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Teenage Cancer Trust present The Who Live at The Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall 18th March 2024

The first of two shows at The Royal Albert Hall marks the end of an era, as Roger Daltry steps aside after a glorious 24 years as the curator of the Teenage Cancer Trust. Under his watch, £32 million has been raised from ticket sales alone. So while we've been watching some great music, we've also helped to support young people living with cancer.

It's always terrific to see The Who live. Their zeal and energy would put most youngsters to shame. Sure, they're not jumping around the stage anymore - but given that Daltry turned 80 a few weeks earlier and Townshend follows closely behind, they can still put on a great show. Although they seemed a little bit weary this time around.

The show was also more chaotic than last year's exceptional stop-off at the O2 Arena, but that could be explained by a mix-up with the set list (apparently due to backing singer Billy Nicholls swapping the set list for one that they hadn't rehearsed! *)

They burst onto the stage with a version of 'Can't Explain', which feels a little disjointed as if they are not all quite on the same page. Then the orchestra strikes up with the triumphant 'Overture', (the track that has started all their sets for the last five years), even so, listening to it live again after years of listening to it on worn-out vinyl is nothing short of magical.

As the band push on through a compilation of songs from the 1969 rock opera, it's amazing to watch them still perform tracks like 'Pinball Wizard' and 'Amazing Journey' over 50 years later. Even though its leading men may have aged, the music is still timeless. The backing of the orchestra takes The Who's music into a different stratosphere and gives Townshend's music the arrangement it deserves.

Mind you, we were lucky to hear it at all: Townshend announces "I look confused because I wasn't expecting to play Tommy", which then causes a bit of bickering between the band and prompts Daltry to comment  "I've got a set list but I can't fucking read it!" It's funny to watch this dynamic: had it been the good old days somebody might have lobbed a chair across the stage. 

Thankfully the orchestra seemed to have a handle on things and the band played more or less the setlist from their last tour. Daltry messes up his mic swings, Zack Starky appears to mouth 'sorry' to Daltry during one song. Later on, Townshend grumbles that his hearing aid app is being tampered with and at another point, he needs to change out an amp. I was thinking or perhaps hoping that he might smash up another guitar in frustration. With all this banter and comedy no wonder Daltry and Townshend are a beloved British double act!

The orchestra leaves the stage for a well-earned break and the band launches into a selection of their hits 'My Generation' and 'Behind Blue Eyes' being a highlight. The behemoth track that everyone's waiting for: 'Won't Get Fooled Again' doesn't disappoint, as Daltry's primal scream could be heard somewhere down Exhibition Road!

The orchestra returns for a blistering selection from Quadrophenia. After a rough ride early in the set, the band steel themselves for 'The Rock' and 'Love, Reign o’er Me' and a terrific finale of 'Baba O’Riley'.

Things are clearly far from seamless in tonight's show, but hey that's the reality of a live performance. In classic Who fashion they are far too cool to cover this up and have always adopted a two-fingered approach to such nonsense. As Townshend points out the band were 'among friends' and The Who's fans are certainly some of the most loyal in rock and really who gives a fuck! We're here to raise money for a great cause: whoever follows Daltry's work for the Teenage Cancer Trust has big shoes to fill. Rock on the mod spirit!

*According to the Blog on the band's official website Billy did make the list, but they weren't his choices and took the flack for somebody else) 


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