I Can't Explain
The Quiet One
Behind Blue Eyes
The Punk And The Godfather
A Man Is A Man
Cry If You Want
Who Are You
See Me Feel Me
Love Reign O'er Me
Long Live Rock
Won't Get Fooled Again
Shakin' All Over
Twist And Shout
I'm thinking back 18 years (almost to the day) to what is still the best concert experience of my life. This impression is partly due to the utter frustration of being a Who fan in Australia in the 70 s and never getting the chance to see them at their peak. They visited briefly in 1968 and have never returned. I thought they were allright when I was a kid, but became strangely fanatic after I got 'Who's Next' in the early 70s and went on to acquire the whole lot in the next decade.
Consequently, I was bursting with anticipation (and busting for a leak/torrent) on the bus from London to Birmingham and was not disappointed. I'd spent 6 months in Europe and was due to return to Sydney the following week so this was my parting Saturday night. The Birmingham NEC was a great venue; small enough to be almost intimate, but large enough to generate some real atmosphere. So civilised to simply buy beer in plastic bottles and have a smoke if you liked without some tobacco Nazi jumping down your throat - ahh the good old days.
The lights went down and I sprinted to my seat just as 'Substitute' reverberated around the arena. I collided violently with another guy in the darkness and we fell flat on our backs spilling our drinks but were up at the count of one. 'Can't Explain' followed and we were all ecstatic. Even though they were a bit past their best, I couldn't get over that I was finally seeing them in the flesh. Just to see one song was worth the admission price (7&1/2 quid I think). 'Eminence Front', a new song, had everybody going with its pulsating rhythm and 'Drowned' was sensational.
During 'See Me/Feel Me' the house lights went on and everybody in that place was standing on their seats, singing their lungs out and generally going bananas. It was fantastic! The great songs just kept rolling out - I wanted to hear '5.15' and sure enough, Pete intones: "Why should I care...?" I'm pretty sure they encored with 'Summertime Blues'. I've still got the T-shirt somewhere, but it doesn't fit too well anymore...What a great night! The songs. The solidarity. The 'Oo!
The next Saturday night I was back in Sydney at a party I and couldn't help asking the question to another 'starved of a live show' Who fan: "So guess what I did last Saturday night?"
I think I found out about this in the music press (probably Melody Maker), and it suggested it would be their last ever British show. Not wanting to miss out I phoned a travel company in Leeds who ran coach and ticket packages to rock concerts. They did have tickets for the Friday show so I arranged to go to Leeds in my lunch hour at work (about 10 miles away), and got permission to borrow one of the company pool cars. Now I hadn’t been able to drive very long and had only driven the car I had learned to drive in. When I reached Leeds and was looking for somewhere to park I ended up at a dead end in a no parking zone and didn’t know how to get it into reverse. I embarrassingly explained to a lady traffic warden who must have taken pity on me as she helped me find somebody who knew about Vauxhall Chevettes. In no time at all somebody told me that I had to pull up the lock on the base of the gear lever handle and away I went.
Eventually I found somewhere to park and made my way to the travel companies office. By this time the Friday night bus was full but they had tickets for the Saturday show that had been moved from Thursday. Now I had a dilemma because I was already committed to a charity parachute jump that day and a half marathon run on the Sunday. What the hell, it could be the last chance I get to see The Who.
Come the big day and the novice parachutists met up and drove down to the aerodrome in Lincolnshire. Fortunately it was a beautiful day and we managed to get our jumps in during the morning. I also managed to land in one piece and won the prize for landing nearest to the ‘X’. Some of the adrenaline junkies had another jump (not me – too risky), and then we headed back up north. I got dropped off in Leeds in plenty of time to catch the coach to take us to the NEC.
The support act turned out to be the wonderful Steve Gibbons Band. I think it was originally going to be Midnight Oil but they couldn’t make the rearranged date.
The Who eventually arrived on stage and went straight into Substitute as they had on all the previous shows I had been to. It turned out to be a really good show with the band seemingly in good spirit. The new album had already been released so we had been able to familiarise ourselves with the new songs this time. I think most people genuinely believed that this was going to be the last time we saw them and it just seemed to add that extra warmth to the occasion.
After the encore and the house lights we returned on we made our way back to the coach and headed off back home. I asked the coach driver to drop me off a bit nearer to home I didn’t have to go all the way to Leeds and back, and walked through my front door early on Sunday morning. After a few hours sleep I was up again and managed a ninety-five minutes half marathon
Roger playing guitar on Eminence Front.
Pete having fringes on his leather jacket after all those years that Roger wore them.
The arrangements to Long Live Rock (with the fifties style guitar solo) and Won’t Get Fooled Again (with the extended ending) were as can be found on Who’s Last.
Much to the audiences delight Pete shouted "see you next year" at the end of the show.
Set list amendments: Again Twist And Shout was definitely played as part of the encore, after Shakin’ All Over and Summertime Blues.
Support Act: The Steve Gibbons Band