This is actually the second time the sexagenarian rockers have taken the 1973 mod saga on a repertory tour. The first was in 1996. I saw that show. I was 15 years old. The band performed the album in its entirety while an onscreen narrator, posing as Quadrophenia’s central character Jimmy, told the story of a disaffected English mod struggling against amphetamines, unemployment, riots with rockers and his own multiple personalities. Billy Idol played and sang the role of Ace Face and Gary Glitter played and sang the role of The Godfather. It was great.
In the (excellent) 2007 documentary Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey said that the impetus to reunite The Who for the ’96 Quadrophenia Tour was to throw out a lifeline to bassist John Entwistle, who was starved for another taste of life on the road and had gone broke living the rock 'n' roll lifestyle at home. And so spawned an every-few-years-or-so string of reunion jaunts. June 27 of this year, just a few weeks back, marked the 10th anniversary of Entwistle’s death. He died of a cocaine-induced heart attack in a Vegas hotel room on the eve of a world tour, his body discovered by a stripper. I’d like to think that’s the way The Ox would’ve wanted to go. And I know that a part of me kinda wishes the band had died with him. But it didn’t.
The Who continued touring after Entwistle’s death, kicking off a 2002 run a mere four days following the bassist’s passing. The band even cut a record, Endless Wire, in 2006. But who are The Who without Keith Moon and John Entwistle — perhaps the most singular, inimitable rhythm section in rock history?
When I type the headline “The Who Brings Quadrophenia to Bridgestone Arena” I almost feel like I’m compromising my journalistic integrity. Is it factually accurate? Misleading? Should I go with the cold, hard facts and call it The Daltrey and Townshend Band? The Who may still exist on paper, but can they still rightly exist on an arena stage? I saw The Quadrophenia Tour in 1996, and I saw a subsequent greatest hits-style tour in 2000, but I don’t feel like I ever saw The Who, the real Who. I’ve never seen the same band I hear on Live at Leeds. I’ve never seen Pete Townshend powerslide across the stage. I’ve never seen Keith Moon blow up a drum kit, or even play on one. But what I saw in ’96 and 2000 was more than enough to convince me otherwise, at least in the moment — kind of like how I almost felt like I was actually seeing Guns ‘N Roses at Axl Rose’s Bridgestone soiree last December.
At least Zak Starkey, Ringo Starr’s kid and drummer extraordinaire, does about the best Keith Moon impression money can buy. Not only that, but he’s played drums for both The Who and Oasis, and that’s more British than biting into spotted dick with bad teeth. As a matter of fact, having joined Daltrey and Townshend in ’96, Starkey has actually played with the band for more years than Moon did. Shit, Archers of Loaf, a band that formed in 1991 and broke up in 1998, is playing a reunion show in Nashville next month and I’m beside myself with excitement over it. For partly the same reason, when I see The Who this winter, it’ll probably be a nostalgic experience — nostalgic for something I saw in the '90s. How many time capsules can one band exist in? Canya still see the real Who? Canya? CANYA?!
So, who the fuck is in The Who for this go-around? Well, in addition to Daltrey, Townshend and Starkey, the 2012 Quadrophenia Tour will feature longtime Entwistle shoe-filler Pino Palladino, guitarist Simon Townshend (he’s Pete’s baby bro), journeyman keyboardists Chris Stainton and Loren Gold and musical director Frank Simes. No word yet on Billy Idol, and I’m thinking Keith Moon is bound to show up and take the stage before Gary Glitter ever does. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. this Friday, June 20, for card-carrying Who fan club members, and 10 a.m. next Friday, June 27, for the general public. They range in price from $35 to $125. Get ‘em here.
Do you like The Who but don’t know shit about Quadrophenia? Would you like to know more? Then head to the Regal Opry Mills 20 and IMAX July 24 to catch a one-day showing of the documentary The Who: Quadrophenia - Can You See the Real Me? The Story Behind the Album, or just watch it on YouTube.