The Who closed out the 2012 London Olympic ceremonies last night (August 12th) with a three-song medley, featuring "Baba O'Riley," "See Me, Feel Me/Listening To You, " and "My Generation." Roger Daltrey, rather than Pete Townshend, sang the bridge to "Baba O'Riley" and changed the words to "Don't cry, just brace your eyes/There's more than teenage wasteland" in deference to the young Olympiads surrounding him. Veteran British keyboardist Chris Stainton joined the band onstage, as he will on the Who's upcoming Quadrophenia And More tour, along with longtime Who associate Billy Nichols on backing vocals. Drummer Zak Starkey played a clear multicolored drum-kit, with Townshend's younger brother Simon Townshend on rhythm guitar, and an unnamed bassist standing in for Pino Palladino. The finale of "My Generation" came to a bombastic conclusion with explosions and an incredible fireworks display while all the evening's acts joined the Who onstage.
To the chagrin of most U.S. Who fans, the band's performance was pushed to 12:00 am Monday morning so that NBC affiliates could air the premiere episode of a new sitcom, Animal Practice and its local news. The closing ceremony featured a production which saluted the past 45 years of British rock, and was represented with Ray Davies performing the Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset," Madness with the Hackney Colliery Band performing "Our House," a David Bowie montage and John Lennon tribute of "Imagine" performed by Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir and Liverpool Signing Choir, along with a life-size bust of Lennon created by the audience on the Olympic Stadium floor.
Other performances included the Pet Shop Boys singing "West End Girls," Liam Gallagher's Beady Eye performing Oasis' "Wonderwall," a Spice Girls reunion -- which included them performing while each standing on speeding London taxi's, George Michael tackling "Freedom '90," Eric Idle performing Monty Python's classic "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life," the Kaiser Chief's rendition of the Who's "Pinball Wizard," and a confusing and pointless rendition of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" featuring Floyd drummer Nick Mason, Genesis' Mike Rutherford and twenty-something singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. Following a Freddie Mercury tribute, Queen and Jesse J performed "We Will Rock You."
Pete Townshend was asked if it's tough to get to full-on performance mode within such a short amount of time: "When I'm playing live and kind of. . . I don't know what happens to me. I'm a mild mannered man and what actually happens when I get onstage with a guitar is that something happens, something triggers, like, an adrenaline rush, and I can pretty much rely on it. It's like turning on a switch."
Roger Daltrey told us that age issues aside, once the house lights go down the Who are still as electrifying as ever: "I think the band's playing better than ever. The energy -- we may be older in ourselves and individually -- or collectively not have as much energy; but the music generates as much energy -- if not more -- than it did in the '60s and the '70s."
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