THE WHO + UB40 WITH ALI CAMPBELL + ISABELLA COULSTOCK – THE 1st CENTRAL COUNTY GROUND, HOVE 23.7.23
We spent the weeks leading up to this monumental event, checking our weather apps, hoping that this concert wasn’t going to be a wash out. Would it be short or long trousers? To wear a raincoat or not to wear one? Those were the hot topics leading up to The Who’s grand appearance at Hove’s very own 1st Central County Cricket Ground.
I had never been to the ground before, so when this gig was announced, it was a great opportunity to check out the place. It turns out that the Gods had been kind to us this afternoon and had dished us up a serving of some lovely warm weather, with a side order of occasional blustery wind. My mum saw The Who way back in the 60’s and I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the band, so today was a great opportunity to check out these Mod Rock legends once and for all. Today was to be the final date of the band’s nine date ‘The Who Hits Back!’ tour, where they promised to treat us to 60 years worth of their back catalogue with the added extra of an orchestra in tow.
As we took the Magic Bus to the ground today, the closer we got to the venue the more Vespa’s came into view (I didn’t spot Jimmy though). We got to our entrance gate all in good time, but it didn’t take long for big queues to form around the street. Once we had entered the ground we queued up for our obligatory over priced festival beer and headed to our designated bum numbing plastic seats. It was soon apparent that the Mods were out in force along with most of their family members. People seemed in jovial high spirits and the sun was being enjoyed by a big crowd that were not expecting to see it.
The first act today was Isabella Coulstock who took to the stage promptly at 4.45pm to an audience of people still looking for their seats. She is a singer/songwriter from London who came to the stage today, armed with just her guitar and a tuneful voice. She told us how pleased she was to be here and started her set with a song called ‘Good Company’. She asked the audience if anyone had heard of The Blockheads which was met with a resounding “Yes!”. She explained that she had been writing many songs with the band’s Chaz Jankel (over 30 songs in fact) and that this particular song called ‘In The Room’ was her favourite. She played a few more acoustic numbers including one called ‘Honky Tonk Beer’ and then said her brief farewells to a warm and appreciative audience.
Isabella Coulstock setlist:
At this point, we visited the one and only toilet block in the ground (from what we could see anyway) which seemed a lot less than what was needed, to cater for such a big group of people today. I soon noticed there were hundreds of seagulls hanging around the fish and chips van (and I’m not talking about the football fans). They were waiting eagerly to swoop on anyone’s chip tray when they were not looking. Before I had myself a dose of avian ‘good luck’ delivered to me, me and the wife decided to head back to our seats to witness Birmingham Reggae legends, UB40 featuring Ali Campbell in action.
This is another band that I’ve wanted to see over the years, but somehow I hadn’t gotten around to it, and now I was about to remedy that situation. This was original vocalist Ali Campbell’s version of UB40 and this was the version I was interested in seeing.
No sooner had the band launched into ‘Here I Am (Come And Take Me)’, Ali and the band had the crowd eating out of their hands. This was pure summer reggae music and people were already singing along and dancing in the aisles to their catchy tunes. The band’s hype man was busy building the crowd up and occasionally effing and jeffing which put a smirk on my face.
Before we knew it, the band went old school and treated us to the classic song, ‘One In Ten’ which is a firm favourite of mine from their first album. A social and politically charged song that still rings true today. At around this time, a helicopter flew very low over the ground as we were sitting in our seats, wondering what the heck was going on (It seems even Stringfellow Hawke is a fan?). UB40 asked us where the Mods were at one point and they didn’t have far to look.
There were also many people outside the ground watching from their balconies, getting a free peek which got them a mention more than once today by the bands. UB40 played their reggae version of ‘Purple Rain’ next which was nice to hear, and then got the crowd to wave their arms in unison to ‘Kingston Town’. It was an enjoyable set and a style of music that was very fitting for the sunny weather we were experiencing. Ali Campbell has still got the voice, that’s for sure.
‘Here I Am (Come And Take Me)’
‘The Way You Do The Things You Do’
‘Cherry Oh Baby’
‘One In Ten’
‘Many Rivers To Cross’
‘Red Red Wine’
‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’
It was almost zero hour. The Modfathers (The Who) were about to take to the stage, but not before we would queue for an hour to buy ourselves a beer. The band did indeed take to the stage while half of the field was queuing, so we lined up and performed a strange backwards walk to the bar, making sure we missed none of The Who’s introduction from the stage. Pete Townshend talks us through the musical menu tonight and informs us that the first section is a bit of a slow burn. They would be accompanied by the orchestra and would play us selected choice cuts from ‘Tommy’.
The band tonight were:
Roger Daltrey : Vocals / Guitar
Pete Townshend : Guitar
Simon Townsend : Guitar / Mandolin
Zak Starkey : Drums
Loren Gold : Keyboards / Backing Vocals
Jon Button : Bass
Billy Nicholls : Backing Vocals
Keith Levenson : Conductor / Music Co-ordinator
Katie Jacoby : Concert Master / Librarian
Audrey Q. Snyder : Principal Cello / Asst. Librarian
Emily Marshall : Keys / Associate Conductor
Randy Landau : Principal Double Bass
As you can see, quite the band! They started with the intro that was ‘1921’ and followed that with ‘Amazing Journey’ which got things off to a flying start. They played ‘The Acid Queen’ which sounded great with orchestral accompaniment , followed by the classic ‘Pinball Wizard’ which got everyone to their feet, singing along and mimicking Townshend’s trademark windmill guitar stance.
They built up this momentum with a loud and boisterous version of ‘Who Are You’ which had everyone chanting along to the chorus and punching the air. The sound was crisp and loud but it would sometimes fluctuate as the wind took it in different directions. Roger Daltrey still had the power in his voice and Townshend had lost none of his swagger. Zak Starkey on the drums (Ringo’s son, no less) was dressed head to foot in yellow and played in a slightly different style to Keith Moon but pins it all together seamlessly. Pete Townshend said that he’s so happy to be playing a date on the tour that doesn’t involve rain for once. He also gave a shout out to the peek-a-boo neighbours as they enjoyed the show from their balconies.
The 2nd section of the set was a stripped down one (minus orchestra) and would feature a lot of old favourites, played in the way they used to play them. They kicked off with ‘The Kids Are Alright’ which rated very highly on the Mod Richter scale. ‘You Better, You Bet’ was up next which was another favourite of mine, followed by the 60’s classic ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’. It was at this point that I felt like I had walked into a Mod Rock Opera as people were dancing and smiling and generally not giving a damn. When this song started playing, I saw a guy freak out to his girlfriend when the opening chords rang out. He then proceeded to sing every word with his arms outstretched, running around and singing to any stranger that would join in with him. Joyous scenes….
Somehow, I had forgotten about ‘My Generation’ but when they played the song, it sent shivers down my spine. Surely, an early Punk song? Roger Daltrey was swinging his microphone around like a ballistic missile and if I was one of the other band members, I would be tempted to wear a crash helmet on stage. The last song of the set was the poignant ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ that is a fan favourite and easy to see why.
The third act of their set tonight was dedicated to ‘Quadrophenia’, which I was really looking forward to (I wonder if Jimmy was in the audience?). The orchestra took to the stage again and played ‘The Real Me’ along with the band to great effect. It was definitely a family gathering today and you could see different generations of family members singing every word to every song which was really nice to see. My wife, earlier on in the day, noticed that there were more shouts heard of “Mum!” or “Dad!” from the crowd than the usual “The Who, We Love You!” that you normally experience at these events.
The Quadrophenia songs did not disappoint and the band had really warmed up at this point. The night was nearly over, but not before The Who played ‘Love, Reign O’er Me’ which is my all time favourite song by them. It put a shiver down my spine (and not for the first time tonight). The Who ended the night with ‘Baba O’Riley’ which featured a great violin solo courtesy of Katie Jacoby, and it was a sure-fire way to end an explosive set that we were lucky enough to witness tonight.
Pete Townshend thanked the orchestra and his fellow band members and said farewell to us with no encore to send us home with. It turns out, we didn’t need one. Considering The Who played a two hour plus set, I didn’t get bored once. Testament to a top band that’s appeal is multi generational, which was really evident from the watching the crowd today. A great atmosphere was experienced and it was nice to see so many people having fun and letting their hair down. It was now time to leave this post-Teenage Wasteland and head for home. We didn’t get the Magic Bus home tonight (we got a taxi instead) but tonight was definitely a night to remember. And don’t forget…”We are the Mods, We are the Mods, We are, We are, We are the Mods!”.
The Who setlist:
‘The Acid Queen’
‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’
‘Who Are You’
‘The Kids Are Alright’
‘You Better You Bet’
‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’
‘I Can’t Explain’
‘Cry If You Want’ (segway straight from ‘My Generation’)
‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’
‘Behind Blue Eyes’ (with string section)
‘The Real Me’
‘Love, Reign O’er Me’ (followed by band introductions)