In my review of The Who’s Official History book last week I drew attention to the error in the date of the concert at Fete De L’Humanité in Paris, France, which is generally regarded as having attracted the biggest ever audience for a single day’s show in The Who’s career. That night Moonie disgraced himself in John’s suite, an incident recalled by Bill Curbishley in my appreciation of John here: http://justbackdated.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/normal.html
The day after the Paris show The Who played in Lyon, and four days after that they were in Rome where I flew in to see the show at The Palasport which, as I recall, wasn’t sold out. I watched this show from the stage, just behind the group on John’s side. I remember that afterwards Keith, Dougal and myself tried very hard to find some late-night action in Rome but failed completely, ending up back at the hotel with a bottle of brandy and nothing else (ie no female companions) to show for our trouble.
Here are the accounts of these shows from The Who Concert File by Irish Jack and Joe McMichael, edited by me and published way back in 1997. I have no idea who took this great shot from the back of the stage in Paris.
Saturday, September 9
Fete De L’Humanité, Paris, France
This was a huge open-air event sponsored by the French Communist Party! (L’Humanite was the main Communist newspaper in Paris.) The massive crowd was estimated at upwards of 400,000 people, the biggest audience that The Who would ever face. The set included ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘Summertime Blues’, ‘My Wife’, ‘Baba O’Riley’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, ‘Bargain’, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, ‘Magic Bus’, ‘Relay’, ‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘See Me, Feel Me’, ‘My Generation’ and ‘Naked Eye’.
The Who took to the stage at 6pm after a set from Country Joe McDonald. Behind the band was the large logo of the promotion company RTL, and a number of red flowers were thrown onto the stage as The Who played. One faction of the huge crowd were to be heard chanting for Tommy during the early stages of the set. Pete described ‘Baba O’Riley’ as “a number about all sorts of things... Synthesiser in the background, Roger Daltrey in the foreground, Keith Moon asleep – but a deadly aim”. Daltrey commented that “we’d like to speak in French. Unfortunately, we didn’t go to school, so we can’t,” and Townshend mentioned the rain. A searing guitar solo characterised ‘Bargain’ and a new riff was added to conclude the song to which Roger sang the lines “It’s gonna be all right. I call that a bargain.” ‘Magic Bus’ began sounding rather sparse and ragged with little guitar work, but built up more strongly with Roger’s excellent mouth-harp playing. Roger went on to describe ‘Relay’ as a song “recorded before we came away, hopefully on an album much later on. All Who albums seem to take a long, long time. Anyway, this one’s Françoise Pete called ‘Relay’.” The structure of ‘Relay’ broke down until only the drums and vocals remained then built up again with Townshend and Entwistle producing simultaneous solos from their instruments.
Jerry Gilbert wrote in Sounds (September 16): “Mid-set, The Who reached their peak with ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ and ‘Magic Bus’, Townshend vacillating hideously between a resigned poker face and an evil grimace. ‘Get on board... Come on,’ he urged, and then lurched to the front of the stage, dripping with perspiration, and went through the motions of taking the stalk between his teeth and hurling a grenade into the crowd gesticulating a mighty explosion. It was a positive allusion to the large Vietnam banner that hung over the fete and a clear mnemonic of Pete Townshend, revolutionary.”
Pete had invited along a reclusive Eric Clapton to see this show, but during The Who’s set he was mistaken for an intrusive fan and escorted from the wings by one of the stage crew!
Sunday, September 10
Sportpalace, Lyons, France
Thursday, September 14
The Palasport, Rome, Italy
10,000 fans saw the last show and the only smashed guitar of the entire European tour. Set included: ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘Summertime Blues’, ‘My Wife’, ‘Baba O’Riley’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, ‘Bargain’, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, ‘Magic Bus’, ‘Relay’, ‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘See Me, Feel Me’, ‘My Generation’, ‘Naked Eye’, ‘All Right Now’.
The Who had not played Rome since February 1967, but according to Chris Charlesworth, who was with the group at this date, “despite the long absence the audience sat impassively throughout the kind of set that most groups would swap their PA’s for.” This was a fitting conclusion to the tour and a great show. As ever, ‘My Wife’ was the song on which the band warmed up. “Watch this foot... When I say go...” said Pete before his foot-stamping introduction to the song. His long solo was spellbinding, even if he did eventually play the Gibson out of tune. The pace hardly let up from there and the spirit of the evening was compounded by a rare revival of Free’s ‘All Right Now’ for a few bars at the end!
The local promoter convinced the band that the 10,000 people present simply wanted to listen hard to the music which was why they appeared subdued. “It’s as good as it always is,” wrote Charlesworth in Melody Maker (September 23) “a combination of violent excitement, near perfect sound and those power-packed Who songs... Townshend smashed his guitar into fragments – the first break of the tour – at the end and the Italian fans didn’t know what had hit them. He swung it wildly at Moon’s kit, and took three heavy blows against the stage floor before the instrument succumbed... The Who are so good they could probably put their shows over with their eyes shut. The inevitable problem arises – what next for The Who?”
Surprisingly, Who’s Next had sold only 7,000 copies in Italy! The Who never returned there.
*Guitar destroyed: Gibson Les Paul Deluxe.