AFTER headlining festivals around the world and performing for more than six decades, it was a special moment for local Who fans as the legendary band embarked on St Helens for the first time in their career.

With Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott bringing more than 18,500 people to the Totally Wicked Stadium last year, securing such an iconic band was a great step towards making a stadium concert an annual event in St Helens.

However, unlike last summer's record-breaking crowd, which capped tickets at £35, it was noticeable how many seats were empty at The Who's 'Hits Back' gig, with the entire North stand covered up as well as large sections of the South stand.

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St Helens Star: The legendary rock band on stage in St HelensThe legendary rock band on stage in St Helens (Image: Bernard Platt)

Perhaps not something the band is used to, even lead guitarist Pete Townshend referenced this as he quipped: "Playing stadiums like this, you see the sheer number of people who are here, but also the sheer number of seats that are empty - they should be filled with your children!"

Of course, every band wants to see their gigs packed to the rafters, but with tickets for 'The Who Hits Back' tour ranging from £70 to way over £100 during a cost of living crisis, you can understand why some were reluctant to pay such prices.

St Helens Star: Thousands of fans came out to the Who gig, although many seats were unsold and covered Thousands of fans came out to the Who gig, although many seats were unsold and covered (Image: St Helens Star)

However, although the gig was not a sell-out, you can't deny that it was an amazing experience for Who fanatics, kicked off by the brilliant Standing Man and the cover-heavy set of UB40 and Ali Campbell.

Arriving on stage with a backing orchestra and a chorus of applause, the Who's long back catalogue was elevated to gigantic proportions at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

With violins and strings accompanying the band's tight tunes and Roger Daltrey's impressive vocals - at 79 years old! - classics like 'Pinball Wizard', 'Who Are You', and 'Eminence Front' were taken to another level as they hit the crowd with crashing crescendos.

St Helens Star: Pitch-seated fans for the WhoPitch-seated fans for the Who (Image: Bernard Platt)

As the orchestra departed for the middle part of the performance and the band went back to basics, Daltrey and Townshend showed that they have still got it after almost 70 years in the business, as they catapulted tracks written in the 1960s into 2023.

With an all-seated pitch, there were some subdued moments for the band's lesser-known tracks, which was made worse once the heavens opened and many fans left their seats for shelter under the stadium roof.

However, in spite of the rain, Who hits such as 'The Kids Are Alright', 'My Generation', and 'Won't Get Fooled Again', made sure that everyone was up on their feet and dancing; with many partners and families - across the generations - enjoying those cherished sing-a-long moments to tracks they have grown up adoring.

St Helens Star: Playing the band's greatest hits, despite the rainPlaying the band's greatest hits, despite the rain (Image: St Helens Star)

As the orchestra - who "really do rock" as Townshend described - returned for the final part of the concert, the ensemble once more came together to turn the stadium sound up a notch.

And while the rain continued to Reign O'er St Helens, it didn't matter as the crowd was swept away by the lights, sounds, and atmosphere of the legendary band's performance.

Finishing off with a soaring rendition of 'Baba O'Riley', Daltrey and Townshend thanked those who have supported the band over their long career and gave Who fans a send-off that will stick long in the memory.