Tuesday 12 December 2017

rock the who

Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

o2 dublin

It seems ages since The Who headlined the closing night of Glastonbury back in the recent mists of 2007. In the intervening years, seemingly just about everyone else has reformed to cater for an insatiable modern appetite for nostalgia.

The first Irish indoors show from The Who in donkey's years isn't exactly a greatest hits lap of honour, but an opportunity to play their revered album Quadrophenia from start to finish, which is still a bona fide benchmark of mod culture.

About halfway through its live playback, it is apparent that The Who are one of the precious few acts that can get away with this sort of indulgence.

Quadrophenia is a lengthy and sprawling album that could be broadly categorised as experimental art-rock.

Their other magnum opus is the rock opera Tommy, but somehow they're one of the precious few rock bands on planet Earth that have sold in excess of a staggering 100 million albums.

Rather than test a paying audience's patience, the performance dramatically improves as it grinds on. Roger Daltrey (right) hits the high notes with remarkable passion and conviction for a man who certainly doesn't look 69 years of age.

Big screens show footage of mod iconography and a moving newsreel that is a bit like a Reeling in the Years-style documentary for mod culture.

A tribute to their late drummer Keith Moon is beautifully done. Even if you're a casual fan with a rudimentary knowledge of their back catalogue, it is impossible not to be moved.

Even though I'm not fully convinced by the wisdom of playing a studio album in its entirety live, as the beauty of a gig should be a sense of surprise when it comes to the running order of a setlist, Quadrophenia works a treat.

There is one slight problem: it isn't anywhere near loud enough.

Not to advocate completely deafening an audience, but their performances at Oxegen and Glastonbury were both far louder and more powerful, and they were in the open air.

However, the performance itself is close to flawless, complete with Pete Townshend's windmills and Daltrey playing his favourite game of throwing and catching his microphone.

Perhaps they should have found room for 'My Generation' and 'I Can't Explain' in a short but sweet encore set to send us home deliriously happy, but one of rock's greatest institutions still manage to stun with 'Baba O'Reilly' and 'Won't Get Fooled Again'.

The band that memorably sang the words "I hope I die before I get old" have aged gracefully into a thrilling force of nature.

Irish Independent

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