In the end, despite Roger Daltrey's hopeful wish in "My Generation," the Who
didn't die before they got old. And this 3-DVD set documents the whole sordid
Don't get me wrong, these rare and special performances from the 1980s and 1990s
give Who fans a snapshot of the band's creative crown jewels, the two operas
that – like it or not – reshaped rock music. Two operas that also happened to
contain excellent songs such as "Pinball Wizard," "5:15," and "The Real Me"
that, even out of context, stood well on their own.
(One could be angry at Pete Townshend for showing lesser lights such as Styx and
Pink Floyd the roadmap for making the crummy concept albums that we ended up
getting force-fed through album-rock radio. In the end, however, Pete Townshend
isn't accountable for people who abuse the genre any more than I'm responsible
for poorly thought-out rock reviews someone else types at my computer, know what
Who devotees and historians alike will dive into the DVDs and enjoy the hell out
of them. They get great performances of "Tommy" and "Quadrophenia" out of a band
that gracefully matured and was up to the task of delivering a stage show worthy
of their places in the rock pantheon:
• Video and stills in both pieces help explain the weird and convoluted plot
twists, and break up the monotony of a long concert
• Elton John, Phil Collins, and Billy Idol typically record unlistenable piffle
no one should have to endure (unless they did something really, really bad, and
the CIA is using the threat of hitting the "repeat" button as a means to extract
more details about their crimes), yet they're surprisingly great as operatic
role players for Townshend & Co.
• The bonus commentary from Daltrey and Townshend, accessible by remote, not
only adds much historical perspective to the works themselves, but also into the
history of early-1960s London Mod culture back when the Who called itself the
High Numbers, times that served as the inspiration for "Quadrophenia"
"Even the Stones had Beatle haircuts, for fuck's sake," Townshend says at one
point in this bonus commentary, which is worth the price of the DVDs alone.
"[Back then,] Rod Stewart was a fucking cool-looking guy. Mods used to think he
was gay. How wrong did we get that?"
On top of all this interesting material, this package comes with a nice
greatest-hits bonus, disc, too. "Baba O'Reilly." "Substitute." "I Can See for
Miles." If your favorite Who fan is anything like the guys I know who enjoy the
group, wrapping this baby up and sticking it under the Christmas tree will make
them happier than a pig in slop. For several nights in a row, because it will
take that long to watch all three DVDs.
For the rest of us, however, who aren't fanatics? The tragic ironies of “Tommy
and Quadrophenia Live” just can't overcome the bright spots. After all, Roger
Daltrey's thumbing his nose at his elders in "My Generation" made the group
great. Seeing Daltrey himself turn into an elder is just plain sad, sort of like
watching video of Willie Mays at the end of his career. The spark's in the eye,
but the trademark basket catch is a thing of the past.
By the time the punks came along in the 1970s and Townshend was introspectively
coming to terms with his own mortality in “Quadrophenia,” the ballgame was over.
No glossy, high-spirited re-rendering of these rock operas can hide the fact
that these guys – even back in the late 1980s, when some of the footage for
these DVDs was shot – had nothing more to say.
After Keith Moon overdosed and Townshend's tinnitus crippled his ability to
perform, the Who should have packed it in. Now, thanks to this DVD that shows
all their wrinkles, gray beards and bald spots up close, we're forever going to
remember them as the guys who hoped they'd die before they got old – but didn't.
Well, except for Keith.
~Mojo Flucke, Ph.D