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The Who's "Other" Rock Opera Survives in Fine Form

Roger Daltrey and Pete Towshend on the "Quadrophenia and More" tour.
Roger Daltrey and Pete Towshend on the "Quadrophenia and More" tour.
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The Who: Quadrophenia Live in London Universal CD/DVD, various formats and prices

While it is not their most famous rock opera -- that would be the one with a certain deaf, dumb and blind boy, Pinball Wizard, Acid Queen and good ol' Uncle Ernie -- the Who's Quadrophenia is in many ways the superior work.

In an nutshell, the 1973 double LP told the story of Jimmy, a teen living in mid-'60s London, as he deals with his peers, parents, girlfriend, Mod lifestyle, the cusp of manhood, disillusionment, possible suicide and his future all while suffering from a form of schizophrenia. Composer Pete Townshend imbues Jimmy's condition with personality traits from all four members of the Who, thus the "quadrophenia" of the title.

This DVD captures the closing night of the band's 2012-13 "Quadrophenia and More" tour at London's Wembley Arena with original members Townshend (vocals/guitar) and Roger Daltrey (vocals/harmonica), along with Pino Palladino (bass), Scott Devours (drums), Loren Gold (keyboards), Simon Townshend (rhythm guitar) and a backing horn/keyboard section.

Taking a lead from the full-throttle energy of the pensioner-aged Townshend and Daltrey, this is not a dinosaur act going through the paces.

All 17 tracks of Quadrophenia are tackled in order. And while "5:15" and "Love Reign O'er Me" are the two best-known numbers, familiar to two generations of FM radio listeners, it's on the deeper cuts that the band really shines.

From Simon Townshend's vocal turn on "The Dirty Jobs" and the Pete/Roger interplay on "Is It In My Head?" to "Cut My Hair" and "Drowned," the group clearly relished digging a bit deeper into their normal concert catalog. And the sound and video quality are top-notch.

Large video screens behind the band effectively use both news and old Who footage to move the story along throughout. During penultimate instrumental number "The Rock," the screens showcase world events that have taken place since the original album's release, with some pointed social and political commentary.

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Late members John Entwistle (bass) and Keith Moon (drums) even get a shot onstage, as the live band plays along with video/audio footage of the pair -- Entwistle's bass solo on "5:15" and Moon's singing/drumming on signature "Bell Boy." What could have been a weird mess actually works wonderfully, and Daltrey's facial expression while watching the videos is actually touching.

The show concludes with a crowd-pleasing string of big Who hits including "Who Are You?" "You Better You Bet," "Pinball Wizard," "Baby O'Riley," and "Won't Get Fooled Again." But its closer, "Tea & Theatre" ends things on an elegant note.

Performed with just Daltrey singing and holding a cup with Townshend on acoustic guitar, the ballad off the band's last studio effort, Endless Wire, about the social interaction between two old friends is warm and wistful.

With the Who about to embark on their 50th anniversary (and purportedly...final) tour, this is likely the last time Quadrophenia will ever be performed in its entirety. And this DVD/CD does the Who's "other" rock opera more than enough justice as a curtain call.

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