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Review Lenox, MA, Sat, 02 September 2017

"Classic Quadrophenia" teams Pete Townshend, Boston Pops at Tanglewood

MASSlive.com, 03-09-2017

LENOX - The first time Pete Townshend played Tanglewood was with The Who for an Aug. 12, 1969 concert promoting their new rock opera "Tommy."

Townshend returned on Saturday night with a reworked version of The Who's second rock opera, "Quadrophenia."

Kicking off a mini U.S. tour at Tanglewood, "Classic Quadrophenia" featured Townshend, fellow rocker Billy Idol, and Tony Award winning tenor Alfie Boe backed by the Boston Pops and Choir, under the direction of Keith Lockhart.

The orchestral makeover by Townshend and composer Rachel Fuller premiered at London's Royal Albert Hall in 2015 and will be performed later this month in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Like the 1973 original, "Classic Quadrophenia" focuses on Jimmy, who escapes the drudgery of his menial postal job as a member of the Mods, a sharply dressed London gang constantly at odds with the rival Rockers.

The Who has rocked out on "Quadrophenia" during tours in 1974, 1997 and 2012 with lead singer Roger Daltrey at the forefront.

The performance at Tanglewood was rich, lush and fully revealed the melodic genius of Townshend's writing.

Classically trained, Boe is a force to be reckoned with.

He bounded on stage for "The Real Me" with a delivery and timing that was nothing short of impeccable. He shined on the classic Who songs "5:15" and the climactic "Love Reign o'er Me."

To his credit, Idol held his own against Boe on numbers like "I've Had Enough" and appeared to relish his stage time with plenty of winks, snarls and thumbs up to audience members in the front rows.

Townshend was in the spotlight far less time than fans probably hoped, but those moments, like watching him gleefully sing "The Punk and The Godfather" with Boe, were to be treasured.

Lockhart held the reins throughout the night and was frequently in the spirit as he jumped and clapped while leading the Boston Pops through the beautiful "The Rock."

So with all of these accolades, is "Classic Quadrophenia" light years ahead of what Townshend, Daltrey and the late John Entwistle and Keith Moon committed to vinyl 44 years ago?

No.

There is pain and angst in Daltrey's delivery that made "Quadrophenia" so incredibly moving in 1973. Further, there is a fire found in the belly of the original that is missing in the more polished "Classic Quadrophenia."

In short, the original rock opera and "Classic Quadrophenia" have their own distinct virtues.

But both offer proof that the 72-year-old Townshend remains one the most innovative artists of the British Invasion.


Ray Kelly