Concert Reviews

The Who / The Standard Lamps Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     April 23, 2017    
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The Who / The Standard Lamps - Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield (UK) - 10 April 2017

It was the quiet as we approached the arena that had me worried that the show had been cancelled for a second time. There were very few people milling around the concourse and when we eventually did take our seats, we could see that the venue was only approximately two-thirds full. The latter, however, did not detract from what turned out to be an exceptional evening.

The honour of opening for The Who fell to the East Sussex/Kent three-piece combo The Standard Lamps; the band comprise of Mike Wilton on guitar and vocals, and a rhythm section of bassist James Levitt and drummer Matt Bennie. Their music, as described by themselves on their Facebook page, is a mixture of melodic tunes with a raw, Blues edge; I would also add a sixties/seventies vibe with a modern twist. As such, they made an excellent opening act for the British Rock legends. It's hard to believe that The Standard Lamps are an unsigned band as they have far more talent than many artists appearing on the reality shows these days. More importantly, they knew how to write a good song with highlights being 'The Harmonica Song' (not 'The Harmonica Man'), 'The Right Train', the amusingly titled 'Living With Mum And Dad' and set closer 'You Don't Listen To Your Records Anymore'. Wilton explained that they were big in Tunbridge Wells, and although they are probably more use to playing pubs and small clubs, they were not fazed by playing in front of thousands in an arena environment. The Southerners received a deserved rousing ovation from the Sheffield crowd as they left the stage. Surely, they won't be unsigned for much longer...

The Who - Live Review 3

During the intermission, the large, centre backdrop screen was used to portray the history of The Who in Sheffield with pictures of old ticket stubs, set-lists and fashion of the band throughout the years. There were also tributes to Keith Moon (1946 –1978) and John Entwitsle (1944 –2002). An old set-list from a Sheffield show had been displayed with the caption "Possibly the greatest set-list of The Who of all-time... until tonight?" I have to say, with the exception of the omission of 'Behind Blue Eyes', this was as near as perfect as it could have got for me personally.

Pete Townshend strolled to the microphone and announced, "We are going to be playing songs from our new album... written in 1964!" The band then launched into 'Can't Explain' quickly followed by the classics (aren't they all?) 'The Seeker' and 'Who Are You' (the first of three CSI soundtracks; this one Vegas). It was also nice to hear Townshend be brutally honest with regards to the cancellation of the Sheffield show last year, due to poor ticket sales.

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The Who 2017 are a completely different animal to the angry young band that recorded the phenomenal 'Live At Leeds' in 1970. They are no longer a four-piece; the original two members being ably supported by Townshend's younger brother Simon on guitar, bass player Jon Button and Zak Starkey on drums with Loren Gold and John Corey on keyboards and backing vocals, alongside musical director Frank Simes who also provided backing vocals, additional keyboards, banjo, harmonica, mouth harp, claves, etc. Over the years they have earned the right to play the stadiums, arenas and casinos of the world. Simes must be afforded huge credit for the phenomenal production, especially the sound; the mix and clarity were incredible for an arena show. The accompanying visual effects, including close-ups of the band, augmented the whole show without ever taking over from the most important thing, the music. A special mention for Starkey (son of Ringo Starr and godson of the sadly departed Keith Moon) who is a phenomenal drummer in his own right; the drum patterns in The Who songs have always been sensational and they were even more mesmerising in the live arena. From my position, I had a perfect view of his captivating performance.

The Who - Live Review 1

Townshend frequently addressed the crowd and mocked us for daring to come out on a Monday night. He said that their first hit in America was one of the best songs he'd ever written – 'I Can See For Miles' – and who am I to disagree? 'My Generation' was still as relevant today as it was when it was first released back in 1965 and also included a segment of 'Cry If You Want'. Townshend remarked that 'Bargain' was taken from the ill-fated 'Lifehouse' project which was either before its time or simply crap. Whatever it was, it spawned one of the greatest Rock albums of all-time 'Who's Next'. 'Join Together' preceded a large part of the Rock Opera 'Tommy'. The sound and visual effects were stunning; Townshend probably could never have imagined this sounding this good some forty-eight years after first penning the opus. Unsurprisingly, the crowd went wild during 'Pinball Wizard'; and Daltrey's rendition of 'See Me, Feel Me' was sublime when you considered he'd been on stage for nearly two hours. The only song from the eighties, 'You Better You Bet', was aired before a few tracks from the ever popular 'Quadrophenia'. The video montage, which showed major World events over the last fifty years, that was played throughout 'The Rock' was simply jaw-dropping. The CSI soundtracks (and bookends to 'Who's Next'), 'Baba O'Riley' and 'Won't Get Fooled Again' were my personal highlights. Townshend gave us his custom windmill guitar action and I thought this could only get better if he did the infamous knee slide across the stage; he duly obliged, although, comically, he only managed a couple of yards! The fact that the seventy-one year old immediately got back to his feet and resumed playing is testament to his vitality. The band left the stage to thunderous applause only to return a few minutes later for the full band introduction by Townshend and an invigorating rendition of the 'Quadrophenia' classic '5:15'.

The Who - Live Review 2

I have waited years to see The Who and have to admit I wasn't expecting them to be as good as they were with Townsend and Daltrey being septuagenarians, but there is no substitute for experience. I may never see them again; Who knows!

Mark Donnelly

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