For decades, the debate between “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia” as the superior Who opera has been waged between many rock fans.
On one side there’s the one that came first, 1968’s “Tommy,” which pretty much laid down the framework for all popular rock operas-slash-concept albums that followed. Linear in its storytelling (i.e. easy to follow), the Who – band brainchild Pete Townshend in particular – built a cottage industry of sorts around the tale of the deaf, dumb and blind boy-turned pinball wizard, with a '70s hit big-screen adaptation and `90s smash Broadway interpretation created around the original `68 set.
Following five years later, “Quadrophenia” lacks “Tommy’s easily recognizable plot, and for many, the conflict of it’s central character, Jimmy, a teen growing up in mid-60s England, is hard to follow without a playbill. But “Quadrophenia” boasts what may arguably be seen as Townshend’s finest hour-plus as a songsmith as well as the finest performances on a studio record by Townshend, as well as fellow band mates Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon and John Entwistle.
That Townshend and surviving original Who-mate Daltrey have spent the last decade-plus concentrating more on “Quadrophenia” than “Tommy” is a no-brainer; the latter’s place on stage over the last near-two decades has more than secured its place in the pop culture lexicon. “Quadrophenia,” it can be argued, is the better fit for Townshend, Daltrey, and their assorted backing band to tackle themselves in the live milieu rather than, say, on the Great White Way.
In an era where veteran rockers are now cleaning out their closets for multi-disc expanded editions, replete with demos, live sets and alternate takes, the revisited “Quadrophenia (itself a sonic update on a mid`90s enhancement)” Townshend put together last year is better than most; his demos offer more insight to his songwriting process than most vault-clearing, multi-disc expeditions.
The Who, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 29-30, Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Manheim Rd., Rosemont. $39.50-$129.50. FYI: (847) 635-6001, ALLSTATEARENA.COM
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For more information, contact the venues or ticket sales agencies listed below. Unless otherwise indicated, all shows are all-ages.
The Steepwater Band, Dec. 31, House of Blues (HOB.COM)
“Moonrunners Music Festival,” featuring Shooter Jennings, Fifth on the Floor and others, April 27, Reggie’s Music Joint (REGGIESLIVE.COM)
Coheed and Cambria, Feb. 9 Congress Theater (CONGRESSCHICAGO.COM)
10,000 Maniacs, Jan. 18, City Winery (21 and older, CITYWINERY.COM)
Churchill, Dec. 7, Beat Kitchen (21 and older, BEATKITCHEN.COM)
The opinions expressed solely are those of the writer. Tim Shellberg can be reached at T.firstname.lastname@example.org.