LIVE At Leeds was a great album and all that, but there was something a bit cheesy about The Who returning to play the venue at which they recorded it 36 years ago. Blue plaques and misty-eyed tales of the good old days . . . it was more the sort of stunt that you would expect from Status Quo or Paul McCartney.
But once inside the 2,100- capacity hall, crammed to the rafters on one of the hottest nights of the year, the sense of occasion and heightened emotion was palpable. The Who — or what is left of them — responded with a performance that fully justified the hype. "We are all back!" guitarist Pete Townshend announced to a roar of approval as he and singer Roger Daltrey led the band on stage. Sadly, they were not all back. No mention was made of drummer Keith Moon or bass player John Entwistle; neither survived for the return booking.
In their absence, The Who has become a strange on-off hybrid. When they played Live8 last year, Daltrey said the group had "no plans". Yet Saturday’s performance not only marked the start of a world tour, it also included the first new material that the group has incorporated into its repertoire since 1983.
Wire and Glass, a new "mini-opera", was a complex, stop-start affair, typical of the work that Townshend has been writing since the hard-thinking overtook the hard-rocking sometime in the mid-1970s. And Mike Post Theme was a delicate but still complicated number, which Townshend described as "my first true love song".
They threw in a handful of rarities, including Cry If You Want and Eminence Front, both from the little-loved It’s Hard album. But there was no attempt to revisit the glories of the Live At Leeds album itself — no Magic Bus or My Generation, let alone Young Man Blues.
The set was, however, book-ended by a run of classics including Can’t Explain, The Seeker and Substitute at the beginning, and a closing sequence of Pinball Wizard, Amazing Journey, See Me, Feel Me and Listening To You — which raised the roof, but nearly did for Townshend.
"I may have to go off and take a breather in a minute," the guitarist said, the sweat pouring off his brow. "This is heart attack stuff." Not literally, let’s hope.
The Times Online gives 4 of 5 stars!