The Who ready to rock again ‘before we drop dead’
BY JEFF ELBEL November 27, 2012 9:25PM
◆ 7:30 p.m. Thursday
◆ Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim, Rosemont
◆ Tickets, $22-$995
◆ ticketmaster.com, allstatearena.com
Updated: December 29, 2012 6:21AM
Although millions saw rock icons the Who perform this summer in the London Olympics closing ceremony on TV, guitarist Pete Townshend and vocalist Roger Daltrey had spent four years apart working “in slightly different directions.” The separation sparked concern. “We’ve been anxious to work together before we drop dead,” said Townshend jokingly.
Townshend’s rebellious words “I hope I die before I get old” from teenage anthem “My Generation” may haunt him at age 67, but the sentiment can now be characterized as his desire for a rejuvenated state of mind.
The Who last visited Chicago in 2007, touring behind a new album called “Endless Wire.” Townshend has remained busy since then. His autobiography “Who I Am” arrived in October, and he’s crafting a theatrical production called “Floss.”
The band will mine its past, however, for concerts Thursday and Friday at the Allstate Arena. The Who will perform the rock opera “Quadrophenia” (1973) in its entirety. Though Townshend is often credited for originating the rock opera with “Tommy” (1969), “Quadrophenia” is widely considered the Who’s most challenging work. “It is for a singer,” said Daltrey with a laugh. “I don’t know how many more years I’m going to be able to sing this music. My voice is great at the moment.”
By contrast, Townshend finds it easy to revisit songs like the bracing “The Real Me” and intimate “I’m One.” “Everything falls under my fingers. It feels very graceful,” he said. Townshend recognizes the demanding nature of the album’s material for Daltrey, referring to the singer’s delivery during “Love Reign O’er Me” as a “vocal tour de force.”
On how the album’s theme of youthful alienation resonates in the hyper-connected age of social media, both artists a agree that “Quadrophenia” remains relevant. “I think the situation is sharpened by that,” Townshend said. “If you’re one of those people that can’t do Twitter, you must feel pretty lonely.”
“I’ve never met someone who’s always felt that they fitted in,” added Daltrey. “Hopefully you get to that point soon after your teens. Some people reach their 30s before they get there, maybe even their 70s,” he said, wryly. “That type of story doesn’t change.”
After performing “Quadrophenia,” The Who will perform a selection of its hits. Recent dates have featured “Pinball Wizard” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
Jeff Elbel is a locally based free-lance writer.