Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena is packed almost full. The crowd is in high spirits awaiting the entrance of the iconic band the Who. The band is set to perform in full their classic 1973 double album , ‘Quadrophenia’- a story song cycle about the Mod movement in 1960’s Britain and a homage to disaffected youth everywhere. Keith Moon and John Entwistle have passed. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend soldier on. The Who last toured with ‘Quadrophenia’ in 1996 and 1997, but tonight’s set seems somehow even more vital.
The opener, Vintage Trouble, plays a solid set, wearing black and white and belting out sharp rhythm and blues and rock tunes.
With an elaborate stage set, sea, sand and surf are projected on video screens in the back drop. Daltrey, Townshend and company appear and in short order tear into a powerful version of ‘The Real Me’. Daltrey is in fine voice and Townshend performs with his signature windmills on electric guitar. A poignant rendition of ‘Cut My Hair’ soon follows as we get early insight into the narrator’s angst, drugs and the mod social scene.
Jamming guitars, cascading drums, over the top power and passion- ‘The Punk and the Godfather’ is performed with majesty. The Who are rock dinosaurs, but their playing nevertheless remains vital and inspired. Townshend takes the lead vocal on ‘I’m One’ - his voice a bit rough, but still quite good.
As the Who progresses through ‘Quadrophenia’, we hear a leaping, charging, smoking version of ‘5:15’. The band is in full synch with Zac Starkey doing a brilliant job on drums. A recording of Keith Moon lends vocal assistance on ‘Bell Boy’.
‘Doctor Jimmy’ is full-on rock and the ‘Quadrophenia’ song cycle ends with a resonant ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, with Daltrey singing to the fullest.
The Who then finish off the show with a greatest hits package finale including ‘Who are You?’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, ‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘Baba O’Reilly’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’- crowd pleasers all, taking their audience to the classic rock summit. It is, however, their performance of ‘Quadrophenia’ that is the evening’s cause for celebration.
‘Quadrophenia’ is an absolute career apex high point for the Who- a great story of rebellion and the mods verses rockers conflict. Lyrics and melodic phrases like “Zoot suit/White jacket with side vents/ Five inches long” on ‘Cut My Hair’ are indelibly etched into the collective conscious. “I’m dressed right for a beach fight, but I just can’t explain…” The audience in the end leaves the arena elated.