|Who, The - Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970|
|Written by Jeff Fish|
|Monday, 09 August 2004|
There are a handful of bands and performers that helped set rock ‘n’ roll on its course. Among this handful of visionaries, some could write and perform their material in the studio, no problem, but on stage, the material didn’t translate. Others didn’t write the greatest songs or albums, but on stage they were unstoppable. The Who had both the ability to write classic material and perform it compellingly live. Not only were their albums highly anticipated events, but in concert, they were like none that had come before them.
The energy and volume alone were enough to break down any preconceived notion of what a rock concert should be like. The Who’s performance at Woodstock alone would be enough to guarantee their place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but what about those albums! “The Who Sing My Generation,” “The Who Sell Out,” “Tommy,” “Who’s Next” and “Quadrophenia” are all landmark albums, and this list only scratches the surface their work.
The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival was the last great gathering of the ‘60s generation. There is a simply magnificent movie that was made of this festival, “Message to Love – The Isle of Wight Festival,” which features performances by The Moody Blues, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and The Who, to name a few. This movie and “The Who - Live at The Isle of Wight” were both shot by the same director, Murray Lerner. What he caught on film was the end of the ‘60s. The turmoil and the violence, along with the disjointed nature of the counterculture, were all coming to a head, and on “Message to Love,” you can witness the beginning of the end (or, as some would say, the end of the end, depending on your point of view). Much like “Gimme Shelter” (the 1970 documentary of The Rolling Stones 1969 tour, ending with Altamont), “Message to Love” gives you a glimpse into the darker side of the ‘60s generation.
So what about music and this DVD, though? Well this was at a time where The Who were at the top of their powers, both in the studio and live in concert. They were out promoting “Tommy,” as well as the play list from “Live at Leeds” (still my personal favorite for all-time greatest live album). So what about this concert? The Who were on fire! This is a DVD that I would recommend that any aspiring group of musicians or band watch together. Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon are among the very best at each of their respective instruments. And Roger Daltrey just might be the best front man of all time, besides having one of the greatest voices in rock history. It was like The Who were a band of soloists, but if you only heard their studio work, I think you’d have a hard time understanding that. Live, Townshend would hold the composition together, while Entwistle and Moon were locked in a furious battle over who would control the beat. But don’t think that Moon didn’t solo – he solos his ass off live, and on this DVD, it’s captured beautifully. This was when The Who owned the concert circuit as well as the rock world. There may have been bands that made better albums, but The Who would blow any other band off the stage.
On August 30, 1970, The Who took the stage at about 2:00 AM and with the help of a 125,000-watt PA and airport landing lights, they made it impossible to ignore them. After watching this disc, I’m sure all who were in attendance are glad that they were there. There was a DVD released of this very concert in 1998, but it was only a standard two-channel stereo mix. This, on the other hand, is a very nicely redone package with a full 5.1 surround sound mix, which sounds great. The music mainly comes from the front two speakers, with most of the vocals coming out of the center channel. The surround speakers are mostly what you might have heard if you were in the audience. Not only was the sound track remixed, but also the film itself was re-mastered from the original film negatives, which breathes new life into visuals. But the song selection is really why you’d want to own this disc. “Heaven and Hell,” “Young Man Blues,” “Water,” “My Generation” and “Magic Bus” are some of the non-“Tommy” cuts, with a generous portion of “Tommy” being served up. My main complaint with this disc is that they didn’t include the entire concert. I have the CD of this concert and it’s much longer, with the complete “Tommy” performed at this show. There might be technical reasons for this exclusion, but it would sure be nice to see the entire “Tommy” album live (especially with The Who in their prime), but that is really a small complaint. This is a piece of history and for any fan of rock, this is a must-own.
New to this release as well is a recently shot interview with Townshend, which lasts approximately 30 minutes. As with any interview with Townshend, you’re going to get some brilliant observations and insights along with some head scratchers. In the beginning of the interview, he talks about how wanted to quit The Who years previous and how he would come home saying he didn’t like touring with any of the members. And yet they still tour?! Head scratcher. But overall, this disc is really good. The mix has a very warm sound to it and the instruments all come across without stepping on one another. The power and volume that The Who played with is something I don’t think we’ll ever see again, either from The Who or anyone else. What you have here is an incredible concert in an incredible time by an incredible band. I highly recommend this DVD for anyone who wants to know what those times were like, or for anyone who was there and might want a refresher.