[Review] - The Who: Quadrophenia, And More



"People always ask, 'what's it like on tour?' And I say, 'It's the same old shit.' But it's good shit."

So claimed Pete Townshend at the end of the evening, in a rare moment of pause during a show that sees he and Roger Daltrey play through Quadrophenia, in its entirety, and a collection of the Who's more celebrated hits without intermission or break of any kind. Which, considering they are both on just this side of 70, is remarkable in and of itself. But that the music sounds just as crisp, as emotional and as honest as they day is sprung from them makes watching the Who a humbling experience. Very quickly it sets in that you are watching much better humans then you. An advanced form of evolution that functions at a level we lesser folk can never hope to match.

And it's still some very good shit.

Hit the jump for the review, which does not hide the admiration I have for these men.


In the course of a year, I've seen Roger Waters and Pete Townshend, two men I hold in greater esteem then most, perform in the same venue, and perform songs that I have very strong emotional ties to. Sod The Stones, bully the Beatles, and zip off Zeppelin, these are who I think of when I think of the greats of rock. So, it should come to little surprise when I say I quite enjoyed myself.

Quadrophenia is a rare act in the Who repertoire, Townshend himself claiming on the night it is only the second version of the album they've put together (after the original, I'm assuming, though exactly where that leaves the 1996 tour, I don't know). Possibly because so much of the message and the imagery of the album was caught up in Townshend's memories of the war, and of the four original members of the band, and unlike Water's retooling of The Wall, doesn't translate to a modern mindset quite so readily. But they embrace that knowledge, and play the show straight. And very little gets lost in translation.

Perhaps it is age, or perhaps it is the riggers of doing such a lightning fast tour, but it took them time to warm to the music. Daltrey bounced around on stage, but it all seemed rehearsed, like it was the kind of well planned spontaneity that only ever feels contemptuous. The first half of the album went past with a sort of begrudging "well we might as well" attitude, that maintained the quality of the music, but left out the heart. Then they hit 5.15, and all hell broke loose. I don't know if it took them that long to really get in the mood, or if they had all had especially heavy dinner's that night, but by the time they reached what is on the album the second record, they left behind the pageantry, and played with feeling. The previous songs had been played to exact standards of length and expectation, but they let that fly with 5.15, and broke out their strengths. Townshend threw his first windmill of the evening, certainly not his last, and the energy in the room jumped.

One addition to shows, apparently a common one now, with these groups that have experienced such longevity, and the loss of former members, and with a great catalogue of performances to draw from, is the touches of the past. A highlight of the Wall concert was when Waters played a duet with footage of himself from the old days. And in the same way, a highlight of this show was when the late John Entwistle appeared on screen and took control of the room with his bass. Daltrey, superfluous during moments like this, even turned and gazed upwards, as if he were praising his former bandmate. And it wouldn't be the last time in the evening that the past returned, as Daltrey would later sing in correspondence with footage of Animal himself, Keith Moon, during Bell Boy. It's touches like this that make the show seem part of something larger, and that even though some members continue on the slow path, once the music starts, time becomes a mobius strip, and everything is able to fold back in on itself.

Another highlight was near the end of the show, as the evening was taking it's toll on the performers, and Daltrey lost his place in Who Are You, starting in one verse, and ending in another. He excused himself, claiming a senior moment, which they are all entitled to. The slight wasn't hideous and mood ruining, and a nice reminder of the humanity and spontaneity of the live environment. And got a chuckle from the audience and band alike.

Daltrey did disappear as the album was coming to an end, his voice not needed for a time, and giving even more of the spotlight to Townshend (who was the clear victor of the night). It was the only reprieve either took. In a way that would have made Captain Kirk happy, Daltrey's sweat and, I don't know, sheer masculinity, had his shirt slowly shed itself over the course of the evening, ending the night buttonless and with the occasional glimpse of side boob. It was only once they had wrapped up Quadrophenia that they put the instruments down, took a breath, and said hello. Two hours in, and they got around to the introductions, though I'd say the only one needing them were the plethora of irony-seeking teenagers in the crowd. Townshend did the lions share of talking, partly because Daltrey's speech of largely unintelligible, and partly because it was Townshend's show, and everyone knew it. He was gracious and funny and charming. And then, and I could make this out, Daltrey said they were going to play a couple of the other bits.

This would be the "more" the title spoke of.

Let me just say, if you've never seen Pete Townshend play Pin Ball Wizard, Who Are You, Behind Blue Eyes, or Won't Get Fooled Again live, smarten the hell up and get at it, because the laws of thermodynamics say you're chances are going to get slimmer and slimmer the longer you wait. And you need to. Properly need. This is what it must have been like to see Shakespeare performed at the Globe. While Daltrey whipped the microphone around beside him, Townshend plucked and pressed and jumped and windmilled the ever loving hell out of his guitar. And never slowed down. Daltrey looked like he could just fall over at any moment, but I swear Townshend never broke a sweat. He might well have been playing bridge for all the effort he was exerting, yet there he was, letting his fingers climb up the neck and meet in a squeal, while Daltrey told the audience "don't cry, don't raise your eyes." As a parting word, Townshend said they don't mind playing these songs anymore, because they belong to the audience now. But they don't, not really. Because they need to be played by the right hand to have any meaning.

The evening ended with the rest of the band leaving the stage, as the two men stood alone, Townshend with an acoustic guitar, and Daltrey with a Union Jack mug, and performed an acoustic version of Tea & Theatre. It was a peaceful, almost spiritual way to leave us. And while I would have much preferred for Daltrey to have left one song earlier, and to hear Townshend perform an acoustic version of Won't Get Fooled Again (which you can see here), but I can understand the want of leaving the stage together, arm in arm, to the cheer of a crowd that has seen something special, and know it.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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