Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Who - Tommy and Quadrophenia Live
Part Two

Yesterday, I looked at the Tommy portion of this three DVD set. Today, I'll review the Quadrophenia set.

Like Tommy, Quadrophenia was billed as a rock opera, though it was perhaps a little bit less accessible than the former (it's probably just by a matter of degrees). The story centers on a young man named Jimmy who has a form of schizophrenia where he has four separate personalities - which is the source of the title "Quad"rophenia. The songs in the live performance of the opera are bookmarked by narration from the young man who portrays Jimmy, Alex Langdon. His four distinct personalities are as follows: a tough guy/helpless dancer; a romantic; a bloody lunatic; and a beggar/hypocrite. Four songs serve as the themes for these personalities - Helpless Dancer, Doctor Jimmy, Bell Boy, and Love Reign O'er Me. As on the album, the live performances intertwines elements of the songs with each other to keep a continuous thematic element going. Additionally, footage from the 1930s, '40s. '50s and '60s is displayed to punctuate the narrative. Some of the clips include early glimpses of The Who themselves, including the never forgotten Keith Moon.

While this performance feels slightly less energetic and over-the-top than Tommy, it's no less entertaining. The music and the subject matter are complex, with different time signatures and unusual chord progressions. There are also fewer guest appearances, though Billy Idol is still on hand along with Simon Townshend and PJ Proby. While Tommy was filmed in 1989, this footage came from 1996-97. It's a performance that matches up well with one of the most intelligent, multifaceted albums of the rock era.

Tomorrow, I'll cover the third disc in the set, which is composed of some additional performances from both the Tommy and the Quadrophenia tour, along with one other concert.

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