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Classic Quadrophenia

Sunday 5th July 2015

Royal Albert Hall, London

To be fair, the jury has been out as to whether such an iconic Rock concept album as The Who's 'Quadrophenia' should ever be orchestrated. An even bolder move was to have Alfie Boe stepping into Daltrey's 5.15's plus Billy Idol being the nearest rebellious thing we have now to the much missed and loved Keith Moon (or wanker as Pete Townshend lovingly put it at Hyde Park recently). But hey on the plus side we did have Townshend and the film's very own Jimmy (Phil Daniels) to even the .. ahem ... score.

The evening started in a Wetherspoon's in Victoria - the final destination being a surprise for my mate and fellow WRC member JB (no - not that JB). Anyway the secret unfolded as we approached The Royal Albert Hall when our cabbie enquired who was playing there tonight? "It's Classic Quadrophenia" to which he replied "Well don't get out of your brain then!". You couldn't make it up. Night's like this don't come around very often so JB's face was a picture as we were directed to our front row seats!

Despite Townshend's brief to in-demand orchestrator Rachel Fuller of "no extra notes" - Fuller (Townshend's other half by the way) was quoted as saying the orchestration was "easy" - testament no doubt to an emotional rollercoaster of a score fitting hand in glove with a classical orchestra. And as soon as conductor Robert Ziegler raised his baton in front of the The Royal Philarmonic Orchestra with 'I Am The Sea' the musical waves drew the audience - Mod or Classical - in as one like an enchanting mermaid. Alfie Boe's voice on 'The Real Me' - although obviously different from Daltrey's - is as powerful as Roger's in his heyday with a physique to match. TRPO's mesmerising performance of the moving title track 'Quadrophenia' contrasted with the adolescent angst of 'Cut My Hair' not only saw the introduction of the snarling Billy Idol but Boe also delivered the stand-out line "My Old Man Is Really Alright".

Rapturous applause as 'President' Pete Townshend appeared with deserved screams from the audience for vocals with Alfie on 'The Punk & The Godfather' along with the amazing London Oriana Choir. Careful Pete - you might re-invent yourself mate - although it's back to the day job as he grabbed his guitar, sat on a stall and played one of only two 'Quadrophenia' songs showcased on the recent 'Who Hits 50' tour - 'I'm One' with Boe on vocals. To be fair to Phil Daniels, he just didn't turn up to be a zoot suited face for the evening. His duet with Alfie on both 'The Dirty Jobs' (with the LOC) and 'Helpless Dancer' hit the mark - the latter rightly not being subject to the PC brigade - although did we detect the crowd gasp with the lines "... just like the lesbians and queers .." and ".. you get beaten up by blacks ...." although we did wince a bit for one of the excellent RAH stewards sitting directly in front of us! Boe's 'Is It In My Head'' lead into the schizo emotional rollercoaster that is 'I've Had Enough' with Idol confronting Boe "You missed out on new dances" - Alfie's retort hitting THAT note on 'Love Reign 'O'er Me' before the interval - Wow - the bar is calling!

After a delightful chat over a couple of beers with two Italian Who fans - Francesco and his wife from Rome - JB and I returned to our seats for more of the same! Boe immediately got us back on track with '5.15' - thanks in no small part to the marvellous TRPO and LOC. Boe and Idol continued their verbal jousting on the 'Sea And The Sand' - both guys were literally rockin' albeit with the odd occasional glance at their autocues - but who was complaining? Townshend returned now standing with his acoustic guitar as Alfie delivered 'Drowned' again with the accompaniment of the superb choir. And talking of delivery - we come to the one - the only - 'Bell Boy'. Was Moon turning in his grave? To be fair - Billy has previous with 'Tommy' and both he and Alfie did him and of course Daltrey proud "carrying the bloody baggage out!"

Turning from one iconic song to another - the testosterone fueled 'Doctor Jimmy' - where Boe succeeded in getting al the guys present to proudly puff their chests out with the killer line: "I'm going back soon. Home to get that baboon. Who cut up my eye. Tore up my Levis!" Legend. Classical decorum returned though with the beautiful instrumental 'The Rock' before the climax of 'Love Reign O'er Me' - Boe again hitting that note which Roger sadly did not do at Hyde Park. Must admit the encore of 'The Real Me' was a bit of a mash up with Ziegler resplendent in his Parka and Fuller receiving a well deserved bouquet. However, it was apparent at this stage that the pressure was off Daniels, Idol, Townshend and Boe - and who cared if they missed their cue - after all this was Rock 'n Roll - or was it? A great night was completed as we met up with a couple of Who fans in the pub afterwards - respect to the two Tony's from Guernsey! Anyway this night was all about legacy - an iconic masterpiece that deserves to be remembered long after Pete & Roger have hung up their Parka's - whatever the genre!


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