Monday, October 30, 2006

...same as the old boss

The Who are my favourite group.

Back in the '70's, when I was at secondary school, I had a milk round. I spent much of my money on records, generally glam rock singles- the first I remember buying with 'my own money' was 'Metal Guru' by T.Rex which is still one of my very favourite songs. And the first album I bought was 'Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy' by The Who. For those of you that don't know (shame on you!!) it's a collection of their early singles and well known album tracks. I've still got it and it still plays (just!); I listened to it so much that I knew how long the gaps between the tracks were and could sing along with the songs as they started... my mates liked prog rock but I liked The 'Oo- they were faster, nastier and above all funnier. They were my friends when I didn't have any friends. They still are, sometimes. They sang about men who hadn't grown up. They sang about underarm deodorant. They sang about frustration, confusion, people who didn't know themselves- they sang about me. I started playing the guitar because I listened to them and thought 'I want to do THAT'. I liked The Beatles when other people liked Yes, I liked The Stones when other people liked Genesis and most of all I liked punk rock when other people wouldn't say the words let alone play the music- but I liked The Who the most of all. And I still do. I never saw them with Keith Moon on drums so some would say I've never seen them at all- but I saw them with Kenney Jones and loved it. I didn't see them in '89- I couldn't stomach the idea of Townshend on acoustic guitar with someone else playing electric for him- but I saw the 'Quadrophenia' shows in '96/7 and have seen them loads of times since. Now there's only 2 of the original band left of course- with a new album out which, as type this, I can't wait to hear. I haven't got the latest McCartney or Stones album. That says something.
I went to The Roundhouse in Camden Town last night to see The Who. What an amazing venue. I didn't go to the original Roundhouse but this is something to behold, a domed ceiling with lights all around it in what are probably best described as 'ever decreasing circles'. An extraordinary sight.
The Fratellis supported and pretty good they were too. They started with 'The Seeker'- don't know if they usually do that in the set?- which I felt could have wound the audience up but actually went down very well; the rest of their (short) set was generally well received though you got the feeling that most people were just hanging on to the place in the crowd by the end. Still they played their well known song- must find the title!- which even I recognised and finished with a song that had the middle bit from 'Hot Love' and ended with the riff from 'Children of the Revolution' so they can't be all bad.
Introduced by 'Johnnie Walker of Radio 2' The Who started with 'I Can't Explain'- Pete in suit, shades and stripey black & white hat, Roger looking mean as ever, the song 41 years old. Then 'The Seeker'- suddenly The Fratellis sound, well, silly- followed by probably the best 'Who Are You' I've seen them do. Astonishing guitar from P.T., the band rising to the occasion with him. Breathtaking.
And then, the 'new' songs. The much touted mini-opera 'Wire and Glass', 15-odd minutes of music, ambitious at this stage of the game even by Townshend's standards. Then 'Baba O'Riley' and 'My Generation' provoking a near-riot mid set... then another new song, 'Man in a Purple Dress', a furious religious indictment performed by just acoustic guitar and vocals. 'Mike Post's Theme', yet another new song, yet more acoustic guitar. Then a 'Tommy' medley- the 2 lads in front of me (I can call them lads, they looked less than half my age!) reacting to the opening chords of 'Pinball Wizard' as though they'd been given proof that life after death exists, 'Amazing Journey' running into 'Sparks' with Roger breaking the skin on a tambourine at the moment Pete hit the largest E chord any of us will ever hear, into 'See Me Feel Me/Listening To You' and the riot that nearly happened earlier is now all around me and I'm part of it...
Suddenly it's 'Tea and Theatre', the last song, the last new song, two 60-something year old men reducing the Roundhouse to rubble with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a teacup. No encore. You can't follow that. Like the first time I heard 'em, like the first time I saw 'em, all I want to do now is play the electric guitar. As good as I've ever seen anybody. As good as most of us will ever see. Gig of the year. Gig of the decade. Of the millennium. Of all time*.

Meet the new boss...

*well... you know what I mean!!

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