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The Who – Quadrophenia, Live In London, Blu-ray (2014)

The Who – Quadrophenia, Live In London, Blu-ray (2014)

Personnel: Roger Daltrey – vocals; Pete Townsend – guitar. vocals; Simon Townsend – guitar, vocals; Pino Palladino – bass; Frank Simes – keyboards, musical director; Scott Devours – drums; John Carey – keyboards; Loren Gold – keyboards; Dylan Hart & Reggie Grisham – horn players
Selections: 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; Bonus Performances: Who Are You; You Better You Bet; Pinball Wizard; Baba O’Riley; Won’t Get Fooled Again; Tea & Theatre
Studio: Universal Music
Director: Chris Rule
Video: 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1; Dolby TrueHD 5.1; PCM Stereo 2.0
Length: 126 minutes
Rating:  Audio: ****               Video: ****1/2

After the success of Tommy and Who’s Next, Pete Townsend came up with an ambitious concept. He wanted to mesh the subjects of personality disorders and the social upheaval in 1960’s England. Quadrophenia, a double LP, elevated him as a songwriter and musician. The protagonist Jimmy attempts to cope with his dissociative identity disorder. The individual personas are represented in four songs (“Helpless Dancer”, “Bell Boy”, “Is It Me” and “Love Reign O’er Me”) which reflected the four band members). Hailed as an achievement, Townsend’s second “rock opera” never became a bona fide staple of The Who in concert. There was a theatrical film based on the album and digital re-mastering. In 2014, the long-awaited audio-only Blu-ray was released. In the summer of 2013, a concert featuring the entire album took place.

Finally, forty tears after the initial release, Quadrophenia is the recipient of hi-res audio and video. Filmed before an enthusiastic audience at London’s Webley Arena in July, 2013, The Who battled age and cultural obsolescence with a spirited performance. Daltrey and Townsend look like somebody’s grandfathers, but they possess the heart and soul of rockers. With a visually attractive light show and big-screen projections (that includes footage and photos of all four original band members), the concert takes on the appearance of a monumental event. As the group moves through the set, classics like “The Real Me” and “The Punk Meets The Godfather” come to life. Amazingly, Daltrey tears up the vocals (at least as much as a sixty-nine year old can), twirling his wired microphone and preening on stage. Townsend still has passion (if not ravaged vocal chords), and plays forcefully, even adding some trademark windmill moves. The music is still compelling, alternating between rock anthems (“Dr. Jimmy”) and acoustic-based melodies (“I’m One”). The universal exploration of despair and redemption feel timeless.

The band with bass, second guitar, drums, two keyboards and horns) expands the aural landscape. The viewer rarely sees them, as this is the Pete-Roger show. Nearly all of the material is performed and arranged with showmanship and precision. The highlight of the show is an extended version of 5:15. In addition to the crashing rock prominence, there is an emotional surprise. A bass solo by John Entwhistle (who had so many of them) is shown on the back screen and becomes part of the performance. It is a stunning moment. This is repeated during “Bell Boy” when footage of Keith Moon’s loopy vocal on “Bell Boy” appears. As with Tommy (“ We’re Not Gonna Take It/Listening to You”) and Who’s Next (“Won’t Get Fooled Again”), Townsend knows how to compose a finale. “Love Reign O’er Me” is breathtaking in its emotional scope and musical eloquence. It is still resonant in 2013.

In the encore, Townsend announces that it is “time for some therapy” (you or the audience, Pete?). Somehow The Who manage to summon eternal youth for a raucous group of standards. Townsend rips a dynamic solo on “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The audio quality (especially the DTS-Master Audio 5.1) is excellent. The guitars crackle with piercing tonality. Some of the background instrumentation is subdued, but the mix is even. Daltrey’s voice is not what it used to be, but still has a gritty edge. The Blu-ray transfer is top-notch. Images are crystalline and the visual effects are rich and colorful.

There’s a reason very few bands are viable after five decades. Most don’t have the goods… The Who do!

—Robbie Gerson

 

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