Yes – I was there. The Who, 1971, Finsbury Park Rainbow

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The Who performance on the final night of the Finsbury Park Rainbow, November 1971. This was a classic gig in every sense of the word, and at the conclusion of Tommy as some of you may recall, they sing the coda 'See me, feel me, hear me'. They, ever in control of the audience cause the backing screen behind the stage to rise up and four, what I presume were anti aircraft searchlights, were shone undimmed and at head height directly into the audience, with such power at close range that everyone was obliged to put their hands over their eyes. Not dissimilar in fact to the hero, or antihero, of Tommy.

The power of the light was such that even with your eyes scrunched shut and your hands over them, light still penetrated. At this point, cleverly, and I guess it wouldn't be allowed today, the Who, who were already loud, must have increased the volume level by some 50% if not more and thus you the audience were faced with the dilemma of protecting their ears, hands over them, or protecting your eyes, and not being able to do both simultaneously.

Again the resonance with the dilemma confronting the hero, Tommy, was immediately apparent.

This was a very remarkable example of total audience control. Had anyone wanted to leave the auditorium for whatever reason, I truly believe that under those circumstances it would have been almost impossible to achieve. Because if the noise didn't disorientate you, then the light would. The Who were certainly making a point.

Musically, emotionally and with every other sense, one of the top 3 Who gigs I ever saw and in the top 10 of my all time gigs.

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