A local ensemble unites to re-create The Who's Tommy | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A local ensemble unites to re-create The Who's Tommy

"There's magic in those chords, and we all sort of feel it.

At age 11, Nathan Zoob listened to The Who's Tommy for the first time.

"I laid down on the couch, closed my eyes and had probably one of the first transformative experiences of my life," he says. "It sort of created me as a musician."

Thirteen years later, Zoob will pay homage to the album that has shaped his musical journey by performing the rock opera with fellow Tommy fans Guy Russo, Josh Verbanets, James Rushin and Max Somerville at Club Café, on April 26.

Zoob and Russo devised the idea after meeting at a freshman-orientation talent show at Carnegie Mellon University six years ago. They expressed their deep-rooted love for Tommy to each other and made a pact that one day they would perform every track live.

"It's kind of like when you're a kid who loves baseball, you dream of growing up and playing in the majors. When we listened to Tommy, we'd pretend we were Pete Townshend," says 25-year-old Russo.

When Zoob started considering a move to New York last year, the pair felt it was time to finally "pull the trigger" on their pipe dream. They knew Verbanets, Rushin and Somerville from the local music scene and recruited them for the production. 

"We're all very focused on our individual projects, but we're more than welcoming this chance to collaborate with each other," says Russo, who also plays in folk duo Broken Fences. 

The band has rehearsed for several months. "We want to really honor the original record," says Zoob. "It's the best version of the story and the best version of the songs."

They also selected a few special guests to add to the performance, including Morgan Erina, of Broken Fences, and Jesse Prentiss, who will supply additional vocals. 

Russo thinks the opening "Overture" will engage the crowd as well as the performers in celebrating the enduring album. 

"There's magic in those chords, and we all sort of feel it. It's in our DNA," he says. "When those first chords start, there are so many memories and nostalgia that come flooding back. There's so much rich, great music throughout the whole album. I don't think there's going to be a dull moment."

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