The Who did not embark on an extensive tour when they originally released Quadrophenia in 1973, apparently because they had to recreate the musical layers with backing tracks and never got comfortable with the technique. Fast forward 40 years or so, and they finally have the resources to mount a proper production of their second rock opera.
The Who’s long-overdue Quadrophenia tour touched down at Scotiabank Place on Wednesday, dispensing a night of nostalgia for an estimated 7,000 fans. The two surviving members of the British band’s original lineup, singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist Pete Townshend, were accompanied by a band that included Pete’s brother Simon on guitar, drummer Zak Starkey and bassist Pino Palladino, as well as three keyboardists and a couple of horn players.
For fans of this ambitious opus, it was a satisfying performance. Although the voices of the elder statesmen, Daltry and Townshend, have deepened with the years, they lent an air of gravitas to the familiar tunes. The battle between mods and rockers is ancient history, but the tension within the music still sounds fresh, easily recast as a struggle for mental health, and the need to stand up against bullies.
Always under control, the music flowed through meticulously constructed arrangements, punched up by the more melodic tracks, including The Real Me, 5:15 and Love Reign O’er Me. Daltrey’s shirt, on the other hand, defied control, shedding buttons as the show progressed. By Doctor Jimmy, you could see the sweat on the 68-year-old’s chest.
The balding Townshend, who’s 67, played electric guitar with his usual fire, though perhaps not with the abandon of the old days, and took a fine turn on acoustic for I’m One. His brother, Simon, handled the vocals for The Dirty Jobs, sounding enough like Pete to pass muster. Not forgotten were the original members, may they rest in peace. Drummer Keith Moon, was pictured on video belting out the lyrics for Bell Boy. The camera also caught glimpses of bassist John Entwhistle.
After running through the tracklisting, Townshend spoke to the audience, describing Ottawa as a beautiful city and giving credit to the top-notch players in the band. As a grande finale, the Who dug into their catalogue for a crowd-pleasing string of hits that included powerful versions of Who Are You, Behind Blue Eyes, Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again.