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The Who – Zurich 1980 (No Label)

Zurich 1980 (No Label)

Hallenstadion, Zurich, Switzerland – March 28, 1980

Disc 1 (73:32) Substitute, I Can’t Explain, Baba O’Riley, My Wife, Sister Disco, Behind Blue Eyes, Music Must Change, Drowned, Who Are You, 5:15, Pinball Wizard, See Me Feel Me, Long Live Rock

Disc 2 (37:32) MC, My Generation, Sparks, I Can See For Miles, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Relay, The Real Me


The beginning of 1980 would be busy for members of The Who, both Pete Townsend and John Entwistle were in various stages of solo projects, Pete’s Empty Glass and John’s Too Late The Hero. Townsend was also starting to demo material that would be released the following year as The Who’s first post Moon record, It’s Hard. The Who themselves were also continuing the momentum after their return to the live stage the previous year by playing a 5 date mini European tour that would be followed by a two month 36 date tour of North America, most shows were played to capacity audiences.

This new title from the No Label folks features an audience recording of the second night of the European tour at the 11,000 seat Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland. This concert makes its debut on CD for this release, the source is a near excellent audience recording. It sounds like the taper was close to the stage, the music is perfectly balanced with all instruments and vocals being well balanced in the mix. Like many recordings from this era there is a slight bias to the mid and upper frequencies although the drums have a nice punch to them. There is some audience chatter at times but this seems to add to the excitement, the atmosphere is well represented.

This concert is notable for Pete’s drinking, this curious write up is courtesy of The Who This Month site:
The Who begin their 1980 European tour with a two-night stay at the Grugahalle in Essen, Germany on the 26th and 27th. On the 28th, they play the Hallenstadion in Zurich, Switzerland. That night Pete, having been accused by those around him of behaving in a “schizophrenic” manner, decides to quit the rock ‘n’ roll business and become a tramp. With just his wallet, his passport and the ever-present bottle of brandy, Pete sets off on foot to the town of Berne, Switzerland. He spends 16 hours either walking or sleeping under a tree before he finally reaches his destination, the Berne Zoo, famous for its huge brown bears kept in bearpits. However, when Pete gets there it is the off-season and the bears are not there. He is discovered passed out in the empty bearpit and is flown to Vienna where The Who perform at the Wiener Stadthalle in Vienna, Austria on the night of the 30th. The events of the past two days are quickly transformed by Pete into the song “Cache Cache” for the next Who album. The last date of the month is a performance on the 31st at the Festhalle in Munich, Germany.

Reports of Pete’s extra curricular activities seemed not to affect his onstage performance and the band gives a tight, professional performance. The set list is similar to the American and UK dates the year before, they begin with Substitute and I Can’t Explain, the standard tour openers after which Roger acknowledges it’s been five years since they last played Zurich and introduces new keyboard player John “Rabbit” Bundrick. A robotic Baba O’Riley follows, the band continue to warm up. John Entwistle has a great line to introduce the next song “This is one of my songs called My Wife…this is one of my wives called My Song” which garners a good laugh from the crowd.

While the band had played an early version of Who Are You in 1976 and 77, the revamped Who would be the first to tackle material from Keith Moon’s swan song record. The first song is Music Must Change, a rather poignant titled song, it’s a bit extended and Rabbit and Pete trade solo’s, the song is also slightly augmented by the three piece horn section. There’s a tape cut so the first part of Drowned is missing, the recording picks up at the beginning of the first “Let Me Flow To The Ocean” verse, like the previous song, the band get into a rhythm and extended the song by jamming, things are beginning to really heat up. Who Are You is now quite dynamic live, the addition of Rabbit on the keyboards adds the extra dimension, he adds some nice flourishes and Pete keeps up with the lengthy background vocals, repeating “Who are you…”.

The crowd is quite rowdy, someone throws something onstage prompting Roger to tell the crowd “If anybody really wants to come and hit us…they’re very welcome to come up and tell me…we’re very hitable”. Pete responds “He’s very soft skin”…he knows better and has been on the end of Roger’s fist before. The horn section, featuring one Dick Parry who played with Pink Floyd, really fleshes out 5:15 nicely, and actually gives the band’s sound a certain bit of swing that really works.

John’s bass sound is nice and fat during My Generation, the band hammer out the classic song with some powerhouse drumming by Kenny Jones, the song has an almost Punk Rock feel, this leads directly into Sparks from the Tommy album. Having played the song on their second North American tour in 1979, the band play I Can See For Miles, great to hear but Pete and John don’t fare well on the harmonizing vocals, much of the work is left to Roger. A rousing version of Won’t Get Fooled Again brings the house down and ends the main set, the encores begin with a funky starting Relay, in the middle of the song John and Rabbit continue to get the funk out quite effectively. The Real Me ends the concert in an all out feedback driven assault on the eyes and ears, Townsend hammers his guitar, I would assume a poor Telecaster took the brunt of the attack. The band says their goodbyes and based upon the story at the beginning of this review, Pete went backstage for a drink.

The packaging is typical No Label, full color inserts from the actual concert as taken by Alex Kipfer who seems to confirm Pete’s boozing having seen him backstage with a bottle of cognac in his hand look bemused. Certainly a nice addition to this recording, the complete picture both aurally and visually. Picture discs and numbered stickers, all the usual fare.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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One comment

  1. Great review. .Thanks.

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