The Who Wembley Stadium July 6, 2019

who tix 2019 2I have taken some time to write this account of my trip to see The Who at Wembley Stadium. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, I wanted to describe something of the logistics of my trip, and secondly this was not a normal Who concert and it has taken me some time to decide my genuine opinion of the event. So here is the full story starting with the logistics of buying tickets.

Before my accident, buying tickets was very different, and much easier. I would go to my computer; a few clicks and I had my tickets! Ticket buying is very different now that I need a wheelchair space. I have to locate the accessible phone line and phone that number, only to be put into a queue, listening to music until I finally get through to an operator. I am then allocated my spot in the stadium and a free ticket for my carer. Sometimes I could be in the queue for over one hour, hoping to get tickets. This is admittedly much easier than queueing for tickets which I did many times in the 1970s. I once queued 28 hours outside Newcastle City Hall to buy tickets for the Rolling Stones!

Tickets for major rock bands have always been relatively expensive. In recent days they have reached exorbitant rates. The Stones can charge up to £1000 for prime seats and Who tickets are much more reasonable at £200 a pop. However this was still expensive for The Who and they received some bad press as a result.

One fan wrote: “The Who charging circa £230 for front block at Wembley is disgusting. All they’re doing is ripping off their loyal fans that have probably seen them many a time. Plus to make the pitch all seating when they know everyone will stand is obscene. Just comes to pure greed.” Another aggrieved fan raged: “The Who are asking £79 plus postage for the worst seats in Wembley, and £212 for the best. Talk about taking the p***.” https://www.nme.com/features/why-are-artists-and-concert-promoters-whacking-up-their-ticket-prices-2454221

The logistics of travelling to a major gig have changed since being in a wheelchair. I need to plan ahead carefully. I book an accessible taxi to the train station, accessible seats on the train and two hotel rooms (one disabled room for me, one twin room for my carers). I take two carers with me, for different shifts during the night. Booking the train involves phoning the accessible travel line and then another number to book train tickets. I need to arrive at the station early and look for the friendly guys with a ramp who assist me on to the train.

whp pixSome nifty manoeuvres around a tight corner take me to my seat accompanied by my entourage of carers. A small bottle of red, a bacon sandwich and I am set up for the journey direct from Sunderland to King’s Cross station, courtesy of Grand Central trains. Then onward to the tubes and we are on our way to Wembley. Now what I never realised, until I was in a wheelchair myself, is that not every tube station is wheelchair accessible so you have to choose a route that enables you to change tubes at a station which is accessible. Luckily the line from King’s Cross to Wembley Park is completely accessible, so all sorted. Then we check into our Premier Inn, which is only a few minutes walk from Wembley Stadium me in my accessible room, and my carers situated only a room or two a way.

We have a short rest, a bite to eat and then we make our way to the stadium. Being mean, or on meagre income (choose whichever you wish) we are situated towards the back of the stadium in the cheap seats looking right down onto the stage. Nonetheless we have a reasonably good view of the proceedings. We catch the end of Eddie Vedder’s set, having missed the Kaiser Chiefs. At the point at which we enter, Eddie is in full throttle, the crowd loving it.

Now I have seen the Who many times, having watched in disbelief a crazed Pete Townshend smashing his guitar in 1973, the return of the band after the passing of drummer Keith Moon, and more recently after the loss of bassist John Entwistle. Today two original members of the band remain: guitarist Pete Townshend, and vocalist Roger Daltrey. However, the soul of the 1960s mod band continues. This was a special concert; the Who were to perform with a full orchestra. They opened with songs from their 1969 rock opera Tommy, followed by “Who Are You” and some new tracks. The orchestra left the stage and the band moved into familiar territory, playing early hits “Substitute”, “The Seeker”, an acoustic version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The orchestra returned to support the band in a segment from Quadrophenia. They finished with “Baba O’Reilly” and no encore. A different show, but still enjoyable. We took a short walk to our hotel.who prog 2019

Reflecting back on the concert after some time, I remember the distance between ourselves and the band, and the fact that the stadium was far from full. What I could see was The Who surrounded by an orchestra in a massive, cavernous stadium. There was little atmosphere. The sound was good and comparatively clear given the nature of the venue and the band performed well. I’ve seen The Who with an orchestra before, performing Quadrophenia at the Royal Albert Hall and it worked quite well. However, this time it didn’t quite gel and I long to hear the old rock band that is so familiar to me. As a concert this was good but not great; however for me, these days any chance to see The Who live is worth taking.

A few drinks at the hotel bar, a restful evening and up in the morning to take a somewhat torturous trip around the tube network (one of the lines was closed). We were back home for mid-afternoon, none the worse for our adventure.

As I write this, I’ve just heard that The Who have cancelled their 2021 concert tour as a result of Covid. I was to see them at Newcastle Arena in a months time. We live in strange times. Let’s hope it isn’t too long before I can experience The Who in concert again. And many thanks to my great carers Alison and Joanne who supported me during my adventure.

Setlist

With Orchestra: Overture; 1921; Amazing Journey; Sparks; Pinball Wizard; We’re Not Gonna Take It; Who Are You; Eminence Front; Imagine a Man; Hero Ground Zero; Join Together.

Band Only: Substitute; The Seeker; Won’t Get Fooled Again (acoustic; Roger & Pete only); Behind Blue Eyes.

With Orchestra: Ball and Chain; The Real Me; I’m One; The Punk and the Godfather (with Eddie Vedder)   ; 5:15; Drowned; The Rock; Love, Reign O’er Me; Baba O’Riley

 

 

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Simon Sanders on February 17, 2021 at 9:37 pm

    Glad to hear you enjoyed the gig, and that you deem all that time, money, and effort as worth it. I can see how, as I grow older, how going to quite a lot of trouble to go to a gig is actually part of the experience, and although the band(s) don’t know or care, it’s something that we value in some way as part of our allegiance, or creating our own road-trip or experience. I must read your back-pages here to get the full measure of how you have experienced other gigs over the years, but certainly, there’s a whole lot more than the hour or two that a band is on stage that shapes our overall memories and feelings about a gig and a band. I actually live close to Wembley Stadium – a few ‘tube’ stops, or, say, a fifteen-minute drive – so I’ve often gone to see bands at almost zero notice if a spare ticket comes my way. It seems a blessing, but I do miss the sense of pilgrimage and ritual that others must surely get from putting in the miles and the hours.

    Reply

  2. Posted by John Johnstone on February 17, 2021 at 10:32 pm

    Respect to you for putting up with the obvious discomfort and considerable expense to travel far and wide for the love of live music. A true fan indeed

    Reply

  3. If you saw the Who in Newcastle in 1973 it will have been at one of their three nights at The Odeon where they were taking Quadrophenia on the road and things didn’t go well with the backing tapes etc. Memorable, I managed to get to all three nights, one of many highlights of my first term at University. And al least two of them managed to get old. I do enjoy your reviews.

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on February 18, 2021 at 11:01 am

      Yes you are correct Alun I was at the night where Townsend had a meltdown. You were lucky to have gone all 3 nights. I wish I had Happy days. Thanks for your support cheers Peter

      Reply

  4. Posted by Peter Maggiore on February 18, 2021 at 11:27 am

    Hi Pete, like you I have the memories of seeing them in the seventies including a shorter than usual set at Wembley. This was well compensated with great performances by AC/DC, Nils Lofgren and The Stranglers so no disappointment there. I just can’t afford the prices these days so live on the memories. Stay safe mate. Peter

    Reply

  5. Hi Peter,
    Thanks for another honest and thoughtful account. I’m glad you enjoyed the concert even if it wasn’t the best Who concert. Like the others who have posted, I really enjoy your reviews.

    Reply

    • Posted by vintagerock on February 19, 2021 at 1:49 pm

      Hi Ciaran

      I’m pleased you enjoyed my review. Although it may not have been the best time I saw The Who; it was still great in its own way. Thank you for your support Happy days Peter

      Reply

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