‘Anxious to work together before we drop dead’: Pete Townshend on latest Who reunion

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Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend are set to reunite for a 36-date North American tour as the Who, presenting a concert called “Quadrophenia and More.” The dates, included below, will feature that legendary 1973 release in its entirety, plus a few other Who favorites.

The second Who rock opera, Quadrophenia peaked at No. 2 in America and the UK. The song cycle follows the struggles of a boy named Jimmy as he tackles identity issues amidst battles between the early-1960s mods and rockers in and around Brighton. Quadrophenia received a deluxe reissue just last year, and a new documentary called “The Who: Quadrophenia – Can You Still See the Real Me?” is set to open in theaters on July 24.

The Who, though featured as part of the 2010 Super Bowl halftime show, hasn’t mounted a North American tour in four years — and hasn’t presented Quadrophenia on tour since 1997. Daltrey and Townshend most recently resurrected the project in March 2011 as part of the Teenage Cancer Trust benefit concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London, with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Kasabian’s Tom Meighan as guest vocalists.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Having already secured the surviving members of the Who for an appearance at the Olympics, London officials made a special request: Could Keith Moon sit in? Wait, what?]

Once again, Daltrey and Townshend will perform with drummer Zakk Starkey, Simon Townshend on guitar and Pino Palladino on bass. (Simon is Pete Townshend’s brother, while Starkey is the son of the Beatles’ Ringo Starr.) Original drummer Keith Moon died in 1978, and was replaced by Kenney Jones for the next decade. Co-founding bassist John Entwistle, who also appeared along with Starkey on the ’97 Quadrophenia shows, passed in 2002.

Perhaps in keeping, a sense of mortality ran through the advance remarks from Townshend when talking about this 2012-13 tour: “We’ve been trying to find something we can do together, Roger and I, for a while,” he said, in a report posted at Ultimate Classic Rock. “Quadrophenia was something that we both felt we could get together on and look again. The last time we did it (on tour) was in 1997. We’ve been anxious to work together before we drop dead.”

Meanwhile, Daltrey added: “I don’t know how many more years I’m going to be able to sing this music.”

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on the Who. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: THE WHO: In a way, the Who has no one to blame for a slow and steady slide into overlooked rock-god status. There were simply too many concert jaunts between its most recent releases of new material in 1982’s It’s Hard and 2006’s Endless Wire, cash-ins that forever connected the band with oldies tours. They lost a generation of fans, and became a conversation-piece antique along the way. Before that, weighty pretensions surrounding sprawling projects like Tommy, and replicating their success, had already slowed the Who. Then the group lost both drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle. Yet there’s no denying, if you dig into the stacks, this band’s shuddering energy — equal parts speed, raw fury and rangy emotion. (Oh, and a little nudge-nudge humor here and there, too.) We decided to start digging.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: ENDLESS WIRE (2006): Not everyone’s going to be convinced this is the Who. There were more shades of Townshend’s solo career than of his old band here, aside from obvious and questionable nods to “Baba O’Riley” in the album opener “Fragments.” And there were theatrical elements Townshend certainly would have liked to have pulled off with the Who but they wouldn’t have let him when all four were alive — such as the unintentionally comical vocals of “In The Ether,” where Townshend attempted to channel Tom Waits (and failed, miserably) and the overly emotive and, again, oddly sung “Trilby’s Piano.” But then there were songs where the spirit of the old Who shines through, such as on “Fragments” (after the “Baba”-derived opening, that is), and the “Who Are You”-ish “Mike Post Theme,” among others.

THE WHO – WHO’S NEXT (1971): If you haven’t heard Who’s Next, you owe it to yourself to hear one of the few albums in my collection that is worth the hype it has had heaped on it. What I will say is those formerly angry Who-philes must have been happy, indeed: This remaster felt both warmer and somehow more crisp than the previous issue. I could find no fault in this new mix. What was in the previous issue has been improved upon, but it’s obvious that there was a much more spacious soundstage present. Drums reflected the cavernous room they were recorded in, vocals vibrated as if they’re right there next to you (one moment in “Bargain,” where Pete Townshend takes over lead, seems to almost float in mid-air), guitars have a more immediate, sharp insistence, while John Entwistle’s bass bobs and weaves more clearly in the background. (Always a good thing, Entwistle being one of the most fascinating bassists I’ve ever heard.) Be warned, though: The live material is rough; these takes are some of the earliest representations of the Who’s Next material before it had the edges smoothed off and kinks worked out.

THE WHO – LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT FESTIVAL 1970 (1996): You’re to be forgiven — even if you were there — for missing this one. Seems, because of lengthy set overruns by the bands that preceded them, the Who didn’t take the stage at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival until the no-kidding hour of 3 a.m. (The bill that year included, among others, the Doors, whose frontman Jim Morrison was on a five-day bail after an obscenity charge.) This recalled the Who’s memorable pre-dawn performance stateside at Woodstock, when morning actually broke as the group worked toward the thematic climax of its celebrated rock-opera “Tommy.” The middle of the night, in retrospect, feels like the perfect setting for a then-dangerous rock conglomerate whose sound was never accurately replicated inside the confines of any recording studio. This is the Who in all its ragged glory, before time took drummer Keith Moon and John Entwistle, before “Tommy” became a triumph-turned-millstone that dragged the band under.

Here are the 2012/2013 dates for The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia and More’ tour …

11/1 — Sunrise, Fla. — BankAtlantic Center
11/3 — Orlando, Fla. — Amway Center
11/5 — Duluth, Ga. — The Arena at Gwinett Center
11/8 — Greenville, S.C. — Bi-Lo Center
11/9 — Greensboro, N.C. — Greensboro Coliseum
11/11 — Pittsburgh, Pa. — Consol Energy Center
11/13 — Washington, D.C. — Verizon Center
11/14 — Brooklyn, N.Y. — Barclays Center
11/16 — Boston, Mass. — TD Garden
11/20 — Montreal, QC — Bell Centre
11/21 — Ottawa, ON — Scotiabank Place
11/23 — Toronto, ON — Air Canada Centre
11/24 — Detroit, Mich. — Joe Louis Arena
11/27 — Minneapolis, Minn. — Target Center
11/29 — Chicago, Ill. — Allstate Arena
12/2 — Nashville, Tenn. — Bridgestone Arena
12/5 — New York, N.Y. — Madison Square Garden
12/6 — Newark, N.J. — Prudential Center
12/8 — Philadelphia, Pa. — Wells Fargo Center
12/9 — Uncasville, Ct. — Mohegan Sun Arena

1/28 — Anaheim, Calif. — Honda Center
1/30 — Los Angeles, Calif. — Staples Center
2/1 — Oakland, Calif. — Oracle Arena
2/2 — Reno, Nev. — The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
2/5 — San Diego, Calif. — Valley View Casino Center
2/6 — Glendale, Ariz. — Jobing Center
2/8 — Las Vegas, Nev. – The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
2/12 — Denver, Colo. — Pepsi Center
2/14 — Tulsa, Okla. — BOK Center
2/16 — Louisville, Ky. — KFC Yum! Center
2/17 — Columbus, Ohio — Schottenstein Center
2/19 — Hamilton, ON — Copps Coliseum
2/21 — Uniondale, N.Y. — Nassau Coliseum
2/22 — Atlantic City, N.J. — Boardwalk Hall
2/24 — Manchester, N.H. — Verizon Wireless Arena
2/26 — Providence, R.I. — Dunkin’ Donuts Center

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