The Wholigans, The Who Tribute

Johnathan Browning 29/11/2008

Buoyed by an impressive Welsh rugby win over Australia down the road at the Millennium Stadium the people of Cardiff were ready to roll back the years at the city's newest music venue. The Globe in Roath played host to the Wholigans, a four-piece American outfit paying tribute to mighty rock legends the Who. Founder of the band Barry Quinn (playing Roger Daltrey) emigrated from Newcastle to Canada in 1980 and has been performing with numerous different line-ups of the band virtually ever since. They are now based out of sunny Florida.

The Globe itself may lack a whole lot of sunshine but is intimate and cozy. The hall is twice as wide as it is long with the stage running the length of the room. A small balcony provides a splendid view of the stage and also the chance of refuge for those wishing to watch and laugh rather than be caught in the middle of madness. The lighting is what struck me most about my first visit to the club, which was very rich and changed according to the mood of the performance.

My main worry for the venue may be the noise disturbing the neighbouring community. During rehearsal, the band were encouraged to keep it down and a spoilsport was spotted with a meter to measure the noise level. Turn it down?! These boys were supposed to be imitating one of the most notoriously loud bands on the planet. And this is no ordinary Who covers band, these are a bunch of ruddy Wholigans!

They began by powering through such hits as 'I Can't Explain' and 'Substitute', although touting themselves as being from the Live at Leeds-era, I was surprised not to hear that particular show's curtain jerker, 'Heaven and Hell.' Some of the Who's later material was indeed included. A keyboard backing track was required for 'Who Are You?', 'Baba O'Reilly' and 'Won't Get Fooled Again.' These are what really turned the evening from a construction of precise noise into a rock 'n roll rage party. The enthusiastic audience helped energise the band with guitarist Christopher Bacon leaping round the stage in a manner that Pete Townshend wishes he still could. One member of the crowd also provided rhythm banging away on a tambourine that had escaped the clutches of Quinn.

This was the final show on the Wholigans' UK tour with a promise of returning next summer. Like most tribute acts, image is a large part of the equation. Quinn only began incorporating some Who covers into his original band back in the 80's after someone had pointed out his resemblance to Roger Daltrey. He made costume changes depending on the era of the number and, most subtly, drummer Darren Atkinson wore headphones for 'Who Are You?', ala Keith Moon in the video for the song. Quinn encouraged everyone to keep coming back to the newly opened venue and I hope that noise issues don't deny the band their triumphant return.