Music review: The Who

The Who rocked the Castle with mod hits, rock operas and air-punching anthems, writes Fiona Shepherd

The Who, Castle Esplanade, Edinburgh ****

The last time The Who played in Edinburgh, over 40 years ago, there were reports that Pete Townsend criticised the audience for being too quiet. On this occasion, Roger Daltrey was keen to ensure the Castle crowd weren’t too noisy, appealing for silence for their acoustic duet encore of Tea & Theatre, an intimate moment between the band’s two surviving founder members at the end of a two-hour orchestral extravaganza which encompassed the mod hits, the rock operas and the air-punching anthems.

Daltrey in his dotage was also sensitive to the cigarette and vape smoke drifting across the Castle Esplanade (Townsend, in contrast, was hoping to inhale some second-hand alcohol fumes) but it was worth preserving those tonsils for his signature scream on Won’t Get Fooled Again, a true power moment in a set not lacking in muscularity.

Roger Daltrey is still able to deliver his signature scream on Won’t Get Fooled Again (Picture: Calum Buchan)Roger Daltrey is still able to deliver his signature scream on Won’t Get Fooled Again (Picture: Calum Buchan)
Roger Daltrey is still able to deliver his signature scream on Won’t Get Fooled Again (Picture: Calum Buchan)
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The members of the Heart of England Philharmonic, playing arrangements by Beck’s dad, David Campbell, provided the punch on two sets centred around Tommy and Quadrophenia; for almost everything else, there was the yellow-clad beacon Zak Starkey, all over that drum kit like some other guy who might have gone before him.

The set was full of mighty moments – the brass fanfare blast which opened Pinball Wizard, the undulating middle eight of Who Are You before the orchestra came back in with force, the epic blues riffola of 5:15, the dumb, pugnacious You Better You Bet, the visceral melody of Love, Reign O’er Me, a rabble-rousing My Generation played to an audience of several generations….choose your own favourite.

The chamber string accompaniment and sweet harmonics of Behind Blues Eyes provided a cleansing breather but there was always more power rock left in the tank and the soaring, anthemic Baba O’Riley was always going to be a galvanising climax to a cathartic concert.

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