"If you take the Who when John Entwistle and Moonie were alive, those
four together equaled eight when they were on stage. They were astonishing,
those four." - Rick Wakeman
Truer words were never spoken. The original members of The Who
had an amazing chemistry when they were on the stage together, and they
were astonishing. They seemed to feed off of each other's energy,
creating some of absolutely phenomenal music. Their live shows were
second to none, and one of their better performances was filmed at the
Isle of Wight Festival on August 29th, 1970. Previously released
by Image, a new remastered version of this classic rock concert has been
released. With restored video and remixed multichannel audio supervised
by Pete Townshend, this disc is a great chance to see one of rock's greatest
bands in their prime.
Larger than Woodstock, the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival was attended
by an estimated 600,000 people. It was a tumultuous event, with the
fences breaking down and thousands of people getting in for free, fights
breaking out, and general chaos. But at 2 am in the morning, the
Who took the stage and wowed the crowd. This is a high energy show, with
all of the band members being in top form. As a big fan of The Who,
I really like this concert DVD, and it is only through a superhuman example
of restraint that I am able to refrain from commenting on each and every
song. I'll just touch on the highlights.
The set starts off with a John Entwhistle song, Heaven and Hell.
I always felt that John got the short end of the stick when it came to
his songs. He'd get to include a song on each album, and do one or
two in concert, but that was it. He was a very talented song writer,
who had a wonderfully dark sense of humor. But when you are in a
band with Pete Townshend writing songs, it is hard to compete. In
any case, Heaven and Hell is a good song, thouugh an odd song to
start the show with. It's almost as if they were getting Entwhistle's
song out of the way. After this they launch into a good version of
Can't Explain. The band really hits their stride though with
Man Blues. Pete makes his guitar wail, and Keith's rapid fire
drumming was in full force. After they started this song, there was
no stopping them.
The Lifehouse songs that they preformed, while admittedly some
of Townshend's weaker efforts really rocked. Water sounds
much better live than it even did on vinyl. (It was first released
in the US as the B side on the Love Reign O'er Me single.)
The song has a great hook and the band really gets into a grove.
The song is only marred by the "and maybe somebody's daughter" line, which
turns an otherwise interesting tune into a dirty joke.
There is a great medley of rock standards including an extremely
fun (and funny) version of Twist and Shout. The audience seemed
to enjoy that one.
After playing some of their hits, the group launches into Tommy.
The group had given a splendid performance up to this point, but now they
really start to shine. Roger's voice is strong and confident, with
John's fingers effortlessly flying up and down the neck of his bass guitar.
Keith Moon is drumming like a man possessed, which he very well may have
been, and Townshend jumps around the stage like a whirling dervish.
From the first notes of Overture to the last chorus of See Me
Feel Me, the guys did a fabulous job. (Though it is interesting
to note that they changed the order of the songs in Tommy slightly.
I assume that the order was not rearranged in the editing room since the
same order appears on the CD.)
In addition to seeing The Who at the top of their game playing music,
you get to see Keith Moon bantering back and forth with Pete. I really
wish that Keith was mic'ed so that it was easier to understand what he
was saying. When he admonishes the crowd to be quite just before
because it's a ROCK OPERA and very serious business, I was roaring with
Being a live show, the band was more interested to playing to the crowd
than the movie camera, and this is as it should be. The camera work
was very good under the circumstances. Sometimes a stage hand gets
in front of the camera, and there is some "60's" style fast cutting and
rapid zooming in and out but that annoying camera work is kept to a minimum.
As usual, the camera spends the least amount of time on John, who just
stands there belting out intricate bass riffs as if it were boring and
mundane work. This is something that has always disappointed me,
because I've always been mesmerized watching John's hands fly over his
instrument. It often appears that his mind is wandering, almost like
his fingers have a life of their own. I can understand why directors
spend more time on the other band members, but it is unfortunate that they
This concert had a huge amount of energy. The guys four band members
were certainly playing like they were eight that night. Musically
it is not perfect, they do drop the occasional note or are slightly off
in one aspect or another, but this only adds to the feeling that you are
experiancing a live event. It isn't polished like a studio album,
it's a raw and energetic. They gave a great performance, and it's
is luck for us that it was recorded for posterity.
The one gripe I have with this movie is that it does not present the
whole concert. They actually preformed just about all of Tommy, which
is available on the live double CD which I highly recommend, but several
songs are omitted from the DVD. The song order is also rearranged,
with the songs that were preformed after Tommy being moved in front
of it. For reasons that are beyond me, they also cut out Naked
Eye, which would have been great to see live. I was hoping that
this "newly restored film" as the case states would include the full concert,
but alas it doesn't.
The songs that included are:
Heaven And Hell
I Can't Explain
Young Man Blues
I Don't Even Know Myself
Shakin' All Over
Spoonful/Twist And Shout
It's A Boy
Eyesight To The Blind
ChristmasThe Acid Queen
Do You Think It's Alright
Go To The Mirror
Tommy's Holiday Camp
We're Not Gonna Take It
Tommy Can You Hear Me (after credits, a short tribute to Keith.)
This DVD offers the choice of a stereo, 5.1 Dolby Digital, or DTS mix.
The multichannel mixes are excellent. I know a lot of purist dislike
remixing standards for multichannel playback, and I agree with them to
a large extent, but these mixes work exceedingly well. Pete Townshend
supervised the audio restoration, which was done at Eel Pie Studios.
In the DD and DTS tracks, the cymbals are thrown to the rears, along
with most of the audience sounds. John's bass is mainly on
the left, while Pete's guitar is centered slightly to the right.
This really creates the sonic illusion that you are right in front of the
group. You can feel the energy coming off the stage.
On all the tracks, the audio sounds very good. It is still hampered
by the recording technology of the time resulting in some audio imperfections,
but the new mixes are dynamic and forceful. I though this DVD sounded
significantly better than the previous Image release.
The restored 1.78:1 widescreen video looks very good, but again it is limited by the technology
of the time. There is a fair amount of grain in the picture, and
the image is a little soft. The lighting was only the spot lights
on the stage, and so sometimes the image is too bright and other times
too dark. (Mainly the latter.) Still it looks good for a live
concert. In comparing it with the Image release, this DVD does look
better but the improvement is more subtle. The colors are more accurate,
and there is a bit more definition and slightly finer details. There
is not a huge improvement in the image quality, but this does look a little
While the original Image DVD didn't have any bonus material, this disc
has a nearly 40 minute interview where Murray Lerner (director of the film)
talks with Pete Townshend. Pete starts out complaining about The
Who, the band members, their songs and just about everything associated
with the group. Murray then moves the conversation around to the
Isle of Wight festival. Pete talks about the backstage scene, how
he felt the band played, and he has some interesting things to say about
and what it means to him and the audience. It was an interesting
interview, though Pete does come off as a bit pretentious in a few parts.
Given what he has done in his life, I think he's earned the right to be
pretentious every once in a while. (I also found it interesting to
note that Pete says that Empty Glass (1980) was his first solo album,
although Who Came First was released in 1972.)
I loved the previous release of this concert, and this new version is
even better. The multichannel audio sounds great, giving the concert
more power and force. It really puts you in the middle of the show.
Who fans most probably already have this, but anyone interesting in classic
rock would do well to pick this DVD up. My only regret is that they
didn't include the full show. Hopefully some day soon. Highly