Sunday, January 25, 2009

DVD Review - The Who at Kilburn 1977

The Who at Kilburn is actually a double DVD with two concerts. One DVD has the Who live in 1969 at the London Coliseum and the other is the advertised 1977 gig filmed on a soundstage for the movie The Kids Are Alright but scrapped by the band due to the performance quality.

Both of these concerts are amazing and are a must have for any fan of the Who. Let’s start with the 1969 show. This is actually the second DVD and is cited as ‘bonus material’ on the box. I think that highly undersells what you get with this set. Yeah, the film quality is not that great – it’s similar to the footage of Young Man Blues in The Kids Are Alright movie. It’s dark and since the concert was never intended to be released on film, there are moments of blackness on the stage and funky camera angles.

The first song looks kind of like a fan video on YouTube. Then the other cameras kick in and we have multiple angles and close ups. But who the hell cares? This DVD captures the Who on the cusp of their prime. The band had only been performing Tommy live for a few months. They are broke, young and hungry. They are not yet mega-stars and indeed it was just before this period where drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle were going to quit the band and join Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in their new supergroup.

Put simply, the 1969 show is The Who at their very best. Moon is in full tilt, twirling his sticks and generally putting on the most incredible show. I have never seen anyone play drums like that before or since. Pete is in the white boiler suit playing the Gibson SG, Daltry in the fringe jacket, etc. If you like Live At Leeds, the 1969 DVD is basically that album on film.

Note that to see the whole of Tommy and A Quick One you need to access the bonus features on this DVD. There are a lot of camera and audio gaps, so it looks like the directors wanted to keep Tommy as a whole out of the main DVD program. A bit confusing, but if you get annoyed that Tommy picks up near its completion in the main concert, just access the bonus features!

In general, the Tommy stuff is out of control and other high points are Young Man Blues, and a totally heavy Happy Jack. And a final note – the band’s vocal harmonies are prevalent and very tight in this period.

Then we also get the 1977 Kilburn show, which is really the focus of the DVD.

This is the same band 8 years later, but are they really the same? They are now rich and famous. Punk is in full force and the Who are seen by some in this new movement as dinosaurs of the same ilk as Yes and ELP. The band has nothing left to prove but is still trying to remain relevant.

Compounding this problem is that Keith Moon, a central power in the Who's live show, is a shadow of his former self. The last 14 months, he has been in California, partying and not playing drums. He is overweight and is lacking the confidence on display in the 1969 show.

Sure enough, the first thing Daltry says onstage is that the band hasn't played in more than a year so he's not sure what is going to happen.

Having said all of this, I don't think the band disappoints. Yeah, there are a few train wreck moments where Moon comes in at the wrong place, and one spot where Pete gets totally lost. But it's great to see the band this raw and this human.

I actually feel like Moon is more on the ball in this show than he is at the show filmed six months later that was used in The Kids movie (Baba O'Reilly and Won't Get Fooled Again). On this latter show, Townshend is certainly more on the ball. He is smiling and clowning during the songs in the Kids film.

In the Kilburn film, he is surly. He does not look happy to be onstage and there is a classic moment where he goes back to turn his amps up and a roadie interferes. Pete throws a tantrum and shoves his Hi-Watt amps backwards off the speakers. The hair stood up on my arms when he did that.

The song choices are great in the Kilburn concert. Some of the standouts are My Wife, Dreaming from the Waist, Shakin All Over and a really rough keyboard-less version of Who Are You, which the band was just learning.

Despite the weird energy onstage, the band is seriously on fire. Yeah it's raw, but it's LIVE. Daltry's voice is still raging, and Entwistle does not disappoint either. I still found myself focusing on Moon. Even though he was not up to his prime, he is still unreal. And frankly, a pissed off Pete is a great Pete live.

These two concerts could not be more different from one another. In 1969, you have a young, hungry and broke band, still really trying to prove itself. In 1977, you have a bloated supergroup trying to prove it is still valid. It is fascinating to watch live footage from both of these periods.

Here is the trailer:

3 comments:

The RIpple Effect said...

very nice, detailed review. You picked out beautiful points that I, and I'm sure many others, may have missed.

Thanks for checking us out at the Ripple Effect.

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

EXCELLENT review, I agree completely :)

neddrum said...

I think it's interesting that "Who are You" emerges from a Jam. It's obvious that they had learned it in the studio but their parts hadn't quite come together yet. Moon plays a beat instead of the high hat pattern on the "Whooooo are you" chorus and everyone seems a bit unsure of the song in general. I believe this only time Moon played this song live which sadly brings to mind that footage of Kenny Jones rehearsing Who Are You for a tour the following year.

One remarkable thing about Kilburn is how low-key the band is. There's a lot of standing around debating about what song to play and casual conversation with the audience. It's not a "production" by any stretch.

Thanks for the awesome review Isorski!