Last summer, Roger Daltrey hit the road in America and played the Who’s 1969 rock opera Tommy in its entirety. He was joined at every stop by an orchestra in order to recreate the lush arrangements of the original album. They taped the set in Budapest and Bethel Woods, New York (the site of the original Woodstock) for the live album The Who’s Tommy Orchestral, which is coming out on June 14th.
“Pete’s music is particularly suited to being embellished by the sounds that an orchestra can add to the band,” Daltrey said in a statement. “Tommy can mean whatever you want it to mean, I use the characters in it as metaphors for parts of the human condition, so it’s a kind of a story of the human spirit. Even though it is 50 years on, I approach it as though I’m singing it for the first time.”
The Who’s Tommy Orchestral features all 24 songs from the album, including ones like “Sensation” and “Welcome” that the Who rarely played onstage during their many Tommy concerts over the years. “We stay faithful to the record,” Daltrey told Rolling Stone shortly before the tour began. “We treat it with the respect that you’d treat a Mozart opera.”
This new orchestra version of Tommy is coming out just a few weeks after the 50th anniversary of the album’s original release back in 1969. The Who recently began a new tour where they’re playing with local orchestras, but they’re only doing a small sampling of songs from Tommy. “I have real trouble with Tommy,” Pete Townshend told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “We did it recently at The Royal Albert Hall for the Teenage Cancer shows. And I sort of had a bit of a breakdown halfway through it. I get very triggered by it. When I wrote it, I wasn’t aware of a lot of the issues that I have personally.”