Images and article by Bill Kelly
During a very creative, prolific period Pete Townshend wrote another “rock opera” for The Who reflecting the zeitgeist of the band’s formative years, when ‘mods’ and ‘rockers’ battled for social relevance in the working-class redoubts of mid-60’s England. Mods wore parkas, rode motor scooters festooned with mirrors and listened young bands like The Small Faces and imports from Motown. Townshend’s album reflecting this time, “Quadrophenia”, tells the story of Jimmy Cooper, a young mod coming of age during this transitional period.
Many years have passed since the release of the album and film version (featuring Sting as Keith Moon’s fallen hero, the “Bell Boy”), but, as Townshend has remarked, the song remains the same. Fashions change, music reflects changing norms, and young men and women struggle to figure out how they fit in.
So, how does a 40 year old album, played by a band halved by untimely deaths, translate to live performance in an era of looped, sampled, non-melodic music? How do two musicians in their late 60’s convincingly sing and play music that was challenging in the band’s heyday? The answer, simply, is quite well. Daltry struggled mightily with some of the lyrics, particularly during Doctor Jimmy, but after leaving the stage during the instrumental The Rock, he came back and nailed the pieces' final, emotional song, Love, Reign O’er Me. And Townshend, deafened ears sealed off by specially developed ear monitors, windmilled and growled his way through the show; he didn’t leave his feet like days past, but he played with as much vigor as his “Live From Leeds” days. The band’s fallen members figured prominently in the show - Entwistle’s bass solo during 5:15 was played on the large screen above the stage, and Keith Moon appeared during Bell Boy, while Daltry and Townshend quietly watched their fallen comrades. One wonders if thoughts of their own mortality passes through their minds during these video apparitions.
But the band and their fans were very much alive during this show. A fan close in age to Daltry and Townshend was seen with his teenaged daughter, both screaming the lyrics to Baba O’Riley. Closing with the quiet, reflective Tea and Theater, Roger and Pete seemed to be signaling finality, that perhaps both musicians sensed that they couldn’t perform these demanding songs well much longer, that age and time were taking their tolls. Perhaps, but the tour continues, and we all got together before we got much older...
SETLIST: I Am the Sea / The Real Me / Quadrophenia / Cut My Hair / The Punk and the Godfather / I'm One / The Dirty Jobs / Helpless Dancer / Is It in My Head? / I've Had Enough / 5:15 / Sea and Sand / Drowned / Bell Boy / Doctor Jimmy / The Rock / Love, Reign O'er Me // Who Are You / Behind Blue Eyes / Pinball Wizard / Baba O'Riley / Won't Get Fooled Again / Tea and Theatre