"Quadrophenia" didn't go so well for The Who the first time around.
The band's second rock opera wasn't initially as popular as its first, "Tommy." Its plot about the British Mods' rebellion against mainstream English society didn't really translate on this side of the pond. And on the opening night of its American tour, drummer Keith Moon collapsed onstage, and guitarist Pete Townshend wrote in his recent autobiography, "Who I Am," that the tour included "some of the most shameful performances in our career onstage."
The surviving members of The Who -- Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey -- have decided to clear that up before "Quadrophenia" celebrates its 40th anniversary, with a new documentary, "Quadrophenia: Can You See the Real Me?," and a new tour of the rock opera that stops at Nassau Coliseum Thursday.
Townshend says the 1979 movie version of "Quadrophenia," which included a young Sting in its cast, may have helped draw fans into the work as much as the songs, which include Who classics "Love, Reign O'er Me," "The Real Me" and "5:15."
"In 1972, I was 28, writing about London and Brighton in 1963 and 1964, when the band was just starting," Townshend says in a statement. "I was still young enough to remember how it felt to be 16 or 17 and at war with my parents, bosses and authority. I could still remember that feeling of struggling to fit in, something that happened to me when I was even younger, around 14, and everyone around me seemed to have got their lives on track. This is such a universal experience for young people that it has echoed."
Townshend says performing the finale, "Love, Reign O'er Me," is still special to him, though he recognizes how some of the songs are now very taxing on Daltrey's vocals.
"Roger and I now stand almost alone together, representing not only the original band, but also its Mod audience, and, of course, all our other early fans," he says. "We are connected by it, in what is the most clear-cut prayer for redemption, and it feels like an acknowledgment that rock music has managed to deal with the highest emotional challenge: spiritual desperation."
WHO The Who
WHEN|WHERE 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nassau Coliseum
INFO $34.50-$124.50; 516-794-9300, nassaucoliseum.com
WHAT CRITICS SAY
"From the moment the first field-recorded ocean waves floated onto Brighton's shores as the band walked onstage, the musicians wrestled with 'Quadrophenia's' story line while offering impressive musical structure. When they kicked into 'The Real Me' after the opening instrumental, any doubts about strength and endurance vanished."
-- Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times
"The band upped the wattage on 'Quadrophenia,' making it sound, if not always memorable, impressively mighty."
-- Aidin Vaziri, San Francisco Chronicle
"Daltrey, who at 68 still isn't shy about baring his chest for all to see, was an absolute lion at the microphone for most of the night. He roared proudly through the classic cuts 'The Real Me,' '5:15' and 'Love, Reign O'er Me.' "
-- Jim Harrington, Oakland Tribune
The Who plays all of "Quadrophenia" in order, followed by an encore of songs from their catalog. Most nights this is their set.
"I Am the Sea"
"The Real Me"
"Cut My Hair"
"The Punk and the Godfather"
"The Dirty Jobs"
"Is It in My Head?"
"I've Had Enough"
"Sea and Sand"
"Love, Reign O'er Me"
"Who Are You"
"Behind Blue Eyes"
"Won't Get Fooled Again"
"Tea & Theatre"