Have The Who still got it live or should they just f-fade away?

The Who
The Who / Matthew Baker/GettyImages

The Who were the final headline act on Monday after a long weekend of outdoor concerts on the royal estate at Sandringham, Norfolk. After the previous three days' events, they had much to live up to with some great headliners in Van Morrison and Robbie Williams.

The weekend had terrific support acts throughout, including Squeeze, Mark Owen, and Del Amitri. Monday night had The Lightning Seeds and Richard Ashcroft playing ahead of The Who’s appearance. Ashcroft, in particular, delivered a fantastic set on a summer evening, full of power and passion.

Could another band of aging rockers like The Who, with just a couple of original members remaining, still deliver live and compete with the other acts? Well, it’s no spoiler alert to say here and now that the answer is a resounding, absolutely, definitely, and indisputably huge YES! They were absolutely amazing on stage for over 2 hours.

The Who has been performing several dates this summer with The Hearts of England Orchestra on stage.  Although Monday night was originally billed as being with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, a late switch to play with their touring partners instead seemed to make practical and logistical sense.  Whichever orchestra it was to be, I was looking forward to hearing how the band would sound with their rock tunes backed by all these musicians and instruments.

The setlist was split into three main sections. An opening segment covering the rock opera Tommy. What a fantastic start that was. The power of the band and the amazing depth and volume the orchestra added. It was a huge wall of sound with Roger Daltrey in fine voice and Pete Townsend’s superb guitar work and already doing his trademark windmill.

The Who hit back live

The middle section saw the orchestra leave the stage to the band for a run of The Who hits. Townsend pointed out they still had seven musicians left on stage, far more than their original four. He joked that he and Daltrey needed the extra help now. The extended band now included Zak Starkey, very impressive on drums, and Townsend’s brother Simon as another superb guitar player in the family.

They hit the heights with a range of numbers, the crowd particularly enjoying “Substitute” and “My Generation” amongst the hits. This was certainly classic The Who, even if we were missing Keith Moon and John Entwistle these days. Their photos through the years, alongside Daltrey and Townsend, regularly featured on the stage backdrop display.

The third section of the night saw the orchestra return to the stage to combine perfectly on a run of excerpts from Quadrophenia. The connection between the music, the band, and the orchestra was again excellent and began to close a great night. There was, of course, the fantastic and atmospheric “Baba O’Riley” as a showstopper to finish on, to terrific acclaim from everyone there. 

The crowd certainly enjoyed the show, and it looked like the band did, too. It was the final night of their recent The Who Hits Back tour, and they looked and sounded relaxed as they joked and chatted between songs. That included some digs about their ages and a couple of minutes where Townsend had to go offstage to get his hearing aid link to his iPhone app reset. Daltrey explained that the two of them were pretty deaf these days without their hearing aids.

This returns to the question of whether they can still deliver live at the ages of 78 for Townsend and 79 for Daltrey. Well, the rest of their band certainly helped carry some weight, and it was all enhanced by the orchestra. But the two leading men rocked the stage with their amazing performance. It was their generation and more, with no need to f-fade away at all.

Van Morrison: A hit or a miss live at Royal Sandringham?. dark. Next. Van Morrison Live

Welcome to Stairway to 11, the classic rock & golden oldies news and opinions site from FanSided Network. Stairway to 11 is dedicated to providing top-notch classic rock and golden oldies news, views, and original content. This site also serves as a community for like-minded fans to catch up on the latest news and discuss their passion. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter/X.