Really, I just don’t know how this DVD could be any better.
It seems like every night, Dave and Jay have some new band on stage. Some angst-projecting vocalist trying to sound like Kurt Cobain, some guitarist who knows 5 chords and 2 ways to strum each one, a bassist who plays one note at a time, and a drummer who knows only one rythem – bump-bah-bump-bah-bump-bah-badump. But no matter how bad they are, they all have one thing in common – they’re all pretty enough for MTV. It’s enough to make me scream in frustration, because I know how good rock and roll can really be, and this DVD is it.
Patch your DVD player through your stereo, put masking tape on all your window glass, stuff the dog’s ears with cotton, protect all small children with DOT approved devices, then pop this DVD in and hide under the couch, because THIS is rock and roll as it was and is meant to be – master musicians with genuine f— it all attitude, playing through 10 tons of Marshall Hiwatt amps. In the late 70’s there was a famous ad in “Stereo Review” showing a guy sitting in an armchair in front of a speaker, with his necktie being blown straight back behind him. Picture that, and you get an idea of what this movie and this band are all about.
The movie itself is half comedy and half action-drama. The comedy comes during interviews and conversations with the band, with Keith initiating most of it and everyone else either joining in or, in the case of the slick corporate “host” types, getting skewered. The action-drama is all on stage, with Pete whirling his way through incredible guitar playing, Roger providing his usual peerless singing, Keith bringing something almost otherworldly to his drums, and John holding it all down, standing there motionless like the rock of Gibralter, his fingers on the bass a blur.
Unlike so many modern bands, who surround themselves with “star” mystique and who are always safe and cool on stage, The Who were self-deprecating and able to laugh at themselves when they weren’t playing, and when they were playing… well, when they were playing, they consistently reached for the stars. Sometimes it didn’t work – sometimes they sounded like crap. But when they were in the sweet spot, when they were in “the zone,” they were, to use the apt words of another reviewer, “the greatest rock and roll band ever to draw breath.”
Most of what you get in this DVD special edition is “in the zone,” and what little isn’t, doesn’t really detract from the experience. Everyone who worked on producing this DVD edition should get a medal, as the film looks and sounds as close to perfection as it is ever going to get.
By the way, if you are listening through an old-fashioned, two speaker system, choose “stereo” under sound options. The reviewer who panned the sound, probably hadn’t tried that option yet – on my system (Carver tuner with 2 Dahlquist DQM-9 Compact loudspeakers) choosing “stereo” cleaned up the sound greatly.
Unfortunately, most of the people who buy this DVD, probably already know how great it is. You won’t be disappointed, and if you show it to a friend or two, maybe the memory of The Who won’t die with us. There’s never been another band like them, and this DVD does them justice for the ages.
Review After having seen several other major DVD opportunities get squandered (The Beatles’s Hard Days Night leaps to mind), it is an utter delight to watch/listen to this DVD. It is great on several levels: the original film was one of the best collections of live performances in the history of rock, the reissue has dramatically improved the look and sound of the film, and the Special Edition extra disc includes some truly wonderful features. This ought to be the model for all future reissues, such as when/if they reissue the Rolling Stones’s Twenty-Five By Five.
Only a couple of years ago I was trying to explain to my daughter that in the sixties and seventies, the Who were full-fledged members of the rock Pantheon, as revolutionary and crucial as the Stones, the Beatles, or Led Zeppelin. For some reason, they went into a bit of a decline in the general musical consciousness (I found kids my daughter’s age might not know of them at all, whereas they knew the other aforementioned bands quite well). Thanks to some timely re-released and a tragic tour that saw the death of John Entwhistle, their star truly seems to be on the ascendant again. This album is crucial for proving what all of us at the time knew: the Who was without question one of the very greatest live bands of all time.
The Who was an amazing band, full of paradoxes. Roger Daltrey was one of the great front men in the history of rock, and Pete Townshend a crack songwriter and arguably the most entertaining to watch guitarist of all time. Yet, the lead instruments in the band, almost unique in rock, were Keith Moon and his maniacally abused drum kit and John Entwhistle’s bass, both of them among the top two or three of all time on their instruments, if not the best. They were a great rhythm section, but they jointly tended to take over the songs musically, unlike Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman for the Stones, who were content to stay rock solid in the background.
Live, they were amazing, with Daltrey marching in place, swinging the mike around like David about to use his sling against Goliath; Pete Townshend dancing disjointedly around while doing his famous helicopter chording of the guitar; Keith Moon playing as if he were on eight different drugs, tossing his drumsticks ten and twenty feet in the air; and amid it all, like the quiet in the eye of the hurricane, John Entwhistle standing stock still, motionless except for his hands moving up and down his bass, playing the instrument better than anyone else ever had, or perhaps has since.
The film begins with a bang, with a famous appearance on The Smothers Brothers Show (an awesome show because it was so amazingly subversive, with Tom and Dick acting like total squares, but in reality leftists who loved exposing the public to acts like Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl, and bands like The Who and Cream). Unlike Ed Sullivan, Tom and Dick truly loved these bands, and the opening number/skit, a rollicking version of “My Generation” (with Roger Daltrey suffering so badly from a faux upper-induced stammer that was a badge of their identification with the amphetamine-crazed Mods that one isn’t certain he is going to be able to finish each line). Each number brings new revelations or refreshes old memories. For instance, in “I Can’t Explain” from SHINDIG! Keith Moon is sporting a T-shirt with a bull’s eye on it, a full decade before Richard Hell would achieve notoriety in New York for wearing one when he was still with Television.
The numbers included in the film are both wide-ranging and representative. I suppose any Who fan will find many of their own favorites missing, but no one can complain that the numbers focus too much on one phase of their career. The selections are extraordinarily well balanced. One of the more poignant features is the fact that the performance of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” which was performed specifically for the film so that they could have one really good performance on film of one of their most famous numbers, was the last time the Who ever performed in their original line up; Keith Moon would die only three months later.
The extras disc is truly worth having, with a feature on the restoration of the movie, and nice items like a tour of the Who’s London, an interview with Roger Daltrey, and, my favorite bit, interesting versions of “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” that features only John Entwhistle’s bass and visuals. There is no question about it: the guy could play bass.
All in all, one is going to come across very few music DVDs quite this good. I highly recommend it.
Review Having never seen this film before, I was in no position to be impressed by the improved sound or video quality. And having read many of the reviews I was in a sweat of anticipation to finally see this film. Sometimes reading such positive reviews can create over-expectation, and this is what I was most concerned about. I’ve had that with Roger Waters’ In the Flesh and also Pink Floyd’s Pulse. This expectation was all the greater as I rate Who’s Next as the single greatest album of all time. There is not a note in the wrong place. How can you better that?
So it was with some trepidation I shoved in disk 1. This was made even worse by my 9-year old daughter occasionally coming into the room to laugh at the ‘gay guy’ singing. This standing joke began with them seeing Mick Jagger in Rock ‘n Roll Circus and my kids now routinely mock every 60s band I watch – but it doesn’t stop them watching in fascination.
In the end I wasn’t disappointed. Quite the contrary. Usually, no matter how good a performance is I rarely watch it all the way through at one sitting – there’s just too much else to do. This time I did, and even more rarely it left me wanting much more by The Who.
I’ve always been very selective about The Who – I don’t have much of their pre-Tommy stuff, except a compilation, or their post-Quadrophenia.
But this film demonstrated that they are not a by-numbers band. I hadn’t expected them to be an improvisational band, but this DVD has several renditions of the same song and each was worth watching, and were better than the studio version. I’ve already seen 30 Years of Maximum R&B, and was really divided as to which one to buy. Now I see I need both, as well as Live at the Isle of Wight and maybe even the Royal Albert Hall.
My philosophy with other bands is just to have one DVD to see what they’re like live. But The Kids Are Alright shows the evolution of the band – as only 60s bands seemed to evolve. Their early 60s music is quite different to late 60s, and their early 70s music is similarly quite different. Only the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Traffic and Pink Floyd evolved quite as much.
The film also clarified another thing for me – the praise heaped on John Entwhistle. You cannot appreciate his talent unless you see him play.