The Who: The Vegas Job has the best backstory to not be featured on a DVD. According to the back cover copy, this concert was part of a large event in October 1999. An internet technology company organized a day-long concert under the claim that they'd be broadcasting the entire thing to the computers of a billion people around the world. The Who hadn't played together in three years, and so it was going to be a triumphant kick-off to a whole new, five-piece incarnation of the band. (Fans of Pete Townshend who have followed his Lifehouse concept over the years will instantly see how this world-wide, direct-to-your-homes broadcast would have appealed to him.) Little did anyone know that the company running the show was ahead of the "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" curve. Their technology was a scam, and the show was neither seen nor heard anywhere beyond the concert venue*. It makes that performance of "Won't Get Fooled Again" seem kind of ironic.
The summary reads like there is a great story to be told, but sadly, one that is never even broached on the DVD itself. None of the features on the disc mention the post-concert fallout. Thankfully, even with the intriguing set-up dropped from the main attraction, The Who: The Vegas Job is well worth watching for Who fans. Their fourteen-song set is incredible.
The version of the Who that takes the stage was to be their definitive concert line-up for the next several years. Having dropped the ornate brass section and the interactive backdrops once and for all, they went back to the essentials: Roger Daltrey on vocals, Pete Townshend on guitar, and John Entwistle on bass are joined by Zak Starkey on drums and John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards. For this short set, the band chose to only perform hits, mostly in chronological order, starting with "I Can't Explain" and going up to "Who Are You" before capping the show with a loose-fit, bluesy "Magic Bus" and the aforementioned "Won't Get Fooled Again." The encore was a sweetly sentimental "The Kids are Alright" and a blistering "My Generation."
The band is in fine form. Townshend is playing an electric guitar, something he hadn't been doing much of on the previous Quadrophenia tour, and Starkey continues to prove he is the only drummer who can even come close to following the late Keith Moon. Sometimes Daltrey falls a little behind, his voice isn't in fighting shape just yet, but he warms up as the concert progresses. The sweet spot is in the middle, the one-two of a muscular "5:15" and the emotionally ragged "Behind Blue Eyes." We are even treated to some of Roger and Pete's snarky on-stage bickering.
For a show that turned out to be a rip-off, the sponsors didn't skimp on the production. The Vegas Job is a surprisingly well-shot video production. There is a ton of coverage, including overhead crane shots that sweep in over the audience. The final product is just as good as any of the recent releases of Who concerts from the last ten years that were filmed exclusively for home video release, and given the power of the no-frills setlist, maybe one of the better. It's also one of the last to have Entwistle, and it's great to see the Ox in fine form.
The full setlist:
1) I Can't Explain
3) Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
4) Pinball Wizard
5) See Me, Feel Me
6) Baba O'Riley
7) My Wife
9) Behind Blue Eyes
10) Who Are You
11) Magic Bus
12) Won't Get Fooled Again
13) The Kids Are Alright
14) My Generation
* One reader has e-mailed to note that the DVD box exaggerates a little. Apparently, some people could view the stream, but it was a very limited number.
This was shot in full frame on video, and thus the picture has a nice clarity. It's comparable to a good television production of a concert.
Two mixes: stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1. From the sound of it, this is mainly the live mix with very little, if any, overdubs. Mistakes are there, and every once in a while the levels are a little off, with maybe the vocals being too loud in front of the music, or vice versa. When this does happen, it just adds to the concert experience. Too many times concert videos are slicked up for release. The Who: The Vegas Job DVD is raw rock 'n' roll.
Three separate interviews round out the release. Short pre-concert talks with Daltrey and Entwistle shed some light on their state of mind leading up to the show, and there is a very tiny snippet of John checking the sound on his bass. To be avoided is the fifteen-minutes of interviews out in the audience. This is essentially the kind of filler we often see on live cable broadcasts where the network is killing time waiting for the show to start. The audience is either full of knuckleheads or the plastic host only talked to knuckleheads, because what he comes up with is mostly incoherent ramblings leading into TRL-style whooping and hollering.
Highly Recommended. I'm a big Who fan, and for all the jokes that can be made about old rock bands going out on the road and performing a greatest hits cabaret act, these guys always do it up right. They don't shy from their hits, but they also aren't afraid to bring something fresh to the arrangement. This 1999 concert showcases a leaner band that was stretching closer to its original glory than it had in years. Simply put, The Who: The Vegas Job rocks.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with JoŽlle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent project is the comedy series Spell Checkers, again with Jones and artist Nicolas Hitori de. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.