Every day of the Festival d'été de Québec (FEQ) which began in Québec City, Canada on July 6 and is set to wrap up on July 16, has been filled with incredible highlights. Some of the major artists that performed this year include the Backstreet Boys, Lady Antebellum, Kendrick Lamar, P!nk, Flume, Nick Jonas and K.Flay with shows from Metallica, Voivod, Gorillaz, Muse and Strumbellas on tap for the festival’s closing weekend. But on Thursday July 13 the spotlight belonged to classic rock superstars the Who.
Québec City’s historic Plains of Abraham is the setting for FEQ’s Bell Stage, and this is where the Who played to roughly 100,000 fans. After a warm-up set by the Struts, who like the Who hail from England, guitarist Pete Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey and the rest of the band took the stage to thunderous applause. After Townshend greeted the audience, the band launched into early hits “I Can’t Explain” and “The Seeker” before playing the massive hit and favorite sing-along cut “Who Are You.”
The Who’s set consisted of songs from throughout their career, not played chronologically, but more early hits, including “I Can See for Miles,” “The Kids are Alright” and “My Generation” came early in the show. After “My Generation” Townshend again addressed the crowd, commenting on how beautiful Québec City is, adding that he “bets the crowd is beautiful too” but that he couldn’t see them in the darkness of the evening. Amusingly, Townshend introduced “Behind Blue Eyes” as being “fairly well known,” adding the afterthought that “they’re all fairly well known, actually.” The crowd reaction proved that to be true, roaring approval for takes on “Bargain,” “You Better You Bet” and “Join Together,” complete with its twangy juice harp intro.
Both of the band’s rock operas were touched upon, with “5:15” from Quadrophenia being a highlight, Daltrey giving the song a bit of crazed emotion as he sang the line, “out of my brain on the train!” Cuts from the Tommy album included the massive hits “Pinball Wizard” and “See Me, Feel Me.” “Eminence Front,” which appeared on the band’s It’s Hard album, was also performed. The show, which stretched to the two hour mark, came to a raucous close with “Baba O’Riley” and one of the group’s most beloved fan favorites, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
Extensive and often trippy visuals were projected on a screen at the rear of the stage as the band played, and sharp-eyed fans could spot tributes to Keith Moon and John Entwistle, the band’s fallen founding members, among the display. Clearly Moon and Entwistle were also honored in the band’s performance, reconfirming that the Who remain one of the greatest rock bands ever.
For more information on the Festival d'été de Québec go here.