Pete Townshend reimagines Quadrophenia
Pete Townshend changed the course of rock music last night (05.07.15) when he premiered a classical version of The Who's famous mod opera 'Quadrophenia' at London's Royal Albert Hall.
The 70-year-old guitarist was joined by an army of classical musicians from the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - including dozens of violinists, cellists, and brass players - a hundred-piece choir, singers Alfie Boe and Billy Idol and actor Phil Daniels, who appeared in the original movie, for a spectacular new take on the classic record.
Townshend - who had replaced his normally grungy grey T-shirt and jeans for a smart black suit and pristine white shirt - was on stage for much of the event singing the part of 'The Godfather' as well as playing guitar.
Speaking after the show, a beaming Townshend told BANG Showbiz's Managing Director Rick Sky: "I wanted to get a Who piece saved for posterity. I didn't want to die without my most important works being committed to sheet music for future generations. Of course there is some vanity involved in this but so many Who songs are such great songs that I felt need keeping and preserving as scores.
"Rachel [Fuller, Townshend's partner] is a classically trained composer and she did wonders with the orchestration and score. It means 'Quadrophenia' can now be played in all sorts of ways - from a small ensemble led by a piano to a large orchestra."
After a busy few weeks for the Who - including headline slots at Glastonbury and Barclaycard British Summer Time - the veteran rocker is planning a brief break but then will be back with a variety of new projects.
He added: "It's been a really hectic time for me. I am going to have a little rest because I want time to enjoy what I have now and to be happy and relaxed, but don't worry, I have got so many different projects lined up, including commissioning more operas. I am writing new songs all the time and also want to publish a novel."
Much pop music can lend itself to classical re-working but in the case of The Who this is especially so, partly because of Townshend's love of classical composers and sadly deceased Who bass player John Entwistle's rigorous training in classical trumpet and French Horn. This meant that the classical reinterpretation of 'Quadrophenia' - whose stand out moments last night were '5:15', 'Love Reign O'er Me' and especially the instrumental pieces 'The Rock', 'I Am The Sea' and the title track 'Quadrophenia' - was able to transport the audience to a different emotional space using the light, shade and subtlety that classical music can provide when well-executed.
At the end of the show, in true classical style, Townshend and all his collaborators took numerous curtain calls and bows with renowned conductor Robert Ziegler, taking his final bow dressed humorously in a Mod parka complete with Target logo.
Pete Townshend's 'Classic Quadrophenia' has just been released on Deutsche Grammophon.