By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta
“Tommy – The Rock Opera” will be performed in its entirety on Sat., Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. at The Mt. Olive Performing Arts Center in Flanders.
The show will be executed by Who tribute band, Who’s Next and special guests from the Mt. Olive High School Music and Media Production students.
“Tommy” is the fourth studio album by The Who, a double-album first released in May 1969. The album was mostly composed by guitarist Pete Townshend as a rock opera that tells the story of a deaf, dumb, and blind boy.
Who’s Next have been performing music by The Who for over 20 years. They’re truly authentic, with exact replicas of guitars, drums, amps, and clothing. They even resemble each member of The Who. Who’s Next has performed Who concert after-parties and have been joined on stage and performed with the late John Entwistle, who played bass for The Who.
The band consists of Rich Savarese as Keith Moon on drums; Mike Conte as John Entwistle on bass; Dave MacDonald as Roger Daltrey on lead vocals; and Bill Canell as Pete Townshend on guitar.
Canell started the band in 1998 and the current line-up has been around since 2006.
“It’s great finding other members as dedicated as you are,” he said. “When you do a tribute, you need to be on point – the look, the sound. You have to try to emulate The Who. Each member makes this perfect puzzle.”
Inspiration to start Who’s Next came back in the day when Canell watched a live classic rock band play a Who song.
He said, “I can do this much better.”
Pete Townshend was a huge influence on Canell since he first saw The Who on “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” – a television variety show that ran from the early 1970s to the early 1980s.
“It changed me as a person,” said Canell. “My parents got me a guitar. I wanted to be Pete Townshend. He was a major influence in my playing. I was a major Who fan.”
Canell was just 13-years-old in 1982 when he saw The Who perform at Shea Stadium.
“It was an incredible experience,” he said. “We were way back – they were like ants on stage. It was great being at that concert. The Clash warmed up. My two favorite bands.”
When The Who played a 9/11 tribute concert in NYC, Canell got to meet his idol, Townshend. “He was so humble,” said Canell.
The Mt. Olive show will be the second time Who’s Next is performing “Tommy.” They first did it in 2005, the way The Who did it at Woodstock, which was more bare bones. This time around they are bringing in extra players, including the addition of the children’s choir.
“We want to give the kids the spotlight and incorporate them as much as possible,” said Canell.
After the presentation of “Tommy” Canell said that Who’s Next will do a few more Atlantic City shows, then shut down for November and December. “You want to be home with the family,” he said.
Downtime is much appreciated by Canell, because most of the time he’s working out hard to be fit to match The Who of the 1970s.
He said, “I’m 48 and trying to emulate a guy in his 20s. Pete Townshend is one of those performers you have to be fit. I try to go to the gym as much as possible.”
When Canell isn’t playing music, he’s helping his brother run a family business, BedQuarters, a mattress store in New York. He’s also a husband and father to two boys.
Canell said his family is really supportive of his musical career. “All the band members’ wives are supportive,” he said. “On the road is tough to pick up and leave your family. I always try to come back the same night. If I play in Pennsylvania, it’s three hours away, but I’ll drive home.”
Portions of proceeds of this performance will go to Teen Cancer America.
For more information on Who’s Next visit: https://www.whosnexttribute.com/.
To purchase tickets for “Tommy – The Rock Opera” visit: https://mopacnj.com/.