Quadrophenia Very Much Alive in London
The Who take classic concept album on the road and rock like bastards.
In the space of less than 5 years Pete Townshend and The Who wrote and recorded three of the cornerstones of rock music, concept albums of such huge scope and ambition that looking back now it's almost impossible to comprehend both the work rate and how Townshend made it out alive. Admittedly only two of them, Tommy and Quadrophenia saw the light of day in their original form (the third Lifehouse emerged, in part, as Who's Next), but to pick holes in a body of work that consistent is a little disingenuous to say the least. In amongst all that they toured, recorded one of rock's top five live albums and put out numerous singles packed with enough exclusive material to fill another album - including offcuts from the previously mentioned Lifehouse.
Forty years on and not for the first time the remaining two members took Quadrophenia back out on the road, for what would turn out to be, against the odds and the ravages of time the definitive live rendition of this seminal work. Tommy was made to be played live and the Who did just that, time and again, but Quadrophenia was always a struggle in a concert environment. Initially included pretty much complete on tour in '73, chunks were dropped as backing tapes failed, audiences lost interest or Keith Moon collapsed! Sporadically revisited as a 'rock opera' with guests playing various roles, the studio recording remained the definite article. Indeed in many ways it still does as the lack of Entwistle and Moon mean this can't quite recreate those heady days, but in terms of a live presentation this edition, whether on CD or preferably DVD/BR is as close to perfection as we're ever likely to see.
Despite approaching 70 Daltrey's voice remains incredibly expressive and is able to handle pretty much whatever is thrown at it, meanwhile Townshend, still rocks greatest curmudgeon, burns with passion and intensity despite himself, indeed his complete inability to toss it off has always been The Who's saving grace. From the moment the gig opens it's clear these two still mean it and with a sympathetic and talented band supporting, including Townshend's younger brother Simon, they rip through Quadrophenia and a brief selection of the bands hits. Technically enabled 'duets' with Entwistle on 5:15 and Moon on Bell Boy, could have been mawkish nostalgia exercises, instead they raise a collective lump in the audiences throat, while video screens feature relevant archive footage which again enhances rather than undermining the overall experience.
People have called into question Townshend and Daltrey's decision to call the band The Who, with only two remaining members, but on this evidence they can all just f-f-f-fade away, Roger has been the band's heart since at least Tommy, while Townshend is unquestionably it's soul and as they allegedly prepare for one further tour ahead of retirement we should be applauding their ability to deliver what is a hugely compelling live document at this stage in their career. From the evidence on display it's clear that this is no nostalgic cash grab, it means something far more primal to both band and audience. I have a vested interest here, I took my 7 year old son to this tour in London, his first gig, he was rapt for 2 solid hours, a huge smile across his face for days afterwards. If that doesn't demonstrate the continual power of this band and their music I don't know what does.
The Who - Quadrophenia - Live in London Blu Ray, DVD, CD & Deluxe Box Set released June 9th UMC