remnants: Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, 10 September 2017

maybe a touch of seersucker with an open neck

remnants: Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, 10 September 2017

This was lovely. It works because Rachel Fuller knows her stuff and created orchestral arrangements for a very complex piece of music that were true to the original score, both musically and energetically.

The experience of hearing a large symphony orchestra perform this record was lush and full, but not overpowering. Sitting at the top of the Met in the Family Circle (which is actually one of the best places in the house acoustically, which is part of the reason I sat up there) felt like you were luxuriating in wave after wave of something you know so very well. It felt opulent, which was only enhanced by the surroundings, that gorgeous gold lotus ceiling and the sight of the crystal chandeliers heading for the ceiling as the orchestra began the opening refrain.

What I was most surprised about was how the orchestral arrangement reveals the detail of Quad in an unadorned and detailed fashion, if that makes sense. Having more people perform the music didn’t overcomplicate it. It did, however, make me think for the zillionth time how underrated Quadrophenia is in the canon, and how essentially misunderstood it is. Having more people to perform it and someone else to take on the burden of arranging it liberates Pete; he can come on and play acoustic guitar for a few numbers and sing a couple of songs and not overthink the bloody thing for the first time in the history of man.

I was unfamiliar with Alfie Boe, and the one thing I did read compared him to Michael Buble, which thankfully I read this week so I didn’t have time to reconsider this outing. After seeing him tonight, I can assure you that he is the anti-Michael Buble. His energy is genuine and infectious and he knows this material and is having a great time performing it. Frankly it was delightful to not worry about whether or not poor Roger was going to hit all the notes. Boe is not singing it trying to be Roger Daltrey, but his performance was full of verve and brio and he sang the shit out of it. THIS IS NOT AN EASY THING TO SING.

There’s this unconscious energy that happens at full album performances, because everyone knows what comes next, so there’s a feeling of collective anticipation as you move through the record. By the time we reached the end of side 4 of Quadrophenia, Boe had won the audience’s enthusiasm and respect, and people literally sat on the edge of their seats, you could feel the excited suspense as the strings coasted into the intro. Reader, he brought down the house. I was hugging the velvet railings for dear life. But then again, he played Jean Valjean so I’m not surprised he could sell “Love Reign O’er Me.”

Also delightful is Billy Idol reprising his previous role as the Ace Face. He is still very much Billy Idol but a Billy Idol on his best behavior, and in surprisingly fine and rich voice. He was simultaneously excited to be on the stage watching the performance as he was to play his own role.

And Pete, dear Pete, he sounds fine and he looks fine and “I’m One” was different but gorgeous nonetheless. I yelled “AUTHOR, AUTHOR” at the end of the performance and thought myself highly witty and original. I appreciated him giving us the experience of dressing up and walking through the Lincoln Center plaza and gazing at the Chagalls at intermission. Somewhere I have an old and ratty poster from when the Who performed Tommy at the Met. I was not old enough to have attended that. This will have to do.