Planet Rock Review: The Who at London Indigo2

Martin Bailey mbailey at
Fri Dec 19 12:07:06 UTC 2008



Review: The Who at London Indigo2
18th December

With a crowd consisting largely of ageing former mods partaking of £4-pints and basking in the resplendent neon blue light of the overly shiny 2000 capacity Indigo2 in London's most corporate of venues, this was perhaps not the most obvious place for a performance by The Who. But that's where we found ourselves on a freezing cold Wednesday night to see the third and final night of the band's Christmas shows. Here's what we thought...

These 'fan club' shows were arranged by the band "just because..." There was no product to sell, no message to drive home - this was a celebration by a band that enters its forty-fifth year in 2009 and as soon as those iconic opening chords to 'I Can't Explain' burst from the speaker stacks surrounding the small stage the crowd are happy to celebrate with them.

Pete batters his guitars into submission with the same ferocity that he always did, Roger still flings around his microphone with such reckless abandon that the front row of the crowd seriously fear for their safety, and although half of the band is sadly missing now the musicians that make up the backline quietly (figuratively speaking, not literally - this was a loud gig) capture the spirit of John and Keith.

There are none of the sound problems that hindered the first night of the run, and as the band fly through 'The Seeker' and 'Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere' you get the feeling that they are just hitting their stride. And so it proves, as the set gets better and better. 2006's 'Fragments' sits comfortably between the aforementioned 'Anyway...' and the simply timeless 'Who Are You.'

The band are in such confident mood by the time they finish 'Behind Blue Eyes' that when they head into the rarely performed 'Tattoo' it was as if it'd been a setlist regular for 40 years.

By this point the crowd were, after a quiet start, beginning to warm up and after 'Sister Disco' the band head into the two highlights of the night. 'Baba O'Riley' is as good as you could hope and then 'Eminence Front,' replete with a "mods vs rockers" video backdrop, is moving, epic and beautiful.

An extended '5:15' and a suitably bombastic 'Love Reign O'er Me' lead into the always great 'Won't Get Fooled Again' - with Roger successfully nailing that iconic scream. 

The set closes with an extended 'My Generation' and then the rejuvenated Who's Next off-cut 'Naked Eye', a live favourite for most of the 70s but forgotten of late.

After the obligatory encore break Pete reveals that they will be playing one of their two most requested songs, teasing the crowd with the opening refrain from 'Boris The Spider' before the band head into 'Magic Bus.'

Pete almost manages to mistime the rhythm on 'Pinball Wizard' before the band seamlessly segue into Tommy's 'Amazing Journey/ Sparks,' 'See Me, Feel Me' and 'Listening To You.' 

And after the rest of the band depart the stage Pete and Roger remain to perform 'Tea & Theatre' from their Endless Wire album, closing the set and prompting a huge ovation from the crowd that seemed to surprise the two legends who appeared genuinely moved by the reception.

As the duo departed the stage and the lights came on much of the audience seemed shellshocked by the experience of seeing their heroes in full swing and at such close proximity (the venue has a 2000 capacity but on the ground floor feels like a modestly sized bar). Perhaps the only negative side of the night was that it was so good that even at two hours long the set felt too short - the audience would have happily and enthusiastically taken at least another hour if the band would have given it.

As many of their contemporaries head into either mediocrity, sub-standard tours or only go for the big money shows it's remarkable, refreshing and startlingly welcome that in their fifth decade The Who would do shows for the sole purpose of "doing it for the fans." They could have easily charged double the ticket price and still sold out the venue, but they didn't and for that we thank them.

This was a phenomenal show from a legendary band that will live long in the memories of the lucky few that managed to see it. 

Here's the setlist

I Can't Explain
The Seeker
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
Who Are You
Behind Blue Eyes
Sister Disco
Baba O'Riley
Eminence Front
Love Reign O'er Me
Won't Get Fooled Again
My Generation
Naked Eye
Magic Bus
Pinball Wizard
Amazing Journey/Sparks
See Me, Feel Me
Listening to You
Tea & Theatre

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