Friday, November 28, 2008

The Who At Kilburn 1977

Because there has been so much substandard Who material put on the market, it might be easy to overlook a new DVD release from the band. Do not miss this release though, it is the best thing they have put out since the Isle of Wight video. The first disc is the show recorded by Jeff Stein for his film The Kids Are Alright in 1977. The rap on it has always been that they were unsatisfied with the performances, and shot one more show at Shepperton Studios for the film. Thus, this film sat on a shelf for over thirty years. It has been worth the wait because the passage of time has done nothing but make the footage look more exciting than ever. Beautifully shot and recorded, the concert finds the band at an emotional crossroads of their career. Keith Moon is clearly starting to fall apart, although you will be amazed at how much BETTER he looks than a few months later at the Shepperton gig. The band had just finished recording Who Are You and Townshend was struggling with issues around aging, substance abuse, and his place in rock history. He is visibly agitated during the performance, which actually adds to the overall intensity of the concert. He is an absolute ball of energy, windmilling and jumping on every song. Moon’s playing is sporadic. He comes out of the gate very strong and rallies throughout, but you can see him flag at points. All the years of looning have caught up, and he struggles at moments to keep the beat. Entwistle and Daltrey are exactly as they always were - perfect in their roles. No more original bassist exists in rock and no singer more perfectly fits the bill of beautiful front man than these two. For the most part they seem happy to be playing, and trying to stay out of the way of Townshend’s tantrums. The highlights are the opening “Can’t Explain” and “Substitute” and the closing medley of “My Generation,” a very early and raw “Who Are You” and the final “Won’t Get Fooled Again” which is similar in tone to the one in The Kids Are Alright - in other words a powerhouse. Even though they are suffering the ravages of age and excess they remain - in 1977 - one of the most energetic and powerful bands imaginable.

But wait, there’s more. Disc two contains an entire show from London in 1969. They had just started playing Tommy in its entirety, and this show contains the entire rock opera as well as a full show of hits and rockers. This show was recorded just a few months after Woodstock and a few months before Live At Leeds and it contains all the fire and balls of those great shows. The Tommy portion is absolutely stunning, as a band in full control of their abilities and at the height of their iconic physical appearance just tear through about an hour of material that is almost completely new to the audience. Today, it just wouldn’t happen that way. One can’t help but be awed by the creativity and love for the music conveyed by the band. This concert was filmed by the band’s original managers and, when they were summarily dismissed in the early 70’s, they apparently pitched a king’s ransom of Who-a-bilia into an empty lot. Somehow retrieved, this film has also languished on the shelf for almost forty years and now makes its debut. The quality is so-so, but when the camera is close-up, the images of the band are priceless. It is a magical concert of vintage Who that no fan of the band should miss. Skip the modern recordings of the band in recent years reliving past glory and instead go straight to this superb DVD for a hit of REAL ‘OO. (Note: Also available on Blu-Ray)

1 comment:

mammoth1953 said...

My biggest concern about this DVD is that the concert portion of the first disk is too short, clocking in at about 62 minutes, you share the frustration of Townshend and to a degree the audience. Pete is clearly unhappy with something, whether it is Moon or not is something only he knows. I recently saw in a promo for the DVD Roger Daltry saying that Pete has been upset about this show for years, and has never known why. It is with a sad feeling that you watch the first disk knowing that it is Keith Moon's last "concert", but the Moon magic still shines through.

As far as the second disk, the picture quality is poor at best, this was shot during the early days of concert filming and shouldn't be judged too harshly, but it is what is it is, certainly worthy of "bonus" disk status and not worthy of being sold on it's own. If you are a new Who fan, this probably isn't for you.