Roger Daltrey - vocals, harmonica; John Entwistle - vocals, bass; Keith Moon - vocals, drums; Pete Townshend - vocals, guitar
Evolving from Pete Townshend's idea for a musical autobiography of The Who, the second of the group's two full-scale rock operas, Quadrophenia eventually developed into a social, musical and psychological exploration of the mid-1960s mod scene in England. Written from the perspective of a British teenager, Jimmy, the band member's role in the storyline became symbolic via Jimmy's four personalities. Like much of Townshend's work, Quadrophenia examined the universal themes of rejection, rebellion, and the search for identity. Released in October of 1973, the resulting double album, Townshend's last magnum opus within the context of The Who, was greeted with acclaim and featured some of the most majestic music the band ever recorded.
Upon Quadrophenia's release, The Who took to the road in support of the album. Touring the U.K. and then North America, this tour turned out to be one of the most legendary and monumentally frustrating of their entire career. The technical requirements of performing Quadrophenia were extremely demanding and performances were often plagued by malfunctioning equipment. Sound effects and backing tapes were incorporated into the performance, which constrained The Who to playing along, reducing the spontaneity that had always been a key ingredient to their live sound. Technical issues aside, the group also faced challenges putting the concept, story and characters across to North American audiences. Unfamiliar with the Mod scene that was so central to the concept, Daltrey and Townshend's lengthy explanations of the plot between songs diverted the flow and intensity of the band's performances. Despite these challenges, this tour featured many moments of brilliance and experienced sell-out crowds all along the way.
The North American leg of this tour got off to an inauspicious start when on opening night in San Francisco, Keith Moon collapsed on stage several times and was replaced on drums by a volunteer from the audience. As the tour progressed and Townshend began paring down the Quadrophenia material to its essential elements, the performances improved. Toward the end of this tour, they were more consistently engaging and on a good night, The Who remained the most powerful and captivating band on the planet.
Which brings us to the final night of the North American tour, when The Who took to the stage of the Capital Center in Largo, Maryland before another sold-out house. This show, like the preceding show in Philadelphia two nights prior, was recorded by the King Biscuit Flower Hour. These historical recordings have been the source of collector confusion and the subject of debate for nearly 35 years. While PA system issues are apparent and the band is struggling with problems both on and off the stage, here for the first time ever, are the nearly complete direct recordings from this final night of The North American tour, including all the Quadrophenia songs performed that evening.
Much like the Philadelphia gig two nights prior, this performance kicks off with a double dose of primal Who, first with the opener "I Can't Explain" followed by a ferocious "Summertime Blues" to warm things up. Next up is another enjoyably expanded version of John Entwhistle's "My Wife," before they cap off this initial segment with the signature song, "My Generation." Both feature impressive instrumental exchanges between Townshend, Entwhistle and Moon, with the latter taken at a furious tempo and pummeling in its delivery.
The next hour is devoted exclusively to Quadrophenia or as Daltrey jokingly mentions in his introduction, "what's left of it." The band had been trimming it down since the tour began and the opening "I Am The Sea" tape sequences had been problematic. On this final night in America, they forego it completely and instead launch directly into "The Real Me" to kick it off, followed by "The Punk And The Godfather." As the storyline progresses, the crowd continues to surge toward the stage, which doesn't go unnoticed by the band. Several times during Quadrophenia both Daltrey and Townshend implore the audience to relax and move back as fans were being crushed against the stage. After addressing this, Townshend continues with his introduction to "I'm One." Similar in structure to "Behind Blue Eyes," this begins as a solo vehicle for Townshend's voice and guitar alone, before the entire group kicks in to dramatic effect. The remainder of the Quadrophenia material features plenty of great ensemble playing, but the problems continue in front of the stage and one can sense the band is distracted. The performance of "5:15" is quite good and a marathon take of "Drowned" never loses its energy. "Bell Boy," again features Keith Moon altering his lyrics to recall the hotel room destroyed in Montreal earlier that week. Despite the technical limitations of the equipment, which are more prominent during this latter part of the Quadrophenia presentation, the band concludes with a fine performance of "Dr. Jimmy" followed by a majestic "Love, Reign O'er Me" that has Daltrey's raw vocals echoing throughout the mammoth hall. It's a strong finale to a difficult performance.
As the audience roars, Daltrey addresses them in regards to this being their last night in America. He mentions the ups and downs of this tour and makes a point to debunk then prominent press rumors that this would be The Who's last tour. As if to hammer this message home, they launch into a powerful "Won't Get Fooled Again." As icing on the cake, they cap it all off with two classic tracks from Townshend's earlier magnum opus, Tommy. First by way of a frenetic rendition of "Pinball Wizard," followed by a wild finale of "See Me Feel Me" to end the night and the 1973 North American tour.