The raw power The Who displayed from their humble beginnings, nearly six decades ago, showed they didn’t need enhancements. But this 2019 show at London’s Wembley Stadium – their first there in four decades – included vocalist Roger Daltrey, guitarist/vocalist Pete Townshend and their core band backed by a 50-plus-piece orchestra. The horns and strings embellishments add bold sonic splashes.
A semi-greatest hits set, this one adds a few songs from recent albums Endless Wire and Who. Some are just the band, others are acoustic; the biggest chunk are from 1973’s Quadrophenia, where Townshend unwinds on electric and acoustic, including slashing, rhythm-heavy riffs and his patented short-solo bursts, reminiscent of Live at Leeds.
“Pinball Wizard” surges on Townshend’s breakneck acoustic chords, punctuated by horn blasts. The orchestra provides the fleshy underbelly of “Join Together.” A strong acoustic version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” reminds us of Townshend’s brilliance as a songwriter. “The Real Me,” “5:15,” and “Love, Reign O’er Me” are potent Quadrophenia highlights, as the band and orchestra blend cohesively. While appeal to casual listeners might be limited, Live at Wembley is ideal for stalwarts seeking twists on several of rock’s greatest anthems.
This article originally appeared in VG’s June 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.