Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey perform their classic album, Quadrophenia, in its entirety at the Odyssey Arena
After the sounds of atmospheric build-up track 'I Am the Sea', and with the Odyssey at fever pitch, Pete Townsend rips into the opening riff of Quadrophenia opener 'The Real Me', and we're under way. Many here tonight have waited decades for this moment. The godfathers of Mod, The Who, are clearly up for the challenge.
The English rock legends have influenced everyone from 1980s mod revivalists The Jam to Oasis (and even Olympic gold medalist and Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins, to boot) and are probably only ranked behind the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as leaders of an aesthetic creative movement that blossomed in 1960s swinging London.
Back in Belfast for the first time since 1972 (although without legendary wildman drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle, who have both passed on since) the creative nucleus of the band, guitarist Pete Townsend (68) and lead singer Roger Daltrey (69), are still present and very much on song.
Founded in 1964, The Who brought together four different personalities, each a pioneer in his own right. Moon beat his drum kit with a chaotic elegance. Entwistle on bass held the centre with the melodic virtuosity of a solo guitarist. Raging intellectual Townshend punctuated the epic nature of his songs with the windmill slamming of his pick across his strings, while Daltrey roared above it all with a virile swagger.
For this tour, the two remaining founding members are joined by Pino Palladino on bass, Simon Townshend (Pete’s brother) on guitar/backing vocals, John Corey on keyboards and Loren Gold on keyboards/backing vocals. (Zak Starkey, Ringo's son, was replaced by an unknown drummer at the 11th hour). But nostalgia and celebrating missed friends are very much the themes of the night.
The tour is promoted as Quadrophenia plus extras, and the band duly deliver an electrifying full performance of the iconic 1973 album, which spawned the critically acclaimed Quadrophenia movie, the story of young mod Jimmy and his descent into madness.
The concert version of the movie, directed by Daltrey, is shown on an array of massive background screens. The setlist closely follows the album running order, and the visuals provide a complementary nostalgia tour of the 1960s, including early performances from much a much younger Townsend and Daltry.
Highlights include synchronised footage of Keith Moon playing 'Bell Boy' in real time, and similar footage of John Entwistle’s bass on '5.15', followed by a standout acoustic guitar solo from Townshend on 'I’m One', and some mean harmonica from Daltrey. But, alas, there is no trademark guitar smashing from the legendary Townshend – though given his 68-years he perhaps can be forgiven that omission.
In the audience, the ageing Belfast mods are out in force, resplendent in their zoot suits and winkle pickers, even though it's a balmy evening outside and in. There are also the obligatory scooters parked in the Odyssey carpark – by those who aren’t drinking, of course.
The all seated venue, which sometimes lacks atmosphere at big gigs like this, is the perfect setting for such an overblown narrative. At the interval, Townshend makes reference to the times the band played in Belfast and Derry~Londonderry in the early 1970s, before the band launch into an encore of greatest hits including 'Won’t Get Fooled Again', 'Pinball Wizard' and 'Baba O’Riley'. A great way to spend a Monday night.