Friday, January 14, 2011

Who Are You? The BEST, that's what!

Charity concerts have a special feel of their own. You get an eclectic and often unlikely combination of acts performing with a low-key, 'pally', informality. It's professional but not produced, and if it comes off you kind of feel you've been part of an event rather than just a spectator. When they don't come off it's a complete embarrassment, and you feel you just parted with the hard-earned a bit too readily.

Last night saw The 'Orrible 'Oo back in their old west London stamping ground at the Hammersmith Apollo, headlining a benefit for 'Killing Cancer' a charity promoting non-invasive therapy. It was an opportunity of catching what may turn out be their last outing, with rumours flying around that Townsend's hearing problem may preclude them taking 'Quadrophenia' on the road later this year as initialy projected.

The 'strange bed-fellows' for this mighty night were Richard Ashcroft of The Verve (wisely perhaps steering clear of performing 'The Drugs Don't Work' given the objective of the benefit!), Bryan Adams, Blondie, Jeff Beck and natch, The Who.

Ashcroft kicked off. He has a sound and a swagger that is pure 1990s Manchester even if he's from Wigan. Great solo stuff. Daltry then came out, bantered a bit with the audience, nodded to his own past history at the Apollo (which included seeing 1950's Saturday morning film legend 'Hop Along' Cassidy on stage here, with horse!)and with band played some typical Daltry solo-stuff. Thankfully his voice threatening throat-nodules appear to have been successfully removed. The three numbers laid the foundations for Bryan Adams to stroll on next and get everyone singing along to 'Run to You'. Alas, Adams spot was too short (particularly disappointing the lad from Kyrgyzstan sitting behind me and there specially to see him).

It was hairs-up-on-back-of-neck time next; Jeff Beck launched into Beck's Bolero, before playing an amazing version of the Beatles' 'Day in the Life' (available on Beck at Ronnie Scotts). Then out of the wings came the unmistakable Blondie to join Beck on 'Heart of Glass' and a couple of her other hits. Beck and Blondie? It worked. Blondie still looked good from where I sat... though it was a fair way back!

Then Daltry and Beck did their duet, paying homage to the Chicago blues that underpinned the birth of British metal in the early to mid 60's. Daltry's voice and Beck's guitar, throwing them back 50-years to their own beginings around the mean streets of west London; aka 'The Thames Delta'!

The heart-stopping, throat drying, nostalgia-tear provoking synth opening of Baba O'Reilly announced the main men. Oh, Christ! 30 seconds in and you KNOW you're watching one of the all time greatest bands. Daltry doesn't hurl his mic quite as high, or swing it quite as far from his body as of old (after all he does wear glasses onstage now...) and Townsend's trademarked kicks, jumps and windmilling seem to be executed with an eye on balance. But there's no aging process at work with the delivery of the musical material. Ringo's lad, Zac, flails Moon-like at the drum kit, underpinning his dad's pals in their faultless renditions of 'Who Are You' and an all too quick final number, 'Wont Get Fooled Again'.

That's the downside and danger of the charity gig. Just that little bit unfocused and there's just that chance of feeling you've have been fooled again. But not this time. With all and sundry (apart from a mysterious disappearance of Ascroft) on stage to belt out 'Join together in the Band' it was the perfect crowd-pleasing finale - even if Bryan Adams seemed less than familiar with the lyrics! It might have been an expensive ticket but if it turns out that this was the last Who performace then it may prove to hve been a ticket beyond price.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to everyone who participated in this fantastic, unforgettable,brilliant event. This concert inspired me to buy a guitar, hope I will be able to play.
    Thanks to Bruce for such interesting article.
    With best wishes,
    P.S. I am from Kazakhstan, not Kyrgyzstan :)