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
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:
It's A Boy
Eyesight To The Blind
The Acid Queen
Do You Think It's Alright?
There's A Doctor
Go To The Mirror!
Smash The Mirror
Tommy Can You Hear Me?
Extra Extra/ Miracle Cure
Tommy's Holiday Camp
We're Not Gonna Take It
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 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.
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.
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.
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.