When The Who arrived in Houston
in November of 1975 on their tour promoting their latest album, The Who by Numbers (which is often
underrated) they were masters of their craft and at the top of their
game. Still riding high on the success of
amazing trifecta of Tommy, Who's Next,
and the greatest rock album
of all time, Quadrophenia, they had
gained a legion of new fans (including this writer, only 12 years old
time) due to Ken Russell movie adaptation of their first rock opera, Tommy.
Though they didn't know it, things would start to slide slowly
from there. Drummer Keith Moon would die
weeks after the release of their next album, Who are You?
and though they would continue to record and tour,
things were never quite the same after that.
This concert shows the band at the height of their
skills. They had just started the
American leg of the tour so they weren't tired and counting the days
could return home, but had finished up the European tour weeks earlier
had worked out the kinks in the new material and were comfortable
set. It is a thing of beauty.
Always an excellent live band, this concert is full of
energy and excitement. When the group
walks on stage, Pete Townshend fiddles with his amp and strums a few
before launching into Substitute, one
of their early hits that has a good amount of power and sets the stage
After playing their very first hit, I Can't Explain, they
launch into a fun version of Squeeze Box, an innocuous song based on a
joke that was the hit single on Who by
Numbers. They end up playing three
tracks from the new album, and none of the band really seems excited by
tracks. For some reason Townshend has a
music stand with some paper secured to it brought on stage when he
sings However Much I Booze, which still has me
scratching my head (was he afraid he'd forget the lyrics or the cords?)
A good chunk of this nearly two-hour long concert is taking
up by an abbreviated version of Tommy.
Not too surprising since the movie had been released less than 9
earlier, and they do a fantastic job running through the songs. They end up with some old standards, ending
the show with Magic Bus and My Generation.
The whole show was great, but the highlights included Baba
O'Riley and Won't Get Fooled Again from Who's
Next, and the single tune from Quadrophenia,
The Who are that they're a live band. They
don't practice the songs until they can play
a note-prefect reproduction of the album.
They're raw and energetic and out to have a good time, and in
process they give the audience an unforgettable experience. That's perfectly illustrated in this show,
that's full of fun moments.
One of my favorites was when the bass player had his moment
in the spotlight. John Entwhistle gets
to sing one of his songs in every concert, (this time it was the black
piece Boris the Spider) and when Pete
introduces him, drummer Keith Moon boos and hisses from behind his drum
kit. Keith cuts up fairly regularly,
while still playing with amazing stamina (my 16 year old son watched
and an hour into the show asked how Keith could drum that hard for that
without giving out. I did not opine that
methamphetamines might have had something to do with it).
The biggest flaw with the show on this DVD is the inexpert
camera work that went into filming the concert, but there's nothing
Vision can do about that. It was
recorded with two cameras (though the second one isn't used for the
couple of songs... I guess the guy was still setting up) and neither had
a great view
of the stage. The first camera was on
the left (as your' facing the stage), up high, and fairly far away. John Entwhistle was obscured by a stack of
speakers except when he walked to the front of the stage, and the image
this camera was pretty soft. The second
camera, on the right side, was closer and recorded a sharper image and
about stage height, but since it was low people would walk in front of
semi-frequently and obscure the action on stage. I
assume that this was mixed live, because
there are a few times that one camera will be off target (Daltrey walks
frame at one point) and they don't cut to the other camera. While I would have liked full coverage with a
well-trained crew, you have to live with what you have.
While the cinematography isn't perfect, it
does the job of capturing one of the great bands at the peak of their
Having previously seen this concert on a bootleg disc, I was
impressed with how much the audio and video have been cleaned up and
tweaked. The stereo audio is generally
clear and not muffled or filled with tape hiss, but it's not stellar
either. There's only so much that can be
done. The bass isn't as strong as I'd
like it, and Daltry's voice isn't a crisp as it should be, but over all
isn't a bad sounding disc.
The picture quality is decent, much, much better than the
bootlegs I've seen. There's a reason
that this wasn't released to DVD earlier though... the image isn't what
consumers would expect after seeing Woodstock
and Monterey Pop.
The picture is soft, and colors will bleed as the camera pans
stage, and there is some video distortion due to the volume of sound
the stage (though this is very intermittent and not the standard). Still, even with those flaws, the disc looks
pretty good. As long as viewers don't go
in with high expectations they'll be pleased.
This is a great record of The Who at the height of their career. It's an energetic and powerful concert where
the band really seems to be enjoying themselves. The
music is great and the performance is
excellent. What more could you
want? Highly Recommended.