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The Who, ‘Quadrophenia: Live in London’ – Video Review

By rights, ‘Quadrophenia: Live in London” should have been a disaster. After all, nothing from the Who‘s rather rickety 2008 tour gave any indication that the surviving half of this legendary band could get together after another five years to mount a successful stage show based on their most challenging piece of work.

But for the most part, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend succeed in bringing their 1973 concept album to life in new and interesting ways on this lovingly filmed and packaged document of their most recent world tour. Of course you’re never going to get the full Who experience without Keith Moon or John Entwistle, and it would be foolhardy to expect the same power and abandon the surviving duo was able to bring to the stage in their prime.

But Townshend and Daltrey remain charmingly scruffy and rebellious, with the former in particular coloring outside the lines and refusing to stay constrained by their ultra-polished (and throughout the course of this film, largely hidden) backing band. At times there’s an unintentional sense of karaoke to the proceedings as a result of this visual and audio disconnection, but for the most part things sync up well enough to deliver the music in a properly dynamic and nuanced manner.

‘Quadrophenia’ turns out to be a wise choice for both thematic and practical reasons as well. For one thing, Townshend sings lead or co-lead on about a half a dozen songs on the original album, and utilizing that same split in the live show smartly reduces the burden on Daltrey throughout the evening. Townshend’s brother Simon further helps in this regard by taking lead vocal duties on ‘The Dirty Jobs.’

The band also supplement the live performance shots with archival footage from both their own storied history and that of their home country England, intertwining the two in a manner that gives extra weight to the album’s ruminations on the lessons learned throughout life. You also get the sense the band is performing exclusively for you throughout this presentation: the multimedia footage is shown full-screen on your television at least as much as it’s seen on the screens behind the band performing, and crowd noise is mixed down to a bare minimum.

Oh and we almost forgot one of the best parts: Moon and Entwistle both make extremely thoughtful, tasteful and exciting appearances during the show! Moon turns up (in video form of course) to sing his signature song ‘Bell Boy,’ and Entwistle appears in the same manner for an thunderous, amazingly dexterous bass solo at the start of ’5:15.’

After the triumphant climax of ‘Love, Reign o’er Me,’ you can separately access the band’s six-song encore, which features somewhat scrappier versions of expected hits such as ‘Who Are You,’ ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again.’ All told, this is a highly recommended document of a surprisingly vital and unsurprisingly well-thought-out latter-day live performance by one of rock’s most legendary bands.

Next: The Who's Most Underrated Songs

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