THE WHO (Live)

at The Riverside, Chester-Le-Street, Durham, U.K., July 19, 2023

THE WHO (Live at The Riverside, Chester-Le-Street, Durham, U.K., July 19, 2023)
Photo: Mick Burgess

While Europe and seemingly the rest of the world was basking in stifling heatwaves, over here we are facing the usual British summers of rain, rain and yet more rain. Earlier in the day it was literally tanking it down and it didn’t bode well for tonight’s show by the legendary The Who.

Yet despite the ominous clouds threatening overhead, the evening stayed relatively dry although many in the crowd were taking no chances with wellies and rain ponchos everywhere.

With a two hour show split into three parts, this was no ordinary performance. The opening section was built around their gold plated classic Rock Opera, “Tommy” backed by a full orchestra opening up with “Overture” and closing with “We’re Not Going To Take It” stopping by the “Acid Queen” and the timeless standard “Pinball Wizard” where the band and orchestra combined to startling effect, filling out the sound to cinematic proportions while lead singer Roger Daltrey gave a powerhouse performance.

Hit single “Who Are You” and “Eminence Front” with Pete Townshend on lead vocals, brought the first section to a close before the band returned to the stage alone for part two. This is where The Who truly excelled – a raw, powerful Rock band with an enviable back catalogue of genuine classics to draw from. They hit the spot with pretty much every one of them from the Mod era “The Kids Are Alright” and “Substitute” to the Pop infused “You Better, You Bet” to the harder Rock of “My Generation” which had the whole stadium on their feet and an immense “Won’t Get Fooled Again” where Roger Daltrey’s astonishing voice reached dizzying heights with his climatic scream. During “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” drummer Zak Starkey, who excelled all night, drew on his inner Keith Moon and battered his kit to within an inch of its life. The Who were on terrifying form.

“Behind Blue Eyes” was a ballad of true class performed acoustically along with a violin and cello bringing the second section of the show to a close before the orchestra returned for the final stretch.

What a stretch it was too. Most bands, if they are lucky, manage one groundbreaking concept album but The Who have hit the jackpot twice with “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia” and it was the latter which was to feature in the final third with the orchestra providing bombastic backing to “The Real Me,” “5.15” and a stunning “Love, Reign O’er Me,” where Daltrey gave an age defying performance

During “The Rock,” huge video screens flanking the stage flashed stark historical images from Vietnam to Ukraine and 9/11 to Covid along with images of lost band members Keith Moon and John Entwistle. The orchestral backing really came into its own on this dramatic instrumental.

It’s incredible to believe that The Who are close to the 60th anniversary of the release of their first official single “Can’t Explain,” which they played earlier in their set. After over two hours on stage, you’d never have known that Daltrey and Townshend are nigh on 80 years old but they still had plenty in their collective tanks for a powerful romp through “Baba O’Riley” leaving the crowd in no doubt that The Who are rightly considered as one of the UK’s greatest ever bands.

Review and Photos By Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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