“Schizophrenic? I’m Bleeding Quadrophenic.” With those words, the Who’s Pete Townshend introduces his second recorded rock opera, “Quadrophenia,” the Who’s 1973 follow up album to “Tommy” and “Who’s Next.” On Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Townshend along with the Who co-founder Roger Daltrey and a talented group of eight other musicians, performed “Quadrophenia” in its entirety and then more for a divided personality crowd.
“Quadrophenia” enthusiasts sang or mouthed every word, relishing that for a straight ninety minutes, the Who, as Townshend put it, left “no space between songs to breathe,” playing “Quadrophenia” straight through from its opening “I Am The Sea,” to its epic close “Love, Reign O’er Me.” The others in the audience showed more excitement with the “and more” part of the show. One thing both sides agreed on, it was one amazing performance.
Musically, “Quadrophenia” may be the most complex and ambitious of all Who albums, weaving four themes together which represent the personalities of the four original members of the Who, Daltrey (“Helpless Dancer”), John Entwistle (“Is It Me?”), Keith Moon (“Bell Boy”) and Townshend (“Love, Reign O’er Me”). Given the enormity of the album, it took all ten band members, including Daltrey, Townshend, Pino Palladino on bass, Pete’s brother, Simon Townshend, on guitar, keyboard work supplied by John Corey, Loren Gold and Frank Simes, last minute fill in drummer, Scott Devours, making only his second appearance with the band, and the horn section of J. Greg Miller and Reggie Grisham to bring out the fullness of the music.
After an energetic set by opening act Vintage Trouble, the Who hit the stage precisely at their announced 8:30 p.m. start time. The wide screen behind the band and the three circle screens hanging above the band showed video images of the ocean as the stage remain dark while the band began “I Am the Sea.” With Daltrey’s back to the audience, he asked “can you see the real me, can you, can you?” and as he turned around the band burst into “The Real Me,” Daltrey’s vocals sounding almost too good, whipping his microphone around in circles and Townshend attacking his guitar with his trademark windmill motions.
To hear seldom played in concert songs such as “The Punk and the Godfather,” Townshend’s acoustic, “I’m One,” and the three part harmony of “I’ve Had Enough,” was a joy for any fan of the Who whose knowledge of the band goes beyond being introductory music to the “CSI” franchise. However, things really started to kick in as the band played side three of “Quadrophenia.”
The recognizable to most, “5:15,” got many of those that had sat down back up on their feet, but the highlight was Devours on drums playing along with a video of an extended bass solo with the late Entwistle. The video and live music blended together so smoothly, one was waiting for Entwistle to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
On “Sea and Sand,” the nearly 69 year old Daltrey truthfully sang out “but thank God I ain’t old.” With his tan, solid voice and chiseled physique displayed by his open shirt, Daltrey showed that age is merely a number putting to shame his age contemporaries in the audience. On the plus side, I still have twelve years to get into Daltrey shape.
Townshend showed off some blistering solo work in “Drowned” and his voice almost took on a gospel flair as he begged to “flow into the ocean.” Completing side three, videos of the late Keith Moon on vocals blended with the band’s live music to great effect during “Bell Boy.”
As the band reached “Quadrophenia’s” end, the instrumental “The Rock,” with images from 1980 to present being flashed on the video screens, was another reminder of how intricate the themes of “Quadrophenia” are and how good the ensemble on stage played them. A rested Daltrey brought the “Quadrophenia,” session to a close with another stand out vocal in “Love, Reign O’er Me.”
Now that the hardcore Who fans were sated, it was time to bring the rest of those in attendance on their feet. The house rocked with “Who Are You,” Townshend again with his windmill motions crashing down on his guitar. “Behind Blue Eyes,” brought the first full audience sing-a-long of the night. Clearly all those in attendance were now on common ground.
As it is with influential rock artists with a prolonged longevity, there comes that surreal moment in a concert where it hits you that you are witnessing a legend play a legendary song. The realization this night occurred when “oh my God, that’s Pete freakin’ Townshend” began the opening chords to “Pinball Wizard.” That’s when the chills go down one’s spine.
The chills continued with “Baba O’Riley,” which featured a well choreographed light show during the song’s synthesizer beginning. The now completely opened shirt Daltrey led the audience in a rousing version of the song’s chorus and then closed it with his harmonica solo. Townshend had no trouble in ribbing Daltrey that the harmonica solo seems to be getting shorter as time goes on.
The show reached its climax with “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” with two questions in mind. Could Devours nail the short drum solo towards the song’s end and could Daltrey deliver the best scream in rock. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaah in answer to both. The audience went crazy.
At the evening’s end, Townshend was gracious in thanking the fans in coming out to see them. But it was those in attendance that should be grateful. The Who’s performance was top notch from the technical aspects of lighting to the syncing of videos to the mixing of the sound to the enthusiasm of the band. With the loss of Moon and Entwistle, the quadrophenic personality of the Who may no longer exist. However, as Daltrey and Townshend proved this night, sometimes it’s alright to be plain ordinary mad.
Quadrophenia: I Am The Sea | The Real Me | Quadrophenia | Cut My Hair | The Punk Meets 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
And More: Who Are You | Behind Blue Eyes | Pinball Wizard | Baba O’Riley | Won’t Get Fooled Again | Tea & Theatre