In 1989, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townsend, and John Entwistle, the surviving members of the seminal rock band The Who, got back together to perform their rock opera “Tommy” live in concert for charity. The response they got was so overwhelming that they would stay semi-reformed, touring all over the world and raking in the cash. A few years later, they would perform their other rock opera, “Quadrophenia”, live in concert. Now, these two performances have been collected for fans on DVD.
In 1989, the memory most people had of “Tommy” was the incomprehensible mess of a movie Ken Russell made in 1975 with Ann-Margaret and Oliver Reed. I mean, who can forget the image of Ann-Margaret rolling around in a room of baked beans? Thankfully, the ’89 concert went a long way to cleansing those images and restoring the original concept in people’s minds. Backed by a horn section, new drummer (Simon Phillips), and electric guitar (Steve “Boltz” Bolton, who handled the duties because Townsend’s hearing was too fragile to do it), The Who put on a ferocious version of the original “rock opera”.
They are joined by guest vocalists, with mixed results. Steve Winwood is lackluster as The Hawker, while Elton John puts forth a workmanlike effort as the Pinball Wizard. Billy Idol brings dome fire and attitude as Cousin Kevin, while Phil Collins gets into full character as Uncle Ernie, down to a ratty bathrobe and slippers. The real standout, however, is Patti LaBelle, who blows everyone off the stage with her rendition of The Acid Queen. Overall, it’s a strong concert from a classic band.
The second DVD contains “Quadrophenia”, The Who’s second, lesser-known rock opera. The story of a mod with four split personalities, it was written to reflect the four personalities of The Who. For their concert in ’96, they shot video telling the main character Jimmy’s story. Interspliced with the concert footage, it makes for an effective viewing experience.
The third DVD contains performances of most of The Who’s greatest hits in concert. From “Baba O’Riley” and “Behind Blue Eyes” to “Substitute” and “Who Are You?”, most of their biggest hits are contained here. Filmed over three different concerts, it’s a moving testimony to the power of The Who live and in person.