If it wasn’t for a song called “Pretty Vegas” Vintage Trouble might not have been here. A few years ago INXS took to a reality show to find their new singer, and one of the four last four was a chap called Ty Taylor. He arguably had the best voice of all the contenders, but another chap called JD Fortune had written the aforementioned “…Vegas” and the Farriss boys wanted it and he won.
Taylor is now the frontman in Vintage Trouble, who are fast rising on both sides of the Atlantic and he is clearly enjoying his chance to open in front of The Who.
He appears to be on a mission to get in as many faces as possible, racing round the arena during “Run Like The River.” Actually, that song perhaps more than any other exemplifies the problems with the band. It is a decent enough soulful blues track, but it is just too busy and there is only so many times you can hear “are you with me Birmingham?” before the relentless positivity starts to grate. At times the vibe resembles a church in New Orleans. It had started well with “Blues Hand Me Down” but they could do with toning down the act. That said, at the end of the show they march offstage high-fiving as they go and are still signing autographs two hours later, so deserve to win friends.
The sold out show tells you that even after nearly 50 years The Who are still a serious big deal. Well might they be too, given that they are in town to play us Quadrophenia in full.
The album as a piece of music is quite brilliant, but set against the show they put on tonight is absolutely jaw-dropping. The giant screens behind them play a film which compliments the music in a quite magnificent way. After “I Am The Sea” kicks us off, “The Real Me” really gets into gear, before the swirling, almost prog instrumental piece of the title track, shows the quality of the musicianship on show.
Given that this record is 40 years old, it is staggering how fresh it still sounds. “5.15” is lifted not only by some excellent horns, but also by a bass solo, played by John Entwhistle on the screen. It is an innovative and touching diversion, and one which is repeated for Keith Moon’s section of “Bell Boy.” The light show is perhaps at its best, though, for “The Rock,” showing a visual history of the world behind them as the music plays.
When “Love Reign O’er” Me” ends things the band stroll to the front and take a break for the first time for an hour and a half. That would have been enough for most bands, but The Who choose to play a selection of hits, including “Who Are You,” “Pinball Wizard” and “Baba O’Reilly,” ending with a visceral “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
The band disappears at this point, leaving just the two original members, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, onstage to play “Tea And Theatre,” behind them is their band’s logo and two pictures of their younger selves, which get bigger as the song progresses, until they fill the screen by the end.
It is a brilliant and strangely poignant way to conclude what has been a truly exceptional night. At times it resembles a production rather than a gig and is all the better for it.
Time has not dulled Townshend’s fire though. “Thanks for coming and not going to Glastonbury,” says Daltrey. “Yes,” sneers the guitarist. “You could have gone to watch The Rolling Stones….”
On this showing, however, you wouldn’t want to. This was of the best gigs you will see all year.