The Who - At Kilburn: 1977 DVD Review ~ BrooklynRocks: NYC Music Blog

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Who - At Kilburn: 1977 DVD Review

The Who - At Kilburn: 1977 DVD ReviewThe Who's Kilburn show has been the subject of debate for decades. This show was filmed for inclusion in The Kids Are Alright but scrapped due to 'poor performance' and the only artifact from this show that had surfaced, prior to the DVD release, was the inclusion of "My Wife" on The Kids Are Alright soundtrack. (Note: The live footage included in the movie was from a show in May of 1978.) I've known Who collectors who have been after this show for years as it is both Keith's second to last performance and it is also the first performance of material from the (then) forthcoming Who's Next LP.

I think the first question that most people will ask is "was the band's performance that bad that this film had to be shelved for 30 years?" The quick answer is "no" - The Who aren't playing at the highly polished, "professional" rock band level that they were when they filmed the Toronto show on their first farewell tour. The late 1977 version of The Who hadn't played live in 14 months and seemed to want to prove themselves still relevant as punk was coming onto the music scene. There are a number of mistakes throughout the performance but it adds to the concert's charm and raw power of The Who shines through.

One of the things that was always said about this era of The Who was that Keith had slowed down. While this is true, Keith hadn't lost his drumming chops. Keith gets off to a bit of a slow start but picks up speed (and confidence?) as the show progresses. Pete Townsend is amazing when he is angry and he is explosive in this show. Physically, he is all over the stage with kicks, splits and duck walks. He also knocks over a monitor cabinet, hits himself in the head with his guitar, and winds-up the audience with comments like "There's a guitar up here if any bigmouth little git wants to take it off me!". This certainly isn't the 'elder statesman of rock' side of Pete. John is his usual calm self and the cameras clearly captures his fantastic fret work on songs like "Dreaming from the Waist". Roger is simply Roger - aside for flubbing a verse to one song, Roger looks on top of his game.

Some of the highlights of the show are Keith's pushing in on Roger to sing "Tommy’s Holiday Camp", Pete and John's extended jam during "My Wife" and explosive versions of "Who Are You" and "Won't Get Fooled Again". Both the audio and video/picture quality are outstanding. The show was filmed in 35mm by 6 cameras and professional recorded on 16-track audio.

The second disc in this set is fascinating look at The Who filmed live the "Tommy" tour. This show was filmed at the London Coliseum on December 14, 1969 and the date falls directly between The Who's Woodstock performance and the Live At Leeds recording. Like the extended Live At Leeds CDs, the set list includes the full performance of Tommy interspersed with some lesser known numbers and R&B classics.

Track on the DVD are:
• "Heaven and Hell"
• "Fortune Teller"
• "Tattoo"
• "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"

According the book included with the DVD, this film was discovered in a garbage dump outside the offices of Track Records. The DVD lead-in gives the caveat that "the show was lit for the theatre, not for filming". All-in-all, the film is a bit dark and somewhat (good) bootleg-ish quality. The close-up shots are brilliant but, when the camera pans out, the the full band shots are a bit distant and grainy. The audio portion of this show though is great.

The band's performance is a night-and-day difference from the 1977 performance. Pete seems happy and talks more with the audience than I have seen him do in many years. Keith's performance is explosive - he is young, fit and rages all over his drum kit (when not making cracks at Pete). It is also nice to see John sing a few more songs than he did in the later years.

Long-time Who fans are going to want both of these shows. The casual fan may not appreciate the video quality of the 1969 show but the audio portion is still great.

The Who's Website