Okay let me state this up front so everyone will know where I'm coming
from: I think The Who was the greatest rock band of all time.
If you don't agree, if you happen to think that The Beatles or U2 or some
other group deserved the "greatest" mantle, that's fine. You're wrong,
but I don't mind.
Who has been around for a long time (and while I consider the current touring
group more of a Who cover band than the real thing the case could be made
that they're still a group) and as such there have given some legendary
performances. Some have been easily available like the fantastic
Isle of Wight show, others only on poor quality bootlegs such as the 1973
Cow Palace concert where Keith Moon passes out near the end of the show
and Pete asks if anyone in the audience can play the drums. (19 year
old Scott Halpin got up and played with the band.) Then there are
the shows that are nigh impossible to see. One such film is the infamous
1977 Kilburn show that has been released for the first time on DVD and
Blu-ray. It features the groups original line up, it was actually
the second to last concert that Keith Moon played before he died, it was
professionally filmed and lighted for the cameras, and yet it has been
stored away for years.
The concert was originally planned by Jeff Stein. He was working on
his monumental film of the band "The Kids are Alright" and realized that
there wasn't any useable footage of some of the group's later work, most
notably "Baba O'Reily" and "Won't Get Fooled Again." He set up this
concert, attended by an invited group of guests, just to get some recent
film of the band. He filmed the show with 35mm cameras and made sure
there was enough light on stage so the footage would be clean and clear,
and recorded the audio on 16-track tape.
The Who hadn't played together in over a year at the time of this concert
however. Keith Moon had put on weight, and the group wasn't nearly
as tight as it had been. Pete seemed angry and the band, the audience,
and himself for most of the performance and the bad became lost at times.
In the end, the show wasn't as spectacular as everyone was hoping and basically
no one was pleased with the results. They eventually gathered again
six months later and refilmed the whole concert and that footage was used
in The Kids are Alright.
was the Kilburn concert such a total disaster? No, not at all.
There's not denying that The Who weren't at the top of their game, but
it's still a rockin' performance that has an incredible amount of energy,
especially coming from Pete Townshend.
The show starts off slow with a version of "Can't Explain" that's not
up to their usual standards. Keith is obviously slower and has less
energy. Roger and John and doing it by the numbers (no pun
intended) while Pete seems to be putting more of himself into his playing
as if to make up for the others, even though it's obvious that he's a little
Things start to click soon after. Pete is performing like a mad
man, jumping around, wind-milling, and getting irate at the audience and
the band. He's like a force of nature at times, seeming to control
the attitude on stage. John's fingers fly over the neck of his bass
with blinding speed and he plays the instrument like he's leading the band
at times. His solo on "Dreaming from the Waist" is phenomenal
and the solo in "My Wife, " one of my favorite songs, is just as exciting.
Even Keith starts picking up speed as the show progresses and while he's
never as fast as he was at 20, in this concert he merely rises to the level
of fantastic. If you'd never seen Keith drum before and saw this
concert you'd walk away thinking he was great.
That's not to say that the show is perfect after the first couple of
songs. The group does make some mistakes, Roger forgets the words
to "Tommy's Holiday Camp" and John botches a line from "My Wife."
At one point Pete, full of anger at the frequent gaffs, proclaims that
they should wrap it up and send the cameras home. If you're looking
for an note-perfect recreation of their albums, it's easy to see how this
concert gained the reputation for not being that great.
The problem with that thinking is that it totally misses the point of
Rock and Roll (with capital R's) in general and The Who in particular.
This group isn't about trying to sound polished and smooth. They're
about anger and energy and raw emotion. That's why they've always
been better live... you just can't capture that spirit in the studio.
This concert does capture the energy of the show and they produce some
kick-ass music too. This is one of those concerts where nothing went
right, and they STILL managed to make some incredible music. That's
saying a lot.
songs list is as follows:
• Can't Explain
• Baba O' Riley
• My Wife/Going Mobile
• Behind Blue Eyes
• Dreaming from the Waist
• Pinball Wizard
• I'm Free
• Tommy's Holiday Camp
• Summertime Blues
• Shakin' all Over
• My Generation
• Join Together
• Who are You?
• Won't Get Fooled Again
The second concert on this disc is The Who's performance from December
14, 1969 at the London Coliseum. This is one of the first concerts
where they played Tommy in its entirety (though all of that material is
not included in this film for some reason. The songs that were edited
out are included in the bonus section) and not only an historical performance
but a very good one too. Unfortunately this was recorded on 16mm
film and the lights weren't as bright as they should have been, so it doesn't
have the immediacy and visual pizzazz as the Kilburn concert.
Even so, this is The Who at the top of their form. They hadn't
tasted the phenomenal success that Tommy would bring them, and they were
still lean and hungry. This is the group around the time of Live
at Leeds and they feed the audience their energy. A rocking concert
that is still amazing to watch, all these years later.
In this concert they play:
• Heaven and Hell
• Fortune Teller
• Young Man Blues
• A Quick One While He's Away
• Happy Jack
• I'm a Boy
• I'm Free
• Tommy's Holiday Camp
• See Me, Feel Me
• Summertime Blues
• Shakin' All Over
• My Generation
The Blu-ray Disc:
Both concerts feature the options of a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track,
a compressed Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and a lossless PCM 2.0 stereo track.
I screened this with the DTS-HD track and spot checked the others and this
disc sounds great, especially when you really crank your system.
The band is placed firmly in the front with some ambient noises thrown
to the rears. The dynamic range is good and the music comes through
nicely, especially for recordings this old.
The 1.78:1 1080p AVC encoded image is a mixed bag. The Kilburn
concert looks very good. While there is some grain the image is generally
clear and the level of detail is high. The flesh tones look natural
and the colors, while not overly bright, have a realistic feel to them.
This show really benefits from being recorded on 35mm film.
Unfortunately the London Coliseum concert is not nearly as clear.
This was recorded on 16mm and the lighting was less than optimal.
The image is blurry at times, excessive grain is a problem, and there are
assorted scratches and dirt on the print. The colors are a bit faded
and level of detail isn't anything to write home about either. Having
said that, this is probably the best this concert will ever look given
the limitations of the format used to record it.
While just those two concerts would have been enough to get me excited,
there are some nice extras. Basically they present "Tommy" from the
London show in its entirety as preformed by the group. I'm not sure
why the featured concert is an abbreviated version of the show, but some
of this footage is worse than the parts included in the main concert video.
Some of the scenes are so poorly lit at to be pretty worthless, and there
are some short missing segments presumably when the cameras were reloading.
These extra songs are:
"A Quick One While He's Away," "Overture," "It's a Boy, " "1921," "Amazing
Journey," "Christmas," "Acid Queen," "Pinball Wizard," "Do You Think It's
Alright," "Fiddle About," "Tommy Can You Hear Me?," "There's a Doctor,"
"Go to the Mirror," "Smash the Mirror," "Miracle Cure," "Sally Simpson,"
"Tommy's Holiday Camp," "I'm Free," "We're Not Gonna Take It."
There is also trailer for the Kilburn concert and a nice 16-page booklet
that has essays on the band included with the disc.
These two concerts compliment each other wonderfully. Filmed at
the peak of their energy and talent and then 8 years later at the end of
their original line up this is a must-buy for any Who fan. Even people
who are only slightly acquainted with the group should enjoy these concerts.
This disc is highly recommended.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do
not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.