Concert Review | The Who resurrect ‘Quadrophenia’ at Boston’s TD Garden
Legendary band triumphantly performs classic album
Published: Monday, November 19, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 19, 2012 08:11
When The Who announced earlier this year that it was going to embark on a tour performing its classic album “Quadrophenia” (1973), some may have assumed this band was merely coasting on its previous successes. But from the opening song on Nov. 16 at TD Garden, it was evident that The Who was not just taking the easy way out. The 39−year−old “Quadrophenia,” filled with intricate parts and demanding vocal lines, is a difficult album for any group to perform in its entirety, let alone for a band whose two principle members are nearing the age of 70. The Who was faced with quite a challenge on this tour, but Friday’s triumphant concert proved that the legendary band can still deliver an incredible and inspiring performance.
The Who took the stage with the ambient ocean noise of the album opener “I Am the Sea” playing in the background. With the rest of the band standing at attention ready to begin, a lone spotlight shone on lead singer Roger Daltrey as he howled, “Can you see the real me? Can ya, can ya?” Immediately, the band launched into “The Real Me.” Leading the charge was the furious riffing of guitarist Pete Townshend who, besides Daltrey, was the only other original The Who member on stage. Townshend and Daltrey were accompanied by drummer Zak Starkey, bassist Pino Palladino and guitarist Simon Townshend, as well as a horn and keyboard section. The band ripped through the song with the energy of musicians half their age, giving a remarkably fierce performance of a song that has been a staple of its live sets for decades. The audience was certainly impressed by the effort, with Townshend eliciting a huge cheer for his famous windmill guitar technique.
The Who then proceeded to present “Quadrophenia” as a continuous work. Instead of either Daltrey or Townsend providing commentary between songs, the group used the original sound effects from the album as transitions. Much of “Quadrophenia’s” strength derives from how the songs continue to build into one another, and the decision to let the music speak for itself allowed the album’s momentum to gradually build throughout the performance.
As The Who performed, footage of some of its past concerts played simultaneously on the large video screens around them. This touch provided an excellent representation of the band’s history. Although showing footage of the band in its prime — including some of late members John Entwistle and Keith Moon — could have potentially upstaged the current incarnation onstage, Daltrey and Townshend held their own throughout the night. Daltrey’s voice was in surprisingly good shape for the majority of the concert, and his passion compensated for any high notes that he failed to reach. Townshend continued to deliver impressive performances song after song, ranging from the intimate on “Sea and Sand” to the energetic “The Punk and the Godfather.”
To kick off the second half of the album, The Who burst into a momentous performance of “5:15.” This impressive delivery saw the band firing on all cylinders as Townshend and the horn section battled over the main riff, while Daltrey swung his microphone in a frenzied whirlwind during the instrumental breaks. The band stretched the song out into a 10−minute jam complete with a virtuosic solo by the late bassist John Entwistle, courtesy of the vintage video footage incorporated into the performance. Late drummer Keith Moon also had a virtual cameo during “Bell Boy,” where old film of him singing lead vocals was similarly integrated into the show.
The other highlight of the evening came at the end of the concert, with the closing track “Love, Reign o’er Me.” Even though it is one of the most vocally demanding tracks of the entire album, Daltrey gave a phenomenal performance and nailed the song’s ending scream. The crowd was visibly moved by this effort and gave the band a standing ovation.
After thanking the audience, The Who began an encore comprised of its greatest hits, including “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Some of these songs are counted among the most famous works in rock history and the opportunity to see these classics alone played live was worth the price of admission. Their inclusion in the show only enhanced an already extraordinary night, one that celebrated the legacy of The Who and proved that this band still has quite a knack for fantastic live performances.