The Who live at Wembley: the don's view!
Last night, for the first time in more than 30 years I went to a big rock concert (I'm not counting my little outing to a gig of the resident TLS band, "Spirit of Play" a few years ago).
Thanks to my comedian mate, Tony Law (go see him if you can), the son and I (with Tony and family) had some great seats for The Who's Quadrophenia and More concert at Wembley Areana (murky picture above). It was the last of their tour and a benefit gig for Refuge, a charity which provides help, services, advice etc to victims of domestic violence.
Now, back in the day, I was rather a fan of The Who (how could you not be?), but to be honest my old vinyls of "Tommy", "Live at Leeds" etc haven't been much played lately. So I was as much apprehensive as excited about making their acquaintance again (what if I didn't like them as much as I thought I did.. wouldnt that ruin the memory?). Besides I wondered if the 58 year old don would stick out like a sore thumb in a youthful audience.
I needn't have worried.
As we were waiting in the foyer to meet up, it became clear that it was a very mixed audience, in aage and everything else. Who should I see first but Kate, the Press and PR Manager from the British Academy? (The truth is I didnt recognise her to start with... on the simple "you dont expect to see someone from the British Academy at a rock concert" principle -- but there we are above). Then I bumped into John Fisher, who's been our builder in Cambridge for the last 25 years, and is at least as old as me..! And so on.
The actual concert (in which, of course, the two main stars, Daltry and Townshend are both pushing 70) was fantastic. As the son observed, it was great that they played Quadrophenia through from start to finish; because that somehow made it clear that they took the whole art form seriously, and they weren't just out to play some greatest hits in a gesture to nostalgia. And the whole thing was backed up, while they were playing, by video clips and newsreels (with glimpses of Keith Moon and John Entwistle, of some of the old Who's most famous moments, as well a range of politics and protest from Churchill and Profumo to Pussy Riot). If you were to do a bit of pretentious lit crit on it, you'd say that the performance was a rather clever set of commentaries on time, newness, memory and aging.
Not that we were entirely deprived of the greatest hits . . . because the finale was made up of some of the old favourites, from "Pinball Wizard" to "Teenage Wasteland" and "Wont Get Fooled Again". During which I fell to thinking -- more pretention and a bit of self-promotion coming up, be warned -- that its catchy lyrics "Meet the old boss, same as the old boss" would have made quite a good theme tune for the new documentary on Caligula we've just made for BBC 2, and showing I think at the end of the month. One of the main topics we discuss in that (and I fear it is becoming more relevant by the day) is the nature of violent political change, and what revolutions achieve.
But for me, there was an even better finale. Tony is a bit of a mate of R Daltrey, so we went back stage and I actually met him. Blimey, if I had known 40 years ago that, aged 58, I would actually shake the hand of Daltrey, I'd have wept with pleasure and longing. As someone nicely pointed out on Twitter yesterday evening, it was maybe no bad thing to have to wait so long: if I had touched his flesh back then, I wouldnt have washed for a month.
So a big thanks to Tony Law for making a great evening possible.
And my next musical date? A much more sedate Prom.