BROOKLYN, NY—When The Who put out Quadrophenia in 1973 following the blockbusters Tommy and Who’s Next, many considered it the zenith of the band’s output, and many still do. At the Barclays Center, original Who members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey belted out and blasted through the double-album and its celebrated ode to teenage angst with a horn section and keyboardists, meticulously regenerating the original yet adding just enough roughed up, juiced out jumbo to keep it raucous and spunky.
Power chord Townshend and mic slinger Daltrey were right on the entire night as they plowed through the opus, adding their sparks to the flame that made The Who such an incredible act in the old days. Playing off each other like two old mates, they worked center stage like a charm, eyeing each other on cue as the other players, commandeered by drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo’s son), laid out the rhythms and dense arrangements for them to follow. Simon Townshend (Pete’s brother) helped out on vocals and guitar while Pino Palladino kept the bottom end rock steady.
Quadrophenia revolves around central character Jimmy, who is a composite of the original band members’ personas including the tough guy (Roger), beggar/hypocrite (Townshend), lunatic (Moon) and romantic (Entwistle), per a 2009 interview with Townshend. Ex-Who members Keith Moon and John Entwistle put in appearances on the video screen for “Bellboy” and “5:15” that were a celebration to their contributions and spirit to the band. Moon’s drum rolls and antics off stage have filled books while Entwistle’s busy and thunderous rumble were the foundation to the band’s “mayhem” that Pete Townshend so eloquently uses to describe the band’s beautiful noise.
Almost 40 years on, the performance of Quadrophenia went down like a celebration to the times when record albums ruled. The bleak artwork inside the original album speaks to a drabby, yet glorious time in England in the ‘60s where mods and rockers battled for turf and the ladies. A movie in the late ‘70s starred Sting as the bellboy. In 1996, The Who reunited to play Quadrophenia. This time around it was “all Roger’s doing,” to quote Townshend from the stage at the end of their set, and they delivered the goods.
Opening up with “The Real Me,” they punched through the sound of the sea with a booming attack of guitar, bass and drums. Daltrey sounded great up there in grey curly hair and bifocals, showing a bit more chest than needed as he muscled his way through the two-hour plus performance. He can’t hit the highs like they old days but more than made up for it with the bravado and will of a trooper. Townshend’s flailing windmills and crunchy distorted power chord rock blasted through the arrangements as the band roared into a free spirited blastoff before Entwistle’s onscreen bass solo on “5:15.”
By the time side four of the record came around they were a well-oiled stampeding unit of gents. “Doctor Jimmy” played to the four-headed composite’s alter ego, Mr. Jim, “who only comes out when I drink my gin.” For the instrumental “The Rock,” the circle on Jimmy’s Quadrophenia closed as images from the ‘60s to 9/11 lit the screens as the prelude to the closer, “Love Reign O’er Me.” Starting slowly at first, it built into a climatic windup and release that was incredible and dramatically ended the piece.
They came back for the hits including “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Baba O’Riley” that combined the syncopated driving clatter of howling vocals, gut-wrenching guitars, and synthesizers ending the loud ass portion of the night. On “Tea & Theatre” from 2006’s Endless Wire, Townshend and Daltrey took us back to the beginning and ended the night on acoustic guitars. Vintage Trouble opened the evening with some fine retro soul going back to The Who’s Northern soul roots.