Essential New Music: The Who’s “Tommy Live At The Royal Albert Hall”

The endless retirement tour and the never-done 50th anniversary of the Who have been the butt of jokes ever since its 40th anniversary and the one before that. Luckily, what remaining Who founders Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey have going for them instead of truth in advertising is a renewed ferocity—a necessary entity considering how lackluster they sounded during the Kenney Jones era. If blaming a mediocre drummer seems like an easy out, consider how this Who sounds with Ringo’s kid Zak Starkey pummeling and paradiddlng the skins in a marauding manner befitting the late, great Keith Moon. Combine the dramatic rhythmic thrill of Starkey’s fills with Simon Townshend’s heavenly background vocals—a lovely counterpoint to Daltrey’s gruff howl and chatter—and decades-old deaf-dumb-and-blind-kid rockers such as “Amazing Journey” and the anthemic “We’re Not Gonna Take It/See Me, Feel Me” medley really and truly soar. There’s even an electrifying sensuality to Townshend’s “rock opera” that was never there in the first place. Hey, Starkey and the younger Townshend brother really add a kick to the proceedings. Maybe they can extend this retirement to their 60th anniversary.

—A.D. Amorosi