The Who – Quadrophenia: 23 Years Elapsed. Quadrophenia In 1996 (Polar Bear PB-057/058)

Quadrophenia:  23 Years Elapsed.  Quadrophenia In 1996
(Polar Bear PB-057/058)

General Motors Palace, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – October 16th, 1996

Disc 1 (69:08):  I Am The Sea, The Real Me, Quadrophenia, Cut My Hair, The Punk Meets The Godfather, I’m One, The Dirty Jobs,  Helpless Dancer,  Is It In My Head, I’ve Had Enough, 5:15, Sea And Sand, Drowned, Bell Boy

Disc 2 (47:24):  Doctor Jimmy, The Rock, Love Reign O’er Me, I’m The Face, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Behind Blue Eyes, Who Are You

Quadrophenia remains The Who’s most ambitious and abstract project.  Even though it was successful and spawned some of the band’s best known songs,suffered in the shadow of Tommy.  It never attained the cultural significance of the earlier work and, unlike Tommy,  never retained its narrative unity in the years subsequent to its release in their live act.

The work was performed in its entirety for the first time in more than twenty years in 1996 on June 29th in Hyde Park, London, for the Prince’s Trust followed by less than a week later by six shows at Madison Square Garden in New York in July.

After a three month hiatus they took the show on the road beginning in the Pacific north west with shows in Portland, Tacoma and two at the General Motors Palace in Vancouver, British Columbia on October 16th and October 17th, 1996.

This release on Polar Bear, documenting the first night, is one of the best titles for the Who collector.  It’s a perfect soundboard recording.  Unlike others that are raw and flat, this one is deep and resonant with a lot of energy and atmosphere.  And it contains an excellent, high-spirited performance.   

Pete, Roger and John are joined by Zak Starkey on drums, Geoff Whitehorn (who plays lead guitar on almost all of the songs) and Simon Townshend (Pet’s kid brother) on electric guitar, and keyboardists Jon Carin and John “Rabbit” Bundrick.  Also joining the cast are Gary Glitter as The Godfather and Billy Idol as the Ace Face/Bellboy.

The tape starts off with the entire Quadrophrenia, narrated by the band for conceptual continuity between numbers.  Townshend is especially animated in his introductions, and the band perform beautiful versions of the songs from the piece.  They play “I’m The Face” while introducing the band after the main set. 

After the seriousness of the main set, the encores are a bit more laid back.  They start with an acoustic rendition of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”  It’s the same arrangement Townshend played at the Secret Policeman’s Ball in 1979 except with Roger and John Entwistle joining in. 

Given the topic of the song, Townshend ends it by singing “They’re gonna fool you again in four weeks time,” referring to the American presidential election in November.  This is the first time Entwistle performed the song in this arrangement and Townshend remarks afterwards “I don’t think I ever caught John Entwistle out – ever!”

There is more banter.  Townshend tells Vancouver “it’s great to be here.  Always.”  Daltrey jokes, “no it’s not….I’m missing the television.  I should be there watching Gena Davis.”

“I use my television to watch pornographic videos … you have to be a real man to admit that”  Townsend confesses.  “And last night I watched Earth Girls Are Easy with Gena Davis.  It’s not exactly pornographic but it does have Gena Davis in it.  Sorry Roger.”

“He’s got such a wild imagination.  That’s why he writes such good songs” Roger quips.  The continue with “Behind Blues Eyes” and “Who Are You?” played in a hybrid unplugged / electric arrangement.

Quadrophenia:  23 Years Elapsed.  Quadrophenia In 1996 on Polar Bear is a tremendous release and is worth having for all Who collectors.  The packaging is a bit too bare and basic, but the quality of the recording truly captures the devastating live power of the Who, and it’s a great performance.  

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