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Who? - they're just the very best; THE WHO, NEC Arena.

LET'S face it. This should have been embarrassing.

Pete Townshend once hoped he'd die before he got old, but here were the three surviving members of The Who turning the clock back in their mid-50s.

More Milk of Magnesia than heroin, joked Daltrey to the 12,000 fans in the Arena.

Well, if Townshend were a secondhand car salesman, he'd be a damn good one. What should have been an old banger of a band sounded like a finely-tuned sportster. With go-faster stripes, too.

Forget recent incarnations of The Who with brass sections, girly singers, acoustic guitars and enough session musicians to fill Abbey Road. This was a band stripped down to the bone. Lean and mean.

Backed by the absurdly talented Zak Starkey - son of Ringo - on drums and former Free keyboardsman Rabbit Bundrick, Townshend, Daltrey and Entwistle went back to basics.

From the opening I Can't Explain to the 10-minute marathon My Generation, they served up two and a quarter hours of adrenaline rock 'n' roll - once more a band of hope and glory.

This was The Who as they were always meant to be heard. Unadulterated guitar-driven rock, sheer power and classic songs combined in a mighty mix that shamed young pretenders to the throne.

Highlight

Every track in the 20-song set seemed a highlight with Baba O'Riley, Behind Blue Eyes, Pinball Wizard, Real Me and Won't Get Fooled Again just about stealing the show.

Unexpected delights on a tour billed Greatest Hits Live included B-side I Don't Even Know Myself, a suitably updated The Kids Are Alright and the rarely resurrected Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand.

Townshend windmilled his arm and leaped about the stage as he crashed out the power chords, Daltrey whipped the mike high into the air, Entwistle stood impassively solid as an ox.

They seemed in good humour, too, even if they still leave each gig separately. Townshend's barbed remarks about George W. Bush, Robbie Williams and Bono struck home, his aim unerringly true.

This gig, the second at the NEC, was filmed for a possible live video. They should make it required viewing for every new band starting off on

the road to rock 'n' roll stardom.

Gig of the year.

PAUL COLE

THE SET LIST

I Can't Explain

Substitute

Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere

Replay

My Wife

Baba O'Riley

I Don't Even Know Myself

Bargain

I'm One

Behind Blue Eyes

Pinball Wizard

Real Me

You Better You Bet

Who Are You

5:15

Won't Get Fooled Again

Let's See Action

The Kids Are Alright

Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand

My Generation
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 12, 2000
Words:431
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