The Who performing their The Who Hits Back! Tour at The Incora County Ground Derby on Friday 14th July 2023.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

On a wet Friday night, The Who definitely lifted the spirits of a packed crowd when they took to the stage at Derby’s Incora County Ground along with The Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Keith Levenson, to deliver a set list that combined performances of the classic rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia alongside a band only section of pure hits.

In their day, The Who were the greatest, most exciting live performers rock and roll had ever known, an unhinged force of nature leaving remnants of smashed guitars and battered drum kits in their wake. But with the death of their electrifying drummer, Keith Moon, and lead bassist John Entwistle, those days are well behind them.

It left Pete Townshend now aged 78 and a 79 year old microphone twirling front man Roger Daltrey to carry on the legacy of a band along with drummer Zak Starkey and Townshend’s amazingly talented brother, Simon on guitar.

A majestic opening Overture set the tone, although the first few songs, 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks and The Acid Queen felt a little swamped by the strings, brass and two drum kits. But the crowd were brought to their feet with the opening chords of Pinball Wizard whilst Who Are You had them singing along.

As the orchestra took a back seat, The Who progressed into a raucous You Better You Bet and The Kids Are Alright, barely giving the fans time to catch their breath. There was the anthemic Won’t Get Fooled Again and a beautiful Behind Blue Eyes. Substitute got the crowd singing in full voice whilst My Generation was unreal live.

With the orchestra returning for the Quadrophenia part of the show, the crowd welcomed the soaring violins on The Real Me. During the performance of 5:15 the crowd broke out their air guitars to shred along and during Love Reign O’er Me they shook their fists in the air.

Daltrey, with his enthusiasm entertained throughout whilst Townshend with his trademark windmill playing still has it, highlighted with The Rock, a six minute impressive piece of music. And with the two massive screens flanking each side of the stage showing a montage of brief tributes to Moon and Entwistle, it was clear that they may be gone but that they are most certainly not forgotten.

Baba O’Riley ended the main set and violinist Katie Jacoby found fresh heat in the songs well loved solo which earned her a well deserved round of applause. For the encore the orchestra and band left the stage leaving Daltrey and Townshend, two microphones and an acoustic guitar for an intimate version of Tea & Theatre.

The Who Hits Back! Tour had given the fans the rock show experience that they had come for, and at the end of the day, that’s what truly makes a show most memorable.