Dipesh Gadher Media Correspondent
THE WHO returned to the scene of arguably their greatest live performance last night, 36 years after the event, performing to a new g-g-generation of fans and loyal diehards.
That 1970 St Valentine’s night gig saw the venue, a student refectory at Leeds University, enshrined in rock history, with the album Live At Leeds taped there tweaking the sonic nerve of rock fans everywhere. Last year readers of Q Magazine voted it the best live album of all time.
Guitarist Pete Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey, surviving members of the original band, unveiled a Civic Trust blue plaque outside the refectory yesterday to commemorate its role as a live rock venue. The Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, Elton John and Radiohead have all played there.
The commemorative show, which starts the Who’s world tour, was the idea of the broadcaster Andy Kershaw, a former Leeds University entertainments secretary, who approached the band when he received a honorary doctorate last year.
Townsend told a cheering crowd last night: "We had just finished an eight-week tour of the US. We were young and fit. Today we are straight out of rehearsal. We will make mistakes, we will be clunky. I will probably lose a fingernail. But it’s great to be back."
Daltrey and Townshend were supported this time by Ringo Starr’s son Zak Starkey on drums, Pino Palladino on bass guitar, John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards, and Pete’s brother Simon Townshend.
After opening with Who Are You the band tore into Can’t Explain, The Seeker and Substitute, a two-minute gem from the 1970 programme.
Andrew Burns, 52, a social worker from Birmingham who was also there first time around said: "It’s a much fuller sound now, with keyboards. And they will never be the same without Moony (Keith Moon) and (John) Entwistle, but they are still magic."
Moon died in 1978 after overdosing with a drug prescribed to wean him off alcohol. Entwistle died four years ago of a cocaine-induced heart attack.
The event also reunited the student union events team who organised the event. Simon Brogan, Leeds’s former social secretary who booked the band from a telephone booth inside the university’s union building, was joined by John Standerline and Peter Hart.
"Back in 1970 we had no idea that we were taking part in history," said Standerline, 57.
"We didn’t know what the significance of the concert would be. At the time we just knew it was very good. The atmosphere was magic. Everything just clicked into place for the band that night."
Yesterday’s concert also reunited two former students who had not met for more than 30 years. Dick Neale, 54, and John Barton, 55, were both then budding guitarists studying mining at Leeds University.
Neale recalled: "It was stunning seeing Pete Townshend playing chords I could only aspire to. I couldn’t let the latest concert pass without being here."
Barton said: "I just recall the volume of noise and excitement. I felt at the time we were witnessing something great, but I used to feel that almost every week. That year I saw a double-header featuring Cream and Pink Floyd for three-and-sixpence."
In 1970 students paid 11s 6d, (57.5p) a ticket. Last night they cost £37.50. Touts asked £100.