Sunday, 7 December 2008

MEMENTO: THE WHO ROCK WEMBLEY






18th August, 1979. I'd started going to gigs a couple of years earlier, taking in concerts by the likes of Budgie, Curved Air and Man before moving onto Punk. Although my earliest gigs were confined to Derby - my nearest location for live music - the bright lights of London quickly beckoned and would prove to be an irresistible force over the coming years. One gig in particular took my eye in 1979, and I just knew I had to be present. The NME announced details of a very special gig to be staged at the world famous Wembley Stadium, headlined by The Who with The Stranglers, AC/DC and Nils Lofgren making up a great bill. I'd been to Wembley for football games on two occasions prior to this and loved the atmosphere of the place, even though facilities left a lot to be desired. So, I left home early doors on a bright August morning, arriving at the ground shortly after midday. With a sell-out crowd of some 83,000 still settling in their seats, Nils Lofgren took to the stage, and delivered an enjoyable set, punctuated by a few somersaults which were well received. While I felt his set would have been better suited to more intimate venues, his music made for an enjoyable opening.



After a surprisingly short wait, AC/DC took the stage. I'd seen them a couple of times live in Derby prior to this gig, and missed their first few numbers in search of liquid refreshment to combat the stifling heat; conditions which had seen a few casualties amongst the crowd. As usual, the boys were on form, treating us to classics such as 'The Jack' and 'Highway To Hell', while battling against a temperamental PA system. Angus even did the old walkabout which was always a real crowd pleaser.



Next up, The Stranglers. Again, I'd caught them live on several occasions before this gig, and felt badly let down by the end of their Wembley stint. By all means showcase songs from your latest album, but playing the damn thing in practically its entirety was, in my view, taking the piss. Where were all the classics? Very punk, no encore.



Ah well, time for another pint and then grab a nice vantage point in the stands. By now, the crowd very getting very rowdy in readiness for The Main Event. This was the first really big concert from The Who since Keith Moon's tragic death, just under one year earlier. With Kenny Jones (ex-Faces) taking this vacated seat, how would The Who perform at a venue that Pete Townshend really didn't care for? Darkness falls, the stadium lights go out and at last, The Who take the stage. One minute later, searchlights are darting around the stadium and Pete and his boys launch into 'Substitute'. 83,000 people launch into a mass of pogoing, feeling the power like a kick in the balls. This is what we came for! Singalongawho, with everyone spitting out the lyrics and punching the air in a musical religious experience. 'I Can't Explain', 'Behind Blue Eyes', Baba O'Riley (with the line "IT'S ONLY TEENAGE WASTELAND" sung loudly enough to be heard all over the world), 'See Me Feel Me' and 'My Generation ("Why don't you all f-f-f-fuck off") were all present and correct, leading up to Pete smashing seven shades of shit out of his guitar. That night, we were the UK urchins choir, paying homage to a great band in the year Franc Roddam's QUADROPHENIA was released. These were exciting times, and this most special concert was my own personal highlight of the year. God Bless The Who!

2 comments:

  1. Hey Steve. Thanks for sharing that with us. I'm a big fan of the Who. I've loved them since I can remember. I've never seen them live though. I have seen AC/DC. That's always a good show.

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  2. Thanks, Keith. It was a terrific show and one of my gig-going highlights. AC/DC were always value for money. I have a Clash post coming up soon in memory of Joe's passing.

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