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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Who: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 (Blu-ray)
The Who: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 (Blu-ray)
Eagle Rock Entertainment // Unrated // February 24, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted February 10, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
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A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The Concert:

"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 I Can't Explain. The band really hits their stride though with Young 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 Tommy because it's a ROCK OPERA and very serious business, I was roaring with laughter.

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 do.

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
Water
Shakin' All Over
Spoonful/Twist And Shout
Summertime Blues
My Generation
Magic Bus
Overture
It's A Boy
Eyesight To The Blind
ChristmasThe Acid Queen
Pinball Wizard
Do You Think It's Alright
Fiddle About
Go To The Mirror
Miracle Cure
I'm Free
Tommy's Holiday Camp
We're Not Gonna Take It
Tommy Can You Hear Me (after credits, a short tribute to Keith.)

The Blu-ray:


Audio:

This discoffers the choice of a LPMC stereo, 5.1 Dolby Digital, or a DTS-HD Master Audio mix. The multichannel mixes are excellent with the DTS-HD being superb. 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.

The DTS-HD track makes this concert sound better than it ever has and is the realy reason to upgrade.  There is excellent use made of the soundstage and it really makes you feel like you're there.  The cymbals are thrown across the whole front while most of the audience sounds are in the rear. 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.

No matter how dynamic and impressive the DTS-HD mix is, it's still hampered by the recording technology of the time resulting in some audio imperfections, but the new track is energetic and forceful. I though this Blu-ray sounded significantly better than the previous DVD release.

Video:

The restored 1.789:1 MEPG-4 AVC video encoded at 1080i 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.) I did a side-by-side comparison with the earlier Eagle's Eye release and this Blu-ray disc is an improvement.  The colors are stronger across the board.  The red on Daltrey's jacket is actually red and not a muddy brown for example.  The level of detail is greatly improved too with the grain on Townshend's guitar visible for the first time.  

Extras:

While the original Image DVD didn't have any bonus material, this disc ports over bonus interview and extra tracks from the earlier Eagle's Eye release:  A 40 minute sit down 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 Tommy 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.)

There are also two extra tracks that are well worth checking out: Substitute and Naked Eye.

Final Thoughts:

I loved the previous DVD release of this concert, and this new version is even better. The DTS-HD audio sounds fantatstic, giving the concert more power and force. It really puts you in the middle of the show. Who fans most probably already have this on DVD and I think the improved sound and image is worth the upgrade.  Highly recommended.

Note: The images do not come from the Blu-ray disc and are not an indication of the video quality. Portions of this review came from my review of the SD DVD.

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