Mike Chapple Daily Post Staff
THE Portuguese excepted, the only people in Liverpool celebrating England's exit from the World Cup last Saturday were the touts who had got their greedy palms on tickets for The Who's first gig in the city for 35 years.
It meant Sven's under-achievers would not be playing France in last night's semi-finals - and that subsequently the three-figure black market price for a gold dust ticket was maintained.
The desperate rush for tickets - both last night's and tonight's near 10,000 allocation sold out within 25 minutes - is not only proof of a genuine coup for this year's Pops but of the enduring reputation of one of the great live rock acts of all.
Granted, the band's powerhouse of drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle are no longer around, and neither has there been any classic new material for nearly 30 years - but that's counterbalanced by a welter of passionate songs from their golden years that stand the test of time.
And then there's guitarist Pete Townshend's earnest if misguided attempts at highlighting the dangers of paedophilia and child abuse which nearly put paid to his career for good.
But we all know Pete - eccentric to the last.
These two nights have been Liverpool's chance to see if the old spark was still there since the last time the band, then in its full complement, played here.
The date was Saturday, October 23, 1971 when Daltrey twirled his bolas microphone to impossible heights, Moonie battered his kit to a pulp, Townshend scissor-kicked himself and his guitar into oblivion while Entwistle looked on impassively, spider-like, waiting to pounce and gobble its prey.
One person who wasn't there to see it, however, was George Wilson.
"Don't be soft, I was only seven at the time," explained George, now, 42, from Halewood who played Daltrey's role in the ultimate tribute band The Maximum Who.
Up until last year when George's gang of imposters finally split they were the nearest a fellow Liverpudlian could get to seeing the real thing, certainly on home ground.
"Up until the late 90s we had a really good niche market - in fact when we played countries like the former East Germany they actually thought we were the real thing," said George, an exercise physiologist.
"Thing is, though I've never actually seen them live before and I'm really sceptical about bands reforming around one original member, at least there's 50 per cent of the original band left so that's something. They were great - anarchic, anti-establishment and they weren't pretty boys either. They were a real lads' band." There were more dads than lads there last night but a young defiant spirit was still burning bright.
The opener I Can't Explain proved itself to be as much an anthem to middle- aged as teenaged angst judging from the full-throated knowledge of those who tried to mimic the still powerful Daltrey word for word.
Daltrey in turn after the first wave of euphoria couldn't resist firing out the volatile but sage like statement: "The historical importance of Liverpool and **** (expletive deleted) me you're still stuck in a tent."
It was a laugh but a tad unfair at the expense of the Pops. The tent has had its ups and downs but it has still been possibly one of the best environments this reviewer has experienced here there or anywhere.
It's fairly certain that Townshend, Daltrey and Moon and Entwistle's replacements, Ringo's lad Zak and Pino Palladino would have thought so respectively.
The dynamic was brilliant and all the classics were in place: Baba O'Reilly, The Seeker, Won't Get Fooled Again, Behind Blue Eyes, Love Reign O'er Me, Substitute ...
And on and on. Sometimes you just can win.
Fans go into raptures after an 'absolutely fantastic' gig from rock veterans
CIVIL servant Gill Smart, 33, from Crosby said: "It was absolutely fantastic - one of the best gigs I've ever been to, and I go to a lot. I couldn't see at first, but I stood on someone's shoulders."
John McGorrigan, 47, from Northwich said: "This is the first time I've been to the Summer Pops and I was really impressed. It was absolutely superb, and I wish I hadn't had to leave early to get my train."
Gillian Howard, a 37-year-old housewife from Crosby, said: "I didn't want to go at first. I got tickets for my partner. But it was so much better than I expected, I loved it.
"I went to see Bob Dylan a few years ago, but this was even better," said 32-year-old office worker Paul Thomas from Tuebrook.
"Roger Daltrey's voice is still there, so they were sounding really good."