I have the music taste of a 60-year-old man. Pretty much all of my favorite musical acts are from the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s. Among those bands, The Who is definitely my favorite. Though only two original members remain, the band keeps soldiering on.
I’ve had the privilege of getting to see them three times: once in 2017, 2019 and 2022, and they’ve gotten better each and every time. Their newest release, “Live at Wembley,” documents a performance from their 2019 tour at the famous Wembley Stadium in England, so I’ve gotten to hear what these songs sound like in these arrangements.
But regardless, let’s go track by track for those who were not fortunate enough to see them live:
1. “Who Are You” – This was an incredibly powerful performance. Zak Starkey’s drums have sounded great live, but here we really get to hear how different he is compared to the original tracks by Keith Moon. The added orchestra sounds great also, and Roger Daltrey’s voice has rarely been this powerful.
2. “Eminence Front” – This version might be better than the studio version. The strings add a mysterious layer to the song, and the horns add more of a bite. Pete Townshend’s voice has also changed in the 40 years since the song’s release, taking it from a nasal whine to a menacing snarl.
3. “Imagine A Man” – A deep cut from an underrated album, this song sounds pretty nice live. Extra violins are always a nice touch.
4. “Pinball Wizard” – The only “Tommy” track here, this cut shows off the orchestra the band has been touring with. The iconic guitar riff is now played with horns and strings, creating a unique sound for the song.
5 and 6. “Hero Ground Zero” and “Ball and Chain” – These two songs from the band’s last album sound more or less the same as the studio versions.
7. “Join Together” – This is another song that definitely sounds great, but the orchestra doesn’t add too much to this one.
8 and 9. “Substitute” and “The Seeker” – These two tracks without the orchestra are solid, but there are better versions of both out there.
10. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – This is a really interesting one. I remember when I saw The Who in 2019, they did this neat acoustic version of their iconic closing track. While they’ve since returned to their original organ-driven, hard-rocking version, it’s a fascinating reworking of one of the band’s best songs.
11. “Behind Blue Eyes” – It’s not too different from the original track, but Starkey’s drumming is pretty great in the second half, and the strings add some weight. Not bad, not bad.
12. “The Real Me” – At the start of the “Quadrophenia” section of the album, the bassist does a great job replicating the late John Entwistle’s original solos, and Daltrey’s voice is amazing, as it is across the album. Not just amazing for his age, mind you, but amazing in general.
13. “I’m One” – Another Townshend vocal, with emphasis on acoustic guitars and harmonica. It’s not anything groundbreaking, but it’s a pleasant listen. I also love the little moment toward the end where Townshend starts laughing at something and can barely get through a line.
14. “The Punk and the Godfather” – This is one of my favorite songs by the band, which gets the orchestral treatment, with a fleet of horns playing the riff and the strings coming across clearly in the choruses.
15. “5:15” – Another favorite of mine, this is a great performance. I like the emphasis on guitars over horns in this version, unlike the original, which was very horn-based. I also love the little bit toward the end where Daltrey is just able to ad-lib over the rest of the band.
16. “Drowned” – Yet another favorite, this is honestly a fairly underwhelming performance. It’s in no way bad, but there are definitely better versions of this track out there (see Townshend’s 1999 solo live version).
17. “The Rock” – Leading us into a dramatic finale is a well-performed instrumental that serves more or less the same purpose as it does on the original album.
18. “Love Reign O’er Me” – We start with a beautiful piano intro, extended from the original album. Then we are brought into one of Daltrey’s all-time greatest vocal performances, which put me in genuine awe. While it’s not quite as amazing as the original, the slow burn to the climax might be even better here.
19. “Baba O’Riley” – Just as they did the last two times I saw them, the band closed with their most iconic song. The strings and horns add weight and emotion to the proceedings, and it is complete with the violin solo being played live on an actual violin. Plus, Daltrey randomly yells “stranger things” in the intro, so that was fun.
20. “Tea and Theatre” – One of the worst songs on the band’s worst studio album, this is one that I’ve never liked in any context. It’s even worse following up on the blazing “Baba O’Riley.”
“Live at Wembley” is an impressive testament to The Who’s strength as a live act, almost 60 years since they first hit the stage. If they never record or tour together again, this will be a great monument to their power up to the very end.