Pete Townshend

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Classic Quadrophenia in the USA came to a close on Saturday night at the Greek Theatre, LA.  Luckily, our roving US reporter, Roberta Kappus was on hand to review for us.

As the saying goes “Alfie never disappoints” and he certainly didn’t at The Greek Theatre.  He came bounding onto the stage to applause with the same enthusiasm and energy as his first night at Tanglewood and accelerated from there.  From the beginning Alfie tried to encourage the audience to join in singing but this audience was a little more laid back as although some joined in, most were happy to enjoy Alfie’s singing.  I hasten to add this was not indicative of any lack of appreciation of Alfie’s performance; there was more applause for Alfie throughout the show than at any other venue I attended.  The Real Me, his opening song, was interrupted by applause three or four times. In addition to noteworthy shouts and applause there were scattered standing ovations at the ends of many songs. It seemed as though Alfie was reading the audience very well and the audience seemed happy with Alfie as applause and shouts of approval came throughout the show.  The audience seemed especially appreciative of Alfie’s punctuation of songs with dramatic arm gestures along with all the legwork.  Alfie’s exertions were in no way inhibited by the warmth on the stage.  It was not a large stage and the orchestra seemed a bit cramped.  Alfie wiped his brow numerous times, finished at least one water bottle which he tossed into the crowd and during the second half stripped off his jacket, tossing that aside.

Only professional cameras were prohibited and when Billy Idol made his entrance so many phones went up you could not even see the stage.  Alfie and Billy played off each other very well in their duets, with both snarling.  Pete was greeted with a standing ovation as has been the case since the beginning of the tour.  His dancing with Alfie went up a level at The Greek with all the steps being very pronounced followed by several twirls.  His guitar playing was once again masterful.

My take on Alfie as a performer is that he puts a lot of thought into his performance and keeps on thinking about it and adjusting throughout the run. It is one of the reasons that I can see the same show multiple times.  It simply isn’t the same show even though the words and the songs are the same.  With Classic Quad this was best exemplified in Love Reign O’er Me.  Alfie fills this song with such physical and vocal intensity that there does not seem room for adjustment and yet he finds ways.  At the Met he sank to his knees and leaned back on the final “Love” in the song. At The Greek Alfie walked out onto a darkened stage during the symphonic introduction, crouched down in the very front and centre of the stage, stayed there unmoving and then began singing from that position.  After he had sung several bars he rose to a standing position and continued with what seemed like an added intensity to the final “Love”. The audience responded with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

Thus ends five performances of Classic Quadrophenia in two weeks. From the first to the last Alfie gave totally outstanding performances.  His singing was superb; the emotion he poured into song after song incredible; the power of his voice at each performance remarkable.  Without a doubt Alfie owns this role.

Thank you once again to Roberta for a fabulous review, the next best thing to being there.

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This weekend saw the second and third performances of Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia, this time at The Met in New York.  Just prior to this, Alfie and Pete appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, an appearance that gained Alfie a whole lot more fans, judging by the social media reaction.

For those of us not lucky enough to be there, our regular New York reporter, Roberta Kappus was in attendance and has sent us her review.  This time, however, it’s a joint effort with Annie Lloyd and another regular reviewer, Cecelia Powell.

Saturday 9 September marked Alfie Boe’s debut at the Met and it was amazing.  The vehicle, Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia, is unusual for the Met but with a symphony orchestra and choir conducted by Robert Ziegler and the power and range of Alfie Boe’s voice there is no doubt that the setting was right.  The audience not only agreed but enthusiastically showed their appreciation throughout the show.  People had come from thousands of miles and different countries to be at there and it was a diverse group: Robert Ziegler fans, Pete Townshend fans, Billy Idol fans, Alfie Boe fans and those who just really liked Classic Quadrophenia.

Alfie’s entrance was both typical Alfie and unique to Saturday’s show. He came bounding on stage at break neck speed, punching the air, jumping and leaping, going right into The Real Me.  The audience loved it – the applause was instantaneous at Alfie’s appearance and at least five times during this song alone, the audience burst into further applause.  Throughout, Alfie was in constant motion, completely owning the stage.  He covered the whole area, moving left to right and back again and it’s a big stage.  His jumping was spectacular, with legs going in different directions. That got a tremendous response.  Alfie’s voice has never been stronger.  Every word was clear.  All the notes hit perfectly. This was Alfie in his element giving everything he had.  There was no sign he was pacing himself for two nights in a row.

Not too long into the show the audience became part of the performance. Clapping with the music was encouraged and every time Alfie held out the microphone the audience responded.  And in typical Alfie fashion he had the audience on its feet dancing along with the music.  The audience was loving Alfie and Alfie was loving them back. F*@k  was delivered at full force with Alfie at the front of the stage and a great deal of accompaniment by all of us. There was a slight mishap with Helpless Dancer which just added to a memorable evening.  Alfie started with words from the middle of the song! This is sung with Pete who just continued on from where Alfie had begun, although as Alfie realised his error,  he stopped singing and cued Ziegler to start again.  To paraphrase Alfie if you are going to mess up make sure you do it at the Met. Turning to face the audience he loudly pronounced “I’m fired.”  It was all handled very well and with great confidence by Alfie. There was no awkwardness involved and Alfie began the song again this time with the correct words and the audience applauding.

As can be expected, Billy’s entrance  was greeted by loud applause and Pete’s appearance earned thunderous applause and a standing ovation.  Pete was more intense than I have seen him in prior performances even breaking into a monstrous air guitar routine to the delight of all and mimicked Alfie’s dance steps as he had the prior Saturday at Tanglewood.  Over the two years since the world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall, the relationship between Pete and Alfie seems to have moved on.  At RAH Pete was the boss; Now, while Alfie may still be in awe of him they are clearly friends.  Ziegler had his share of fans in the audience with a number of people standing and applauding when he first appeared on stage.

Finally, as the orchestra began the intro to Love Reign O’er Me it seemed as though there was a collective intake of breath from the audience in anticipation.  Alfie more than nailed it.  It was the best any of us have ever heard.  The lushness of the orchestration, the richness and power of Alfie’s voice combined with the majesty of the Met made this the perfect venue for the song and it was more than appropriate that Alfie put his whole being into singing this. A thunderous standing ovation followed. It was truly an honour to be at there.

Thank you Roberta, Cecelia and Annie for a wonderful review – and let’s face it, it wouldn’t be Alfie if he didn’t mess up somewhere or other!

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Saturday 2 September was the first date on the five date US tour of Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia. Two years on from the world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall, the show bounded onto the US stage at Tanglewood and featured the Boston Pops orchestra and choir, conducted by Keith Lockhart (Robert Ziegler, original conductor of both the concert and recording, will replace Lockhart for the remaining dates).  This concert was something that many US fans had hoped fervently would happen and our regular stateside reporter, Roberta Kappus, was among them.  Here is her review:

It was apparent early on that the audience was familiar with both Quadrophenia and it’s classical partner as  they not only knew all the words but also the music as evidenced by the applause  and verbal approval at several points before the vocals began.  I love the orchestration.  It is lush, lavish, rich and Lockhart and the Boston Pops did it justice. The audience showed its knowledge and appreciation throughout by cheering and applauding as certain segments achieved the anticipated expression and/or punch.

People had driven hundreds of miles to see this. They had come from other countries. For most of them Pete Townshend and Billy Idol were the drawing cards; Boe was an unknown quantity even though a Classic Quadrophenia album had been released two years earlier. Reflecting this, both Townshend and Idol were greeted on stage by thunderous applause.  However, with the power of his voice and intense energy Boe held his own when performing with these two giants; indeed, as Townshend has said on several occasions most of the vocal work falls to Boe.  The mutual respect Townshend, Idol and Boe have for each other was palpable during the performance. As someone else commented, we watched “…a world class tenor slide on his knees across a stage ending up at Pete’s feet.” It was an evening filled with amazing moments and this was one of them.

It was also an evening marked at certain points with camaraderie and just plain fun.  Part of Boe’s choreography is a side to side bounce going from one foot to the other.  This, along with other jumps and spins that Boe has frequently incorporated into other performances propelled Boe around the stage last night with Townshend and even Lockhart joining in from the podium.  Townshend went so far as to add a ballet spin with one arm curved over his head at the end of a side stepping moment and then gave Boe a kiss on the forehead before leaving the stage.  When I saw Boe at the stage door after the show (he was kind enough to stop and sign programmes and tickets) I asked him if he had had as much fun on stage as it seemed. He responded that this performance had been a lot of fun for all of them.

Looking back it almost seemed as though the first half had been a test which Boe and Lockhart had passed.  After the intermission they returned to the stage together to huge applause which had not been there at the start of the programme.  During the second half the audience was more than ready to help by singing the rest of the songs. Anyone familiar with Boe knows he loves audience participation and this was no different.  He was signalling with hand gestures for people to join in which they did; the audience was singing the choir’s parts, Boe was responding and everyone was having a good time.  Lockhart even joined in, clapping along while conducting.

Climaxing the show was Love Reign O’er Me with its brilliant symphonic intro.  Boe’s vocal power and range, his intensity, his immersion into the part resulted in a performance that can only be described as an unequalled tour de force that brought the audience to its feet where they remained through the curtain call, the presentation of the flowers to all the principals (with everyone but Fuller and Lockhart tossing them into the audience) and the encore which was The Real Me with everyone on stage singing it.  The standing ovation continued through everyone’s departure from the stage including the orchestra and choir. It was as though a spell had been cast over everyone inside the Shed and no one wanted to be the first one to break it.

Wow, what a fabulous review Roberta, sounds like everyone had a great time…and I’m sure Alfie came away with a lot of new fans.  Here’s a short video from the evening:

Classic Quadrophenia is available here:

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Two years after the triumphant world premiere of Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia (CQ) Alfie Boe and Billy Idol return to join Townshend in a limited run of US dates (click here for tickets).  Kicking off at Tanglewood on 2 September, the show will play two nights (9 – 10 September) at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York before finishing at The Greek Theatre, LA on 16 September.  Keith Lockhart will conduct at Tanglewood with the Boston Pops Orchestra and this will be familiar to Alfie as he has previously worked with both, when he recorded with them for their 2005 Christmas album, Sleigh Ride.  The original CQ conductor, Robert Ziegler will conduct for the other performances.

 

Alfie says that he is “thrilled to be joining Classic Quadrophenia for a limited run of US shows” and I confidently predict that quite a lot of Alfie fans will be thrilled too!  Since CQ was announced as a project in late 2014, US fans have been extremely keen to see Alfie perform this music and I urge everyone with the slightest chance of seeing it to beg, steal or borrow but basically do whatever it takes to see Alfie in the role of Jimmy – I would love to see it again.  An added bonus is the presence of Billy Idol, who was a surprising highlight for me at the original show.

When I first interviewed Alfie about CQ, he had yet to perform the show and I asked him about the recording process.  Apparently, Alfie said, it took “a good few hours.  The sound is almost like a live recording of my vocals as it was really flowing, we were really in the groove”.  I asked Alfie how difficult it was to sing and although some parts are trickier than others, the most difficult for him was getting the emotional intensity right.  “It’s an emotional piece and you have to understand what you are singing and the emotional intent behind it and then you’re alright”.

The Who’s historic rock opera Quadrophenia was of course originally released as an extensive double album in 1973 and has stood the test of time as a conceptual work honouring the Mod movement. The album, later turned into a feature film and theatrical production, follows an angst-ridden young man in London who creates a new life for himself as a member of the Mods.  Talking about the classical incarnation, Pete Townshend says ““I’m thrilled to be bringing Classic Quadrophenia stateside through the month of September. Melding the contrasting sounds of Quadrophenia with a symphony has been a really unique and powerful way to reach a wide audience of classical and pop music lovers alike. I couldn’t be more excited to see it continue in the U.S.”

Tickets go on sale on 13 June – click here.

 

Saturday, September 2          Lenox, MA             Tanglewood

Saturday, September 9          New York, NY        Metropolitan Opera House

Sunday, September 10           New York, NY        Metropolitan Opera House

Saturday, September 16        Los Angeles, CA     The Greek Theatre

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As most of you will be aware, Alfie Boe’s recent absence from Broadway’s Les Mis was due to his hotly anticipated second performance as Jimmy in Classic Quadrophenia, the fully orchestrated version of The Who’s classic album.  Since the world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in July to rave reviews, the next and, as it stands, the only, chance to see Alfie in this role was Vienna on 31 October.  Many Alfie fans made the trip and one of them was a regular thoughtsofjustafan reviewer, Carole.  Here is her fabulous write up of the evening.

I suppose there was always a question in my mind as to how a European audience would respond to Classic Quadrophenia after its premiere at the Royal Albert Hall back in July.  Here was the reworking of a rock classic with legendary status being performed to an unknown audience, fronted by a singer whose name is not familiar in Austria.  I suspect after Saturday night that the singer’s profile has been raised somewhat and, judging by their reaction,  the diehard Who fans have acknowledged that somebody other than Roger Daltrey can also make a damn fine job of the score.

Apart from Alfie,  his co-performers were all different from those at the Albert Hall.  Drew Sarich, an American now based in Vienna, took on all the roles previously played by Pete Townshend, Billy Idol and Phil Daniels.  The orchestra was the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic from Czechoslovakia and the choir from the Wiener (Vienna) Singakadamie.  Pete Townshend was sat on a side balcony near the front with Rachel Fuller (who orchestrated the piece) and it must have been intimidating for Alfie, to say the least, having the master watching so intently although there were several appreciative exchanges between them.  Pete is clearly Boe’d, you can see the look of disbelief on his and Rachel’s faces when he hits those big notes with such ease. It is such a monumental sing for one person and its so touching so see how in awe they are of each other.

It seemed to take Alfie a couple of songs to settle in, probably more to do with the audience being responsive but polite at that point. He and Drew worked brilliantly together and being right at the front I could see all the nuances in Alfie’s face encouraging and complimenting him.  It can’t be easy for somebody new to step in to a piece like CQ especially alongside somebody with a voice as huge as Alfie’s!  He was even subtly mouthing Drew’s lines to himself at times, doubt he even knew he was doing it.   The two had a fabulous rapport and great energy, Alfie bouncing up and down as if somebody had wound him up.  It is always special to hear that voice with a full orchestra and choir and he seemed to be loving the freedom of just being himself again after leaving the confines of his Jean Valjean role behind him for a while.

Love Reign O’er Me has been a feature of Alfie’s live and TV performances since the end of last year so when he appeared after a short break off stage to launch into the final song I realised this could possibly the last time he performs it for a while.  Of all his huge repertoire of songs this is arguably surely the one that was made perfectly for that voice and to show it off to its colossal best.  I have never heard him do it better.  I have no idea where he finds even more to give every time, just as I think it can’t get any better he pulls another herculean performance out of the bag.  He was very emotional going into that last extraordinary note, and as the audience rose to their feet before he had finished he dropped his head with his eyes closed and stayed there just going into that bubble, taking it all in.  I could see he was struggling to hold it together and as he lifted his head and came back to us his eyes were full of tears.

There was an encore of The Real Me and people came to the front and filled up the aisles, just how Alfie likes it, and was holding his microphone out to the audience to get them to sing back.   The conductor Robert Ziegler once again appeared wearing his mod parka which got a fabulous response.  Pete Townshend and Rachel then came out onto the stage to take their bows alongside Alfie and Drew and the ovation went on and on.  Oh yes, and of course he had to squeeze in a Roger Daltrey style swing of his microphone and arm windmill.

A fantastic night at a stunning venue in the most beautiful city,  with Alfie rocking the house and having the time of his life doing it.   Vienna loved you Mr B!!

Thanks Carole for that fantastic review – I felt as if I was right there with you.

Classic Quadrophenia is available on CD and DVD:

classic quad

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Since I first heard Alfie Boe sing two Classic Quadrophenia (CQ) songs on his UK Winter Tour, I have been keenly anticipating hearing the whole album live on stage.  The album is tremendous, made more so by the live sounding vocals from Alfie.  Alfie’s set list on his current mini UK tour has included more and more CQ songs and so the anticipation leading up to the world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall last night has been building to explosive levels.

The announcement of a classical version of a much loved rock work is always going to cause some fans to scratch their heads and wonder why someone is messing with perfection.  CQ was no exception and many Who fans took to social media in their thousands to bemoan this project, despite not having heard a note.  As the album release date got nearer and the promotional schedule ramped up, those voices of dissent became less and less, dwindling to a trickle when the album was released and the full glory of Rachel Fuller’s orchestration was heard in its entirety for the first time.  After last night’s world premiere of the live staging, the rapturous audience reaction leads me to think that the Who fans were completely won over (at least those who were there).

The audience was mainly a mixture of Who fans and Alfie Boe fans – it was easy to spot the Who fans as they stood up en masse when Pete Townshend first came on to the stage – and right from the start, there was a buzz and energy between performers and audience.  Robert Ziegler conducted the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra with passion (even donning a parka for the finale) and the London Oriana Choir was wonderful but the night belonged to Alfie, being rarely off stage.  Hearing the songs on tour with a small band and a small orchestra is magnificent but in no way prepared me for hearing Alfie’s sublime voice in harmony with a full orchestra.  Just think of every superlative you’ve ever heard and you’ll be half way there.  Pete Townshend was great (better than I expected if I’m honest), Phil Daniels’s characterisation of the Dad role was brilliant but the biggest surprise for me was how good Billy Idol was.  I admit I’m not very aware of Billy’s music and if I admitted to concerns about the show beforehand, Billy Idol’s part concerned me most.  I needn’t have worried as his voice perfectly suited the material and blended superbly with Alfie.  Their shared moments on stage were amongst the highlights – they were obviously having the time of their lives.

When I reviewed the album a few weeks ago, I said that I loved all the songs, there wasn’t one that I wanted to skip.  Having seen the show live, I stand by that; the music flowed effortlessly and the vocal harmonies were joyful to hear but the star of the show, musically, comes right at the end.  Love Reign O’er Me has become a staple of Alfie’s live shows and amongst his fans this was the song that caused the most excitement.  He didn’t disappoint.  The power of the orchestra complemented exactly the powerhouse vocal performance Alfie gave, leading to the spine tingling  last note when the entire audience rose to its feet as one…and stayed there for a good five to ten minutes (forgive me on this point, I wasn’t looking at my watch!) with rapturous applause throughout.

Numerous curtain calls followed and an encore with all the singers again brought the house down.  Rachel Fuller also received a fabulous welcome when she came to the stage and although all the performers (orchestra excepted) went of stage it was plain that the audience were not ready to see them go and they all trooped out again, Billy Idol minus his shirt.

Pete Townshend is taking the show to Vienna, Cologne and Munich (click here for dates) plus another unconfirmed date and those who see the show there are in for a treat.  For those not so lucky, Sky Arts will be showing the performance tonight at 8pm – and anyone else needs to start praying for a DVD release at the end of the year when all the live dates are over.

Classic Quadrophenia is available here:

classic quad

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Hotly anticipated as one of the albums of the year, Pete Townshend’s orchestral reworking of Quadrophenia is released on 8th June, whilst the live show premieres at the Royal Albert Hall on 5 July.  Later shows in Cologne, Munich and Vienna have also been confirmed for October while a further show is rumoured but not confirmed.

As we know, Alfie Boe takes on the role originated by Roger Daltrey and at least according to Townshend, the two are similar in their approaches to performing; Townshend says that they both “give every performance their all”.  The live performances will be a test of stamina for Alfie as he features on nearly all the tracks so will be on stage for virtually the entire show.

Townshend says that he never thought he’d hear a classical tenor singing his songs and for them to work so well.  The fact that they do sound so good is partly down to Alfie’s majestic voice but also to the outstanding orchestration by Rachel Fuller.   The score sits so well with the original music that you almost can’t believe it’s taken 40 years to happen.  On the face of it, it’s an idea that shouldn’t work but the faithful interpretation by Fuller ensures it works spectacularly well.  The epic scale of a rock opera lends itself to be adapted for opera voices and the classical world and although the tale of disaffected youth at the heart of the story would seem to be at odds with the classical world, it actually gives the story a whole new punch and sounds totally new and fresh.  Again, this approach is quite deliberate on the part of Townshend as he hopes younger audiences will come to appreciate classical works more, a view that Alfie must share, given his views on what constitutes good music.

When I spoke to him a few weeks ago, Alfie mentioned that some parts of the role were “trickier than others, mainly due to the emotion behind the words.”  Alfie has also said that the role is “harder than opera, but thrilling to sing”.  Nothing controversial about that statement Alfie!

Thrilling to sing – I can happily report that the album is also thrilling to listen to!  Alfie’s vocals sound as if they were recorded live, even though they were recorded in Pete Townshend’s studio.  Alfie alluded to this  as “flowing, being right in the groove” and it shows.  The album is totally the Alfie Boe show and hopefully will propel Alfie further into the mainstream public consciousness.  Most of the promotional material has been built around Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia as it’s his project but after the album release and the live shows, I would expect to see a much wider appreciation for Alfie.  This would seem to be backed up by the huge amount of appreciative comments on social media following Alfie’s recent appearance on Sunday Night at the Palladium.

I thoroughly recommend this album – right from the outset, it reaches out and grabs your attention and holds it all the way through.  With most albums and some operas / shows, there is usually one or two songs that you skip when playing.  So far, I haven’t found one I felt the need to skip – all of it is sublime.  There are two stand out tracks that I was lucky enough to hear Alfie sing live on his recent UK tour, I’m One and Love Reign O’er Me, the latter being the final track.  It is also shows off Alfie’s soaring vocals to perfection – a marriage made in heaven:

Classic Quadrophenia will be released by Deutsche Grammophon on 8 June.  To order the deluxe CD and making of DVD click on the image:

classic quad

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The much anticipated video for Classic Quadrophenia’s Love Reign O’er Me is finally here!

Great video from the Brighton beach front shoot a few weeks ago – it must have been perishing down there then!  And a nice touch to see Phil Daniels as he is now at the end of the video; if you don’t know by now, he’s playing Jimmy’s Dad this time around, having been Jimmy for the film.

We should also remember that this is Pete Townshend’s project and his name and that of The Who are all that are needed to sell this to the countless hordes that will buy the album, so I wouldn’t worry about Alfie Boe’s name not being visible.  Hopefully, those astounding vocals will ensure a whole new audience find out more about him post June 8th.

Classic Quadrophenia is now available for pre-order:

classic quad

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Updated post – pre-sale is now open!!!!!  got my ticket already! – click here for tickets.

Alfie Boe will star in a concert version of Quadrophenia at the Royal Albert Hall next July!  Not sure if this is the secret he hasn’t been allowed to tell us but how fantastic is this!

The tickets are on general sale on Friday 5th December – click here.

Quadrophenia is Pete Townshend’s 1973 rock opera and has been orchestrated by Rachel Fuller and performed by the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra and the London Oriana Choir – Alfie sings the part originally sung by Roger Daltrey.  Check out this teaser:

Can’t wait to get a ticket!