After six decades together, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend still have that indomitable spirit and compelling chemistry that has been a huge part of their appeal and enduring legacy.

‘The Who Hits Back’, has the band complete with Zak Starkey on drums navigate their way through a crowd-pleasing compilation of hits some of which have been reimagined with the help of a very talented Heart of London Philharmonic Orchestra whose orchestral performance including some exquisite strings which helps elevate the iconic tunes from classic rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia even further.

Of course Pete Townshend’s trademark cascading windmills make an appearance much to the delight of the enraptured audience who had previously been told to ‘Wake the fuck up, come on!’ by the animated 78 year old. He had a point – if you are at a rock ‘n’ roll gig, especially when it’s the legendary Who, wake the hell up!

Kicking their vibrant and expansive set off with a great selection of tracks from ‘Tommy’ which included ‘The Acid Queen’, ‘Amazing Journey’ and of course ‘Pinball Wizard’, the rationale behind using an orchestra was crystal clear and it was a refreshing reimagining of what was already superb songs from such a groundbreaking film.

Pete spoke to the sold-out audience about his love for performing and his gratitude for the love and appreciation from the audience. Cynics might profess that The Who were just on a money making mission to ease them into (eventual) retirement, but it’s clear that the passion and love for live performances is still there which is to be admired.

With the orchestra taking a breather for the second part of the set, the band took us on a stellar sonic journey right back to where it first started with some of the band’s earlier material. 

From the visceral ‘I Can’t Explain’ which was a real rip roaring affair to a crowd pleasing ‘The Kids Are Alright’, this effortlessly showcased why The Who were such an integral part of the music landscape in the ‘60’s and beyond. The former was the first time they had played this track since 2017 as was ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’ which was the first time it was performed since 2014.

This retrospective set prompted Pete to declare that ‘You have to be pretty old to remember this stuff’ with Roger Daltrey responding with the retort ‘Don’t look at me. I don’t bloody know!’, this charming banter then segued on to one of the bands most ferocious hits, a rousing rendition of ‘My Generation’ which always gets the crowd going.

Ever consummate professionals, the last track of the second part of the set ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ was started over due to Roger struggling with his ear piece and having missed the sound check due to the traffic around the arena. It turns out that the second time was a charm and it was beautifully executed and was chock-full of emotion.

The orchestra rejoined the band for the third part of the gig which included ‘The Rock’ complete with compelling and thought provoking visuals, ‘The Real Me’, and ‘Love, Reign O’er Me’, concluding with the incredible ‘Baba O’Riley’ and and intimate version of ‘Tea & Theatre’ which had just Roger and Pete performing together, before they shared a hug and a reflective moment.

The lyrics from the set finale speak a thousand words and say it all ‘We did it all, didn’t we’. And for Roger and Pete this certainly rings true. Did The Who absolutely smash it for this fantastic gig in London – You Better – You Bet!

Photo Credit: Joe Flanagan & Emma Harrison


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