Who's Next

Adam Williams

Can a cover band faithfully replicate an epic mod adventure? Will everyone leave the club wanting to buy GS scooters? Who knows.

Who's Next

Who's Next

City: New York
Venue: B.B. King's
Date: 2005-01-21

Who's Next
If you issued a survey to fans of the Who asking them to choose between Tommy and Quadrophenia, the results would be equally divided: Holiday Campers to the left, Mods to the right. Technically speaking, both were sophisticated works (distinct challenges for the Who to perform live) and each earned major motion picture treatment. Yet while the former has experienced far greater mainstream success since Townshend and Company rolled it out three-and-a-half decades ago, it is the latter that more readily resonates with purists. In either case, aficionados hold their respective favorite in fanatically high regard, and any band attempting to recreate the Who's tales of pinball proficiency or adolescent disillusionment on stage better be able to deliver the musical goods. And so it was on a brutally frigid evening that guitarist/impresario Bill Canell assembled a group of musicians to tackle the complexities of the Quad-dyssey. Backed by his usual Who's Next tribute band brethren, Canell augmented the group on this special night with a three piece horn section, keyboardist, and backing acoustic guitar. Could the expanded Who's Next line-up faithfully replicate the epic mod adventure? Would the audience be deftly transported to mid '60s Brighton and the Cliffs of Beachy Head? Would everyone leave the club wanting to buy GS scooters and then beat the hell out of passing Rockers? Yes, yes, and yes… With an uncanny knack for duplicating even the most subtle musical nuances, the band performed its set, an unabridged run through Quadrophenia, with impeccable precision. Vocalist Dave McDonald hit notes that Roger Daltrey hasn't touched in years while bassist Will Schelly, with minimal effort, displayed the dexterity and thunder of John Entwistle (shining brightly with a "5:15" solo). Bobby Reynolds brutalized his kit with Keith Moon fervor, and in Canell the spirit of Pete Townshend was alive and well, channeling freely through each windmill and power chord. The band played loud and proud, reminding everyone in attendance of Quadrophenia's majestic orchestration. As the band churned through each song, snippets from classic Who performances and the theatrical adaptation were projected across twin screens placed on each side of the stage, making the Quad experience even grander. How wonderful to see footage from the Who's "loudest band in the world" prime, or Phil Daniels' expression as the pill popping lost soul and the ultra cool Sting as the Ace Face. The video montage may be standard fare for Who's Next shows, but the novelty never wears thin. It only helps to further the painstakingly reproduced atmosphere. And when the Quad set was done? The band treated the SRO crowd to nearly an hour of Who classics, culminating in stellar renditions of "Naked Eye" and "Won't Get Fooled Again". For a packed venue of fanatical Whobees, it doesn't get any better. The prevailing knock on tribute groups is that they lack originality, sticking to a blueprint of songs that are practiced to perfection, and played ad-nauseum. That may be true of most cover acts, yet Who's Next shatters the cover band stereotype with their collective expertise and ability to play anyway, anyhow, anywhere. There was something artistically noble (and daunting) in an undertaking as ambitious as Quadrophenia, but Canell and his band-mates proved that they were up for the task. What's next for Who's Next? Stay tuned...

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Blitzed Trapper frontman Eric Earley talks about touring, the state of the music industry, and (whisper it) progressive rock.

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.