The Who’s Pete Townshend has earned a Hall of Fame career with songwriting that is lyrically complex, invested, and thoughtful, buttressed by a power-trio instrumentation that was equally as bombastic, visceral, and thunderous.  Yet, it was Townshend’s longtime Who counterpart- and the original quartet’s remaining founder, singer Roger Daltrey- that devised the idea to perform selections from their vast five-decade-plus catalog while backed by a full orchestra.  And for The Who, as musical legends, it was a stroke of late-career genius.

Taken from most of the band’s hometown appearance at Wembley Stadium in July of 2019- and its only U.K. date on the ‘Moving On’ tour- it is a 20-song, two-disc (and Dolby Atmos blu-ray) delight.  The full ensemble accentuates both the bombast and the complexity very effectively and with surprise.  Its composed arrangements, beautifully conducted by Keith Levenson, bloom in an atmosphere around even the most road-worn classics such as “Pinball Wizard,” and “Who Are You,” invigorating them, fresh and new again.  The latter song serves as the collection’s opener; the former, the lone entry included from the concert’s actual starting run of songs honoring Tommy and subsequently repositioned here from its original spot on the setlist.

Otherwise, the running order unfolds as it did that glorious summer night in London, with the band’s other certified double-album masterpiece, Quadrophenia, getting the spotlight treatment on the second disc.  Of particular note is the “Love Reign O’er Me” that realizes the elevated ambition and emotional peak Townshend imbued it with 50 years ago.  The Who, from its outset, was always an ambitious group pushing both creative and sonic boundaries, and often doing so by flexing its amplified muscle.  In these latter stages of the band- now represented basically by The Two, Townshend and Daltrey, and a brilliant cast of support including the peerless drumming of Zak Starkey- it is a duo that somehow has made the legacy and the present music onstage even more versatile.  They are still flexing, but it’s with more muscles, not bigger ones.