It might seem paradoxical for aging rockers to re-create an entire album about teenage angst 40 years after its release, especially for a band that even earlier famously sang about dying before they got old. But the music of Quadrophenia, arguably The Who’s most ambitious recording, seemed to strip years, if not decades, off its two original members.
Singer Roger Daltrey, less than a month from his 69th birthday, ditched his jacket and had his shirt nearly unbuttoned midway through the double album, revealing still-impressive abs. And 67-year-old guitarist Pete Townshend, after starting the show somewhat reserved and consulting sheet music, became more animated throughout the evening and nearly impaled his right hand on his whammy bar doing his trademark windmills during “5:15,” causing him to leave the stage briefly. “No room to breathe, no room to bleed,” Townshend said upon his return.
Both men benefitted from a stellar supporting cast: Simon Townshend provided vocal support on “The Dirty Jobs” and assisted his brother with guitar duties, two horn players flushed out “Helpless Dancer” and “Doctor Jimmy,” and three keyboardists helped bring the subtleties from the album to life during instrumental passages “Quadrophenia” and “The Rock.” Drummer Scott Devours also filled in admirably, playing just his third show with the band in place of the injured Zak Starkey.
Townshend and Daltrey also paid tribute to their deceased former bandmates, incorporating a fierce John Entwistle bass solo into an extended version of “5:15,” which was the biggest deviation from the album, and beautifully mixed in vintage footage of drummer Keith Moon singing his parts during “Bell Boy.”
After wrapping up Quadrophenia with the powerful “Love, Reign O’er Me,” the band returned sans horns and two keyboardists for an encore of greatest hits. The vibe was diminished briefly when Daltrey became severely upset when someone in the crowd was smoking during “Who Are You,” but he managed to channel that fury on closers “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” displaying a passion that defied age and with songs that transcend time. ★★★★☆