BETWEEN numbers, Roger Daltrey stomps around the stage in circles: his caged frustration is as manufactured as his voice is limited. No band has had such acclaim heaped on it with a vocal point which, however powerful, is so strained and devoid of rock and roll sensuality.
It's a voice adequate to certain anthems of faraway times; so, yes, Daltrey just about acquits himself on »Substitute« and »Can't Explain«, and even attains a sort of gimmicky brilliance on what turned out to be the rendition of the evening: »My Generation«. For the same song Kenny Jones stopped being your humble competent servant, and with a great dense drum intro showed what he used to do with The (Small) Faces.
As a token of gratitude and to kid him that he's more than a stand-in for the ghost of Moon, The Who do »Whatcha Gonna Do 'Bout It«. The Who playing R&B - but they don't have the right Punch for it any more, the mixture of spareness, crudity and subtilety so lacking on their encores of »Summertime Blues« and »Twist And Shout«.
These versions were sophisticate's HM, a large lump of sound which, for all the precision of the mixing decks, was soupy and swampy.
The Who have held onto an audience, but are maestros caught in their own wall-of-sound; they started losing themselves years ago, drowning in those operas »Tommy« and »Quuadrophenia«. Although they only do the best songs from these works (»Pinball Wizard« and »5.15«) much of the dull bulky spirit of the era is continued with a heavy selection of dogged material from the last and the forthcoming album. All Townshend's flailing and wheeling seems so pointless: whipping things up for . . . some ultimate repose after the noise?
The Who, aided by John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards, keep unleashing their torrential sound, yet the effect is of coldness, of a band clamped into a groove and incapable of any depth of expression. Maybe that's why they never write love songs; not because they're sexual politics hard cases, but because they're too busy being glutted by imprecise Big Emotions.
It's almost an emotional fascism which spills all over Wembley - crowd fever without content, emphasised by the swinging arcs of Nuremburg lights and a mock-up of the digital signals in »Close Encounters«, a piece of regressive tosh which probably appealed to Townshend and his guru Meher Baba (mystic man, have you any woolly thoughts?). Follow your guru, follow the leader - follow that band!
Wembley is a chill place when thousands of bodies are warmed up on pure, preprogrammed, redundant emotion. The Who should stop doing it to people: Daltrey could spend his time saving the British film industry. Townshend could follow up that okay solo album, and Entwistle could still be The Character . . . That way we won't get willingly fooled again by these paid-up pied pipers.