Who’s who elevate Timmy’s Tommy

20 August 2023

You Am I revisit The Who’s classic Tommy, with two of Australia’s finest rock vocalists. Harvey Rae goes on an amazing journey.

Tommy, You Am I 
Astor Theatre, 18 August 2023 

Who Am I? Timmy does Tommy

Taking 1969’s legendary rock opera from The Who on tour is ambitious enough that You Am I have called on the talents of Superjesus singer Sarah MacLeod and The Jezabels’ Hayley Mary.  

It’s a masterstroke as two of Australia’s finest rock vocalists elevate the performance from band-plays-Who to theatrical spectacular.  

Turns out being a musical chameleon suits You Am I frontman Tim Rogers. Now an elder statesman of the Australian rock and roll scene, much of his creativity these days goes into coming up with original ideas for tours.  

Tim Rogers is having the time of his life in ‘Tommy’. Photo: Neil Donovan

Just earlier this year he revisited cult 90s folk outfit The Twin Set with a show at Freo Social. While the standard You Am I rock and roll revue tours come around less and less often, the next Rogers visit is never far.   

He’s largely relegated himself to musical director on this night, leaving the lion’s share of vocal duties to the big voices of MacLeod and Mary.  

But it’s clear from every open power chord mirroring so much of his own songwriting, that he’s having the time of his life. The Who might just be his greatest influence, and he’s obviously reliving some childhood fantasies on stage. As are much of the ageing crowd, who veer more towards Who fans than You Am I ones.  

While the signature windmills are surprisingly missing, given they’ve long been a staple of You Am I shows, Rogers has spent much of his career appropriating, and inspired by the genius of, Who songwriter and guitarist Pete Townsend.  

Not every post is a winner and Rogers’ hoarse vocals on 1921 are a worry early on. But from the moment MacLeod arrives for Amazing Journey the stage is set alight. She skips around the stage embracing full rock star mode. Sinking to her knees, she’s a delight on Christmas and the classic Pinball Wizard

Sarah MacLeod, with Tim Rogers, is a delight. Photo: Neil Donovan

Mary takes on Tommy’s creepier characters, including the bullying Cousin Kevin, and sinister Uncle Ernie during a pitch-black Fiddle About. Clearly enjoying the chance to ham things up theatrically, she’s the only performer not dressed in white.  

Gradually her evil personas make way for a sparkling onesie in time for Smash the Mirror, and Tommy’s dark coming of age from sexually abused pinball wizard to cult leader culminates with Mary and MacLeod combining forces on epic finale We’re Not Going to Take It.  

The onstage production is a little limited throughout, so it’s almost a surprise when the encore of Who classics sees flashing strobes mirroring the birth of stadium rock for 1971’s Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley. These synth-laden songs alone warrant the rapturous standing ovation. 

Then again, perhaps it makes sense that despite Tommy being the focus, the greatest hits would resonate most. Part education piece and part amazing journey, reminding us of the greatness of Tommy is one thing, but noting its importance in The Who’s broader catalogue among other encore highlights like My Generation and Substitute turns out to be the ultimate tribute. 

Pictured top: Hayley Mary tackles Tommy’s creepier characters with gusto. Photo: Neil Donovan

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Author —
Harvey Rae

Harvey is a familiar face in the Perth arts scene, having been a journalist, promoter, events manager, artistic planner, songwriter, radio host, marketer, publicist, label owner and more. Music may be his first love, but you'll regularly find him at anything comedy, theatre or food related. Harvey gravitates towards the swings but sometimes forgets he’s too big for a playground flying fox, too.

Past Articles

  • Extreme confidence in full colour

    In a double act worthy of an arena, Living Colour and Extreme have the crowd on their feet from start to finish. Harvey Rae can’t help but join them. 

  • Slowdive bring everything alive

    Slowdive may have won over a new generation with their timeless sound but they have lost none of the old.  Harvey Rae revels in the sensory explosion.

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