”, and “Baba O’Riley”. The playout finale of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, played by just Roger and Peter, got the entire audience on their feet and singing.
The Who were more than just a rock band at the Royal Albert Hall; they were also a folk and world music band through their acoustic arrangements. Whilst “My Generation” was omitted from the setlist, it is unlikely that this song would have galvanised the audience the way the other songs did in an acoustic setting. The Who demonstrated at the Royal Albert Hall, just like the Teenage Cancer Trust; they will never “f-fade away”.
Despite tensions between Daltry and Townsend being reported by the press over the years; these two men couldn’t have been nicer to each other, from Townsend letting Roger sing vocals on “Eminence Front” to Daltry showing his appreciation to Pete for writing so many great songs with just him in mind. The warmest show of appreciation came from Pete praising Roger’s work as an honorary patron as a Teenage Cancer Trust Honorary Patron and for being the driving force in setting up Teenage Cancer America. There was also great humour about there being “enough fiddlers in this band” and if Roger would have to dress up like Sir Rod Stewart if he was made a Sir for his work with the Teenage Cancer Trust.
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