Last updated: 02/02/2023 at 12:43 pm
Legendary English rockstars The Who are a band that defined a generation and changed the music industry forever. Here, we list the band’s 5 greatest and most iconic live performances.
The Who are a British rock band that formed in London, England in 1964. The band’s original line-up consisted of Roger Daltrey (vocals), Pete Townshend (guitar), John Entwistle (bass), and Keith Moon (drums).
The band's early work was heavily influenced by rhythm and blues, but they later developed a more distinctive style that blended elements of rock, pop, and psychedelia.
The band is also known for both their mod culture status, and for their development of ‘rock opera’, with their projects ‘Tommy’ and ‘Quadrophenia’. The Who have sold over 100 million records worldwide and they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
They are considered one of the most influential bands in rock music history and are known for their energetic live performances where they (Pete Townshend, in particular) destroyed their instruments on stage.
Keep reading to find out about The Who’s live legacy, including their greatest-ever performances that broke the mould and changed the music world forever.Buy The Who VIP tickets
The Who's Live Performance at Madison Square Garden (2001)
The Concert for New York City was a benefit concert held on October 20, 2001, in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The concert was organised by Paul McCartney to raise funds for the victims and families of the attacks, and it was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The concert was a star-studded event that included performances from other notable musicians such as McCartney himself, Eric Clapton, and Billy Joel. But The Who’s performance really stood above the rest.
The band's 27-minute performance at the concert was nothing short of amazing. They played a powerful set that included some of their most iconic songs, such as ‘Baba O'Riley’ and ‘My Generation’.
The Who’s energy and passion were palpable and they delivered a performance that was both emotional and powerful. The concert was also a tribute to the victims of 9/11 and The Who added a special touch by playing ‘Won't Get Fooled Again’ in honour of the first responders who lost their lives.
Roger Daltrey's vocals were particularly strong and he powered through the high notes with ease. Townshend's guitar playing was also impressive, as he demonstrated his skills and delivered some of the most memorable moments of the show.
The concert was watched live by millions of people around the world and it raised over $35 million for the victims and families of the 9/11 attacks.
The Who’s performance completely stole the show and is hailed by many, including Forbes Magazine, as “The night The Who saved New York”. UCR Rock Radio also described the performance as “30 minutes of catharsis for an arena filled with people who seemed so desperate to enjoy this release of energy”.
The Who's Live Performance at the Super Bowl Halftime Show (2010)
The Who hit the stage for a blockbuster halftime show performance at Super Bowl XLIV, which was held on February 7, 2010, at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida.
The game, which featured the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts, ended with an impressive 31-17 victory for the Saints. However, The Who’s halftime cameo was still the stand-out performance of the day.
The band hadn't performed together in over 10 months, but despite that, they put on one hell of a show. Daltrey’s vocals were blistering as he powered his way through hits like ‘Pinball Wizard’ and ‘Baba O’Riley’, and Townshend shredded on his signature Blonde J-200 Gibson.
The halftime show also featured a tribute to the late drummer Keith Moon, who passed away in 1978, with a video montage of him playing with the band. The Who's performance was watched by an estimated 106 million people and was a testament to the band's longevity and enduring popularity.
The London rockers received positive reviews for their performance and many consider it to be the last great rock and roll halftime show, as well as one of the best halftime shows in the history of the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl halftime show is one of the most-watched television events in the United States. Check out our blog to find out our picks for the greatest-ever Super Bowl halftime shows.
The Who's Live Performance at the Royal Albert Hall (2000)
The Who's live show at the Royal Albert Hall in 2000 was a part of the band's ‘The Who 2000 Tour’, which was their first major tour in over a decade. The highly anticipated event marked the first time the band had played at the iconic venue in over 20 years.
The band’s line-up consisted of founding members Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle, with Zak Starkey, son of Beatles icon Ringo Starr and godson of Keith Moon on the drums.
They took to the stage to a sold-out crowd and opened the show with their classic hit ‘I Can't Explain’ and followed it with a string of other well-known songs such as ‘The Kids Are All Right’ and ‘Who Are You’.
Townshend's guitar playing was particularly impressive during the performance, as he showcased his signature windmill style while playing tracks like ‘My Generation’. Roger Daltrey's rich and deep vocals were also a highlight of the show, as he belted out hit after hit with ease.
The band also performed a number of lesser-known tracks from their vast catalogue, giving fans a chance to hear some of their deeper cuts. As well as the first live performance of ‘So Sad About Us’ since 1967 featuring Paul Weller.
The Who's energy and enthusiasm on stage was infectious and the crowd was on their feet throughout the entire performance. The band closed the show with a rousing rendition of ‘Won't Get Fooled Again’, featuring Noel Gallagher on guitar and leaving fans with a night they would never forget.
The Who's performance at the Royal Albert Hall was a triumphant return to the iconic venue and a reminder of the band's persisting legacy and impact on rock music. It was a special night for both the band and the fans and is considered to be one of the band’s greatest performances of all time.
The Who's Live Performance at Woodstock (1969)
The Who's live performance at Woodstock in 1969 was one of the most iconic moments in the history of rock music.
The band took the stage at 2:00 AM on the third and final day of the festival, after a delay caused by heavy rain. Despite the late hour and the muddy conditions, The Who delivered an electrifying performance that left a lasting impression on the crowd.
The band opened with ‘Heaven and Hell’, a powerful track from their then-unreleased album ‘Tommy’. They followed with a string of hit songs such as ‘I Can't Explain’, ‘Happy Jack’, and ‘A Quick One, While He's Away’.
The crowd was ecstatic, and the band's energy was contagious. Fans have recalled the band members jumping, spinning, and thrashing on stage, and Daltrey’s powerful voice and charismatic stage presence really stood out. It is quite possibly his very own greatest live performance.
One of the most memorable moments of The Who's Woodstock performance came during the song ‘My Generation.’ Townshend famously smashed his guitar to pieces, creating one of the most iconic images of the festival.
The destruction of the instrument was a statement of the band's frustration with the constraints of the music industry and the expectations placed on them as a band.
The Who's performance at Woodstock was a defining moment in their career and cemented their status as one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Their high-energy, dynamic performance captivated the crowd and left a lasting impression on music history.
The band's live footage at Woodstock remains widely available, and it's a must-see for any fan of The Who or rock music in general.
The Who's Live Performance at the Isle of Wight Festival (1970)
The Who's performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 is considered one of the greatest rock concerts of all time. The British mod rockers performed as part of an epic star-studded line-up including The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis.
The festival was and is the largest music event ever to take place in the UK, welcoming somewhere between 600,000 and 700,000 spectators to the shores of the British Isles.
In a weekend filled to the brim with music royalty, The Who once again stood out as the crown jewel. The band brought their wonderfully chaotic energy to the stage and whipped the over half-a-million-strong crowd into a frenzy, with an exhilarating performance.
The Who's resident renegade Townshend exuded attitude and star power with every thrash of his guitar and Daltrey’s fierce vocals echoed across the vast crowd.
Rock and roll wild man Keith Moon was magnificent on the drums, living up to his name as rock and roll's greatest drummer, just years before his untimely death at the age of 32.
The performance ended with Townshend destroying his guitar on stage, cementing the band's reputation as one of the most dynamic and exciting live acts of all time. The Who's performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 was truly a defining moment in rock music history.
The Who’s Live Performance Highlights
Concertgoers consistently rave about The Who’s live shows, leaving glowing reviews and fond memories. Many fans have shared that The Who's live performances are truly a nostalgic experience, as they transport them back to the golden age of rock and roll.
One of the highlights of The Who's live performances is the band's dynamic stage presence.
Lead singer Daltrey commands the stage with his charismatic presence and remarkable ability to bring life to the bands lyrics, while Townshend shreds away on his guitar, jumping and spinning like a true rockstar. The band's chemistry is undeniable and their energy is contagious.
Another highlight is the band's impressive catalogue of hits that spans almost 6 decades. Fans can expect to hear classic songs like ‘My Generation’, ‘Baba O'Riley’, and ‘Won't Get Fooled Again’, as well as newer material from their latest albums.
The London rockers’ setlist is always a crowd-pleaser and audiences can expect to sing along and dance to their favourite tunes.
For those who have never seen The Who live, concert footage and live recordings are available online, giving audiences a taste of the band's dynamic live performances.
For fans who have been lucky enough to see The Who in concert, their live memories and nostalgia are sure to last a lifetime.
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The Who are one of the greatest and most electrifying bands of all time, and their live performances are a sight to behold. The band is still going strong to this day, with founding members Daltrey and Townshend leading the line.
Coming off the back of their 2022/2023 ‘The Who Hits Back!’ North American and European tour, the Who have now officially announced a string of huge UK shows as part of their 2023 UK tour. For more info about a The Who 2023 tour, check out our blog.
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