The Who will return to North America on Sept. 1 with the second leg of their orchestral Moving On! tour, beginning at New York's Madison Square Garden.

As guitarist and principal songwriter Pete Townshend says, it's the latest step for a band that has regularly pushed itself.

"What's interesting about this event -- the Who, Moving On! with an orchestra -- is that it really is a big move on," he says in the video below, an exclusive provided by Live Nation. "This is something that Roger [Daltrey] started. We're doing a few new things, a few things that we haven't done before. We're doing 'Imagine a Man,' we're doing 'Behind Blue Eyes' with acoustic guitars and cello and violin."

The band began tinkering with different musical ideas almost immediately after it started its recording career. It helped that their manager at the time, Kit Lambert, was the son of Constant Lambert, the director of the Royal Ballet. Lambert had grand visions to bring rock music into uncharted territories.

"The Who had an extraordinary manager," Townshend continues. "We made him a little silly opera for his birthday. He said, 'Pete, I know this was a joke, but have you ever thought about trying to write an opera?' and I said, 'Well, I am studying, you know, music.'"

The piece was called "Gratis Amatis," a 10-minute work that was influenced by Gilbert and Sullivan. Lambert's direction led to 1966's "A Quick One, While He's Away," a six-part, nine-minute suite; three years later, the Who released Tommy, a double album that practically defined the term "rock opera," even though it wasn't the first of its kind. Townshend remembers that it bore out Lambert's intentions.

"When Tommy came out, it did so well, I had serious music critics [writing], 'This is a really imaginative and successful piece of composing," he says. "On the other hand, it's a stupid story.' We were being treated very seriously, and as a budding serious composer, I loved that."

The Moving On! tour runs through Oct. 23, when it wraps up at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. You can see all the dates here.

Townshend admits he could have never pulled off such a trek when he was younger. "If I was still in my drinking days, this would be a disaster," he notes.

 

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