September 21, 2020

2013-02-01 – The Los Angeles Times

2013 02 01 The_Los_Angeles_Times_Fri__Feb_1__2013_ 3

The Who revisits ‘Quadrophenia’ at Staples

[TheWho, from D1]
grand concepts. Elton J ohn
released his chart-topping
“Goodbye Yellow Brick
Road,” an ode to British
childhood and nostalgia;
Yes’ prog-rock behemoth
“Tales From Topographic
Oceans” sprang from the
writings of an Indian yogi.
Jethro Tull spoofed the very
idea of the concept album
with its “Thick as aBrick,” it-
self a thematically linked
work featuring a single,
flute-driven composition
that consumes a full album.
In the middle of all this
was the Who, whose two re-
maining living members,
Townshend and singer Dalt-
rey, and an eight-piece back-
ing unit, made a solid argu-
ment Wednesday for the
continued relevance of
“Quadrophenia,” even as it
confirmed its place as a
product of its time.
Released four years after
the Who’s conceptual break-
through, “Tommy,” “Qua-
drophenia” is a much more
personal creation, Towns-
hend’s nostalgic, autobio-

graphical look at a boy be-
coming a man in postwar
England. “Tommy” was
often heavy—handed (its cen-
tral character was a deaf,
dumb and blind pinball play-
er). “Quadrophenia,” whose
title references four aspects
of one troubled personality,
dialed the ridiculousness
back a few notches, a sign of
a band maturing, even as it
expanded the Who’s sound.
Granted, this is still a
work that when it was re—
leased came with a book
filled with lyrics, composer’s
notes, a story and images of
hip British youth — Mods —
with Vespa scooters hanging
around the seaside resort of
Brighton, England. (A 1979
film adaptation added more
story and characters.) Its
Townshend-penned notes
identify melodic leitmotifs
based around “Quadrophe-
nia’s” protagonist, Jimmy,
detail mini-operas within
the whole (“The Punk Meets
the Godfather”) and humor-
1ess1y tackle Big Issues of
life, love and death. “I Wanna
Hold Your Hand” or “Surfin’

Bird,” this is not.

The Who could very well
have hobbled through this
show. After all, few acts can
withstand the loss of a
rhythm section as thick and
thrilling as bassist J ohn Ent-
wistle and drummer Keith
Moon. The former died in
2002, and the latter in 1978.
With both Townshend and
Daltrey in their late 605, one
could be forgiven for won-
dering whether they’d be
able to pull it off. Plus, the
band has toured to perform
the work before, starting in
1996. This isn’t new ground.

That didn’t seem to stop
them. From the moment the
first field-recorded ocean
waves floated onto Brigh-
ton’s shores as the band
walked onstage, the musi-
cians wrestled with “Qua-
drophenia’s” story line while
offering impressive musical
structure. When they kicked
into “The Real Me” after the
opening instrumental, any
doubts about strength and
endurance vanished. Bass-
ist Pino Palladino equaled
Entwistle’s rhythmic preci-

sion as he rolled through the
meandering lines, and
drummer (and offspring of
Ringo Starr) Zak Starkey hit
as hard and as crazily as
Moon on the drums — no
small feat. They did this as a
brass section, three key-
boardists and a rhythm gui-
tarist (Simon Townshend,
Pete’s brother) drove the
melodies and thickened the
arrangements. It sounded
as big and brash as the con-
cept at hand.

Songs that carry a narra-
tive forward require a differ-
ent part of the creative
brain. As evidenced by the
stream-of—consciousness
meandering inherent in
much of today’s indie rock,
it’s easy to string tonally sim-
ilar lines together that sug-
gest depth without actually
committing to a precise
glimpse at honest emotion.

More difficult is to create
lyrics and music, as Towns-
hend did in “Quadrophe-
nia,” that work in service of a
bigger narrative cause —
without being clumsy or ex-
cessively deliberate.

Throughout the work, seem-
ingly simple songs such as
“Cut My Hair,” sung sweetly
by Townshend but with
more growl than on the re-
cording, captured the strug-
gle of a teenager trying to
conform while wrestling
with isolation.

“Sea and Sand” was set
on a beach as our hero won-
dered why he felt invisible to
the girl of his longing. “Bell
Boy” — sung by a recording
of Moon while film of him
singing it showed on the
screen above — targeted the
moment when freewheeling
youth collides with the reali-
ties of the workaday life.

“Quadrophenia” cli-
maxed with its final and
most accomplished song,
“Love Reign O‘er Me.” It’s
one of Daltrey’s defining re-
corded moments, a huge
performance that still stuns
four decades and thousands
of listens later. Though no
longer able to push himself
to such great heights — a
voice can strain itself like
that for only so long — Dal-
trey made up for it with his

usual keen phrasing and a
new—found nuance.

When he moved into the
song’s grand hook centered
on the lyric “On the dry and
dusty road / The nights we
spend apart alone /I need to
get back home to cool, cool
rain,” I got shivers. It was a
pure moment, one of many.

The band encored with
more of its classics — “Who
Are You,” “Pinball Wizard,”
“Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t
Get Fooled Again,” along
with “Tea & Theatre,” from
2006 — placating a hungry
crowd eager to cram in as
much Who as possible while
they still could. They got a
healthy dose Wednesday.

Yes, it was brash and
grandiose, but in a short-at-
tention span digital music
marketplace in which MPBS
and shuffle-play have al-
tered our willingness to lis-
ten patiently, there’s some-
thing to be said for Big Ideas
that take time and energy to
fully appreciate.

randall.roberts
@latimes.com