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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Tommy Live
Tommy Live
Rhino // Unrated // June 6, 2006
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted August 12, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Concert:

At the end of 2005, Rhino released a three disc set that contained the Who performing their two great rock operas in the aptly titled The Who: Tommy and Quadrophenia Live.  For those people who weren't interested in the latter concert (shame on you, it's a great show), Rhino has now released the Tommy concert from that set on a single DVD:  The Who: Tommy Live.  Their best known work, this presentation of Tommy was given when the group was a bit past their prime, but they still knew how to rock and it's a great disc.

Tommy was recorded at the Universal Amphitheater in LA in 1989.  This wasn't just wasn't another concert, it was the conclusion to their 25th anniversary tour.  Because of that, they decided to throw out all the stops and make this an EVENT, a lavish production with several guest stars including Steve Winwood as the Hawker, Patti LaBelle as the Acid Queen, Elton John as the Bally Table King (naturally),  Billy Idol as Cousin Kevin, and Phil Collins as Uncle Ernie.  The stage was filled with two drum kits, a brass section, multiple keyboards and thousands of lights.  Quite different from when they played Tommy at Woodstock.

That's the only thing I really have against this concert: it's not a rock concert, but huge production.  I didn't think that the guests added much to the concert either.  It was nice seeing Elton John again, and Patti LaBelle was very good.  Billy Idol on the other hand was horrid, overacting and he doesn't really sing the song rather he just recites it.  His incessant screams and swearing are supposed to make him come across as a tough guy, but he just looks like a fool.

Having said that, the parts without the guests is really rocking.  Pete (who plays an acoustic guitar  in these concerts in deference to his poor ears but is backed up by an electric guitarist), still has a lot of life in him, and the late John Entwhistle is still fantastic, as always.  Tommy contains some really great music and it sounds great here with a full compliment of backup musicians.
 
The concert has the following songs:

Overture
It's A Boy
1921
Amazing Journey
Sparks
Eyesight To The Blind
Christmas
Cousin Kevin
The Acid Queen
Pinball Wizard
Do You Think It's Alright?
Fiddle About
There's A Doctor
Go To The Mirror!
Smash The Mirror
Tommy Can You Hear Me?
I'm Free
Extra Extra/ Miracle Cure
Sally Simpson
Sensation
Tommy's Holiday Camp
We're Not Gonna Take It

The DVD:

This single DVD is the same as disc one of The Who: Tommy and Quadrophenia Live.  If you have that three disc set, there's no reason to buy this.

Audio:

This disc comes with both a 5.1 and a stereo mix.  Both tracks sound very good, but I actually like the stereo mix a bit better.  The 5.1 track often throws Roger's voice to the rear as well as the front speakers, and while it is very enveloping, it doesn't sound natural.  Aside from that, the actual quality of the sound was very good.  I was very happy with the way the shows sounded.  They were clear and had good range and no distortion.

Video:

The 1989 Tommy concert was recorded and telecast as a Pay-Per-View event and later released on VHS. Since this was filmed with future releases and the home viewer in mind the video quality is very good.  The full frame image is just a little soft but the detail is good and the image is clear.  It's sure to satisfy fans.

Extras:

One extra that I really enjoyed was the  "video commentary" by Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey.  This has the musicians on screen commenting on the tour and the music.  They didn't record these at the same time, so whenever one is on screen, the other isn't.  That is both good and bad.  On the down side, there is no dialog between the two and they can't play off each other.  On the plus side, they seem to be more candid than they would have been otherwise.

I found this worth the price of the disc alone.  Pete comments on each song and talks about the meaning of the song and what he was thinking about when he was writing it, which was immensely interesting.  Though Pete gets more screen time, but Roger has a lot to say too.   He talks about how Tommy changed the Who, why the record struck a cord with the public, and his feeling about the music as well as the guest stars.  This was a great track, which you can also listen to without Pete and Roger's images on the screen by accessing the third audio track via the remote.

There is also a 3 minute reel of photos.

Final Thoughts:

Though this wasn't the best performance of Tommy ever, it was still pretty good.  Peter, Roger, and John still had some energy (well, maybe not John, he's never done more than just stand there) and there are more great sections than merely good ones.  For fans of the group, I'd suggest purchasing The Who: Tommy and Quadrophenia Live, as it contains this same concert as well as two other discs worth of Who goodness.  If you're only interested in Tommy though, this disc come strongly recommended.
 

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