Who fanatics - you know, the ones who bought tickets to all the band's final concerts - will snap up this three-disc set no matter what anyone says. The less fanatic of us who still appreciate the importance of the much-loved guitar smashers should be warned: these concert versions of seminal rock opera Tommy, performed in 1989, and the concept piece Quadrophenia, performed in 1997 (both are supplemented by encores featuring selected hits), are fairly limp. Adding a few stars to the Tommy cast, including Billy Idol as Cousin Kevin, Phil Collins (a creepy Uncle Ernie) and Patti LaBelle as the Acid Queen, fails to push the concerts over the top. Save for a sensational acoustic version of Won't Get Fooled Again on the third hits disc, genius Pete Townshend (the hearing-impaired guitarist plays acoustic throughout nearly all of both concerts), looking like your favourite prof, doesn't have the energy, and a gloriously buff Roger Daltrey doesn't have the vocal chops.
The commentaries are valuable, though. Daltrey talks intelligently about the challenges of both tours, and Townshend elaborates on his inspirations for both works. Unfortunately, except for a short bit about how Townshend finally let go of enough control on Quadrophenia to let Daltrey do some restructuring, there's not much on the prickly relationship between the two, and even less on the death of bass man John Entwistle. (Love the close-ups of his whizzing fingers on the bass neck, though.) Still, you could listen to Townshend, far and away the planet's most emotionally developed rock legend, talk forever.