When The Who first toured for their classic rock opera Quadrophenia back in the 1970s, the technology of the day made it difficult to replicate the album with just the four original members on stage. In 1996, the band brought the album to the concert stage again, this time with additional musicians and singers, including Billy Idol and Gary Glitter. While that tour was a success, when the band — now comprised of just Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey — took the album on the road again in 2012, they tried a different approach, immersing the fans in not only an audio, but a visual experience as well. A show in London, England was filmed and makes up the new Blu-ray, The Who: Quadrophenia – Live in London.
With its multiple mirrors and large headlight, the massive video screen during the concert resembles a Vespa GS scooter, a favorite of Mod culture and an important part of the Quadrophenia story. Throughout the performance, early images of The Who mix with newsreel footage of everything from World War II to The Beatles to John F. Kennedy to Elvis Presley to Marilyn Monroe. They are pop culture references of the era the story’s main character, Jimmy, was from, helping to show where the story fits among the key events of the period. While the story and music of Quadrophenia were Townshend’s, Daltrey was responsible for this visual element. The images on stage are part of the Blu-ray itself, often appearing as a backdrop or in lieu of the band members. It is in this way that this Blu-ray is unique. Not just a concert video, it attempts to replicate the in-person experience of the show and does so rather successfully.
As for the performance itself, the band is in fine form throughout. The two original members are augmented by Townshend’s brother, Simon, on additional guitar and vocals, as well as Pino Palladino on bass and Scott Devours on drums. Devours in particular is a monster, doing justice to the incomparable Keith Moon and really pushing the band during the performance. This is apparent from the opening number, “The Real Me.” Townshend and Daltrey are animated, with Townshend offering aggressive lead and rhythm playing as black and white images of the band fill the screen behind them.
While Daltrey’s voice shows some signs of aging, he actually gets stronger as the show goes along, really commanding songs such as “The Punk And The Godfather” and “5:15,” the latter of which features the late John Entwistle in a virtual bass solo. Daltrey stands in awe, watching his former band mate as the group tears through this showstopper. While Palladino is a fine player in his own right, this portion of the show is a painful reminder of just how much The Ox is missed.
Townshend takes lead vocals for a potent “I’m One,” showing off some intricate finger picking in the process. Daltrey adds harmonica to this rousing track. Simon Townshend handles lead vocals and lead guitar on “The Dirty Jobs.” He sounds a fair amount like his older brother and can likely hit notes vocally that neither Pete nor Roger can anymore. That said, the closing number, “Love Reign O’er Me,” showcases Daltrey at his powerhouse finest.
The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p 16:9 Widescreen 23.98 fps and looks fantastic. Audio options include DTS-HS Master Audio 5.1, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and PCM Stereo. The audio is big and full throughout. The encore portion of the show, featuring six tracks and some of the band’s biggest hits, is included as a bonus feature as well. Highlights include the pop gem “You Better You Bet” and the underrated “Tea & Theatre” from Endless Wire.
One would guess this is the last time the Who will bring Quadrophenia out on the road. Quadrophenia — Live in London is a fine alternative for those who could not be there to witness the show in person and an excellent souvenir for those who could. The concert’s interwoven video clips make it almost seem like a movie — a movie with a very potent soundtrack.