The Who bring Quadrophenia to Denver - Reverb

The Who, Vintage Trouble at the Pepsi Center, 2/12/13 (photos, review)

In taking in the Who and its 2013 take on “Quadrophenia” at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday evening, the mind couldn’t help but wander. The band is hardly operating at full strength these days – because of loss, age, physical erosion. But they remain one of the most important groups in rock history.

Some feelings that surfaced immediately after spending two hours with the gang:

1. How poignant, watching Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and the band play this rock opera about disenfranchised youth amid war – a war that was shown on screens behind the band as they made their way through the double-LP from front to back. As those post-war images dominated the screens inside the Pepsi Center, U.S. President Barack Obama dominated many more screens throughout the world via his State of the Union address, outlining plans to bring home 34,000 of the 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in the next year.

2. Also, the Who has moved forward in the absence of drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle, who passed in 1978 and 2002 respectively. But seeing the band is a powerful reminder of the way we recognize loss in popular music. The hip-hop guys, they have it all wrong. If you’ve been to a hip-hop show in the last decade, you’ll see images (or holograms) of the fallen stars we’ve lost – Tupac, Biggie, ODB – projected on stages and screens. It’s respect, sure, but in most cases, the artists showing props had little to do with the fallen soldiers they’re shouting out to. In the situation of the Who highlighting Moon and Entwistle via video clips – giving them the occasional posthumous solo, even – it’s a sincere tribute. And it provokes something powerful on the inside.

3. “Quadrophenia” isn’t the Who’s best record. It’s one of the most powerful concept records ever attempted, but it’s not the most listenable or memorable Who effort. The guys get this. That’s why they hang around after the final reverb of “Love, Reign O’er Me” for an all-hits assault focusing on other records.

And so Tuesday was a night of mixed emotions. Townshend is a monster, still. He’s cool and collected, and he never overdoes it – he never reaches beyond his own capacity. Daltrey is no longer cool, and he often stretches his own vigor. But with the help of eight bandmates, they put together a potent evening of music.

Of the “Quadrophenia” goods, a couple tracks stood out in the modern arena. “5:15” slayed the audience with its quiet-loud-quiet dynamics – and a subtle intro/outro courtesy of Townshend. “Bell Boy” was an emotional jog, as a video of Moon handled many of the vocals. His unbridled enthusiasm remains intoxicating, all these years later. And it was the loudest the crowd got all night.

The encore had the group indulging in the crowd-pleasers: “Who Are You,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Pinball Wizard,” “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Whatever passion “Who Are You” lacked was made up by a devoted-to-the-original “Behind Blue Eyes,” which is still a tremendous rock ballad. “Pinball Wizard” had the guys feeling the altitude – and the years – and both “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” suffered from Daltrey’s inconsistent voice.

While some vocalists from the ’60s still retain the clarity in their vocals that made them legends so many decades ago, Daltrey struggles through much of the band’s material. He manages, most notably at the end of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” when he lets out that possessed screech. (He nailed that, and it was thrilling – and terrifying.) But sometimes his vocals missed their mark.

At the end of the night, after the hit-filled encore, it was only Daltrey and Townshend on the stage – admiring the packed arena. As Mardi Gras beads were flung to their feet – it was Fat Tuesday – they took on “Tea & Theatre” as a duo, bidding the crowd good night and farewell. It was a classy close to an eventful night, but like much of the show, it didn’t really leave us wanting more.

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and editor at The Denver Post.

  • gleapman

    Completely agree with the review. I’ve always preferred listening to the Quadrophenia album over Tommy (I was in college when it was released), but it didn’t work on stage tonight. But the last part of the show made the evening memorable.

    • Bellboy

      If you showed up for the hits, you could have stayed home and listened to the plethora of stale FM classic rock stations that exist.

  • Eric J. Schultz

    The show was better than the reviewer gives it credit for here. Even though Daltry’s voice faltered at times, he hung in there and slayed it. Considering the difficulty of the material he was singing, I doubt many of the 60’s vocalists would have even attempted what Roger was doing last night. Was it perfect? No. Was it rock and roll? Definitely!

  • keikoasmom

    I love all of The Who’s music, my husband wasn’t happy with Quadrophenia, as an album, but then we were busy raising 4 kids when it came out, a bit distracted from music. The Who were brilliant, and I loved every moment, Pete was incredible, Roger was terrific, and the band was amazing! I’m not sure who the drummer was, but he did a fabulous job! Wish we’d known about the brownie request before we went, but the audience did seem to keep the levels down,…. I hope Denver did not disappoint The Who!!

    • Bevotee

      I believe the drummer was Zack Starkey, son of Ringo. Not 100 percent sure on that, tho…

      • Troy Hall

        It *was* Zach, but not for this show, and not for the remainder. He has personal issues to deal with.

        • Kevin Breithart

          I thought Pete said it was tendonitis. This drummer has only been with the band since the tour opened not so long ago and he played like Keith Moon reborn.

  • Troy Hall

    And how awesome was the opening band, Vintage Trouble?! Man those guys can rock.

  • Martin

    There hasn’t been much of a mention about the videos and graphics playing during the entire show. They were very evocative, emotional and interesting. For me they turned a rock concert into a very entertaining show. It sounds like Roger was responsible for the that part of the show. He is showing that he is much more than just a singer. I loved the hits they played at the end but also appreciated Quadrophenia. It was one of my favorite concerts that I have seen in the last few years.

  • Justin

    How can you just state objectively that Quadrophenia is not their best album, with not even an argument to back it up? Truth is, you can’t go wrong between Quad, Tommy, Who’s Next, even The Who Sell Out and The Who By Numbers are amazing, and all for different reasons! I agree with Eric, the show was unreal, I was just in a trance the entire time.

  • bellboy

    Quadraphenia is not only the most underated Who album but one of the most over looked albums in rock history. The use of horns and synthesizers in this album make it unique and groundbreaking at the same time. I sensed that most of the audience had never heard the music before. The band did an incredible performance of a complex piece of music!

  • perry

    The Who killed it last night. Blew me away both musically and visually. If you aren’t a fan of Quadrophenia, not sure why you would have gone. The drummer was Scott Devours, he was picked up last week after Starr had a tendon issue.

  • EricZ

    I ask myself how old is the reviewer? Quadrophenia as performed last night is a masterpiece, an insightful picture of a turbulent time, set to amazing rock music. It was also a moving tribute to departed mates….that bass solo by The Ox was superlative. Mr. Baca would have us believe that their are rock stars of Daltrey’s age who would acquit themselves better but offers no examples. Because there aren’t any rockers of Roger’s age who could sing that demanding repertoire at the levels they used to in their prime. I thought the show was memorable in nearly every aspect and count me among those who would indeed want more.

  • Mule

    Opinions are like noses in that most everyone has one… but some need rhinoplasty. Quadrophenia is the best work of the Who and truly PT’s opus. That said the show was far better than as reviewed. Yes they are but two Who and certainly not their younger version, but still a power. I suppose Ricardo was hoping for some broken equipment.

  • D.K

    Not sure which show this reviewer saw last night. It was definitely a memorable performance, and many of us could have stayed and listened for another couple of hours. Definitely wanted more. Still the most powerful r-n-r band in the world, ever. Saw them for the first time at the Denver Coliseum in 1972 (i think) played Tommy and Who’s Next all night. Best show ever!

  • Stewart Summers

    Great show…poorly written review.

  • Laurel Wyatt

    OMG…. I also would like to know how old the reviewer who wrote
    this is….. Roger Daltrey will be 69 years young on March 1st …
    Quadrophenia is one of the most difficult pieces of music to sing for
    any singer of any age! And I think that Roger nailed it! Pete was all
    over his guitar as well. This is real music that stands the test of
    time! I enjoyed the Quadrophenia part of the concert more than the
    rest of the show. However, I am a true fan of Quadrophenia! The hits
    I have seen time and time again over the years in concert. I would
    have loved to see and hear some of the other great songs from the
    past more than the hits that they played, but I know that there are
    the fans of The Who that only know those big hits that are played on
    the radio. I saw this show in 3 cities and it was amazing! I could
    have listened to 2 more hours of anything that they ever put out! The
    Who is an amazing band, and still rock the house! I will say that the
    music was not as loud as what we have seen in past years like when
    they were the loudest rock band in history, but if you have to stop
    and wonder why, then you are not really a true WHO fan. Pete
    Townshend is now pretty deaf from all of the past years of blowing it
    up on stage. It was loud enough for the crowd that they were playing
    for. Both men still have a lot of energy on stage… sure not what
    they did when they were in their 20’s and 30’s, but how many of us at
    any age can stand on a stage for more than 2 hours under hot lights
    giving it our all could really do that? Roger by the way, had every
    woman wanting a little piece of him because he is simply very good
    looking with a really hott body! Even my 18 year old daughter that he
    looked amazing! So, I would tell the author of this piece that he
    should have probably spoken to a few of the true fans to get their
    input about this amazing performance before ripping apart a band that
    has been around for longer than he has been alive. Long Live REAL
    ROCK… and Long Live THE WHO!

  • js

    wow! Ricardo, that’s a crap review! Quadrophenia is an absolute masterpiece. Yes Daltry’s voice missed several times, but the music was brilliant. How come nobody recognizes that Pete just didn’t have it- gave many of the guitar and vocal leads to his brother. Pete’s one of the most significant persons in the history of music and if you see him regularly he’s typically sung and played like a 30 year old- not this show. But still to imply that the greatest hits saved the show is so dumb it’s amazing that Ricardo writes for the Post. Maybe he should save his concert reviews for Justin Bieber shows.

  • Excellent show

    It appears that the reviewer, while respectfully paying due to a band of great stature in the rock world, is not a fan. The show was both excellent and also not without weaker moments. Of course the Ox was missed greatly, as was the Loon, but they did it justice, with obvious passion, and they got better as the night went on. Long live rock. Rog and Pete, happy trails to you both, you’ve given us some great rock music that will be around a while.

  • Concert review

    No doubt the reviewer, while respectively framing his picture of the great band, is not a fan. Yes, the energy from the earlier years is gone, but they showed glimpses of their great passion that was so important in the live shows, and they got better as the night went on. Roger didn’t sound near as bad as Mr Baca writes, and while he no longer has that high yell and scream that so many love, he carried the tunes pretty well overall. Pete sounds pretty rough, but he sang Drowned instead of Roger nonetheless. The Loon was missed of course (and Starkeys replacement didnt really fill the hole at all) but this was the first time I saw them without the Ox, and his absence, especially on the Quadrophenia material, cannot be overstated. Still a great show, some great moments (515, Is it in My Head, Punk Meets e Godfather, Who are you), and very happy trails to them both. They gave us some great records and some unforgettable concerts over the years.

  • harry

    The Reviewer is an idiot. Considering how old the 2 remaining are, they delivered a show that groups half their age could only dream about delivering

  • harryhitabush

    Have to agree with the masses. The Who still sets the bar higher that most any rock & roll group can hope to attain, at any age. Saw the Hard Rock Hotel Friday night show. Was there with Johns last art masterpiece, commemorating the 11th anniversary of his demise at that venue. Lots of devoted fans loved it, and the truibute during the show.