The Who – [Album]

Sunday, 08 August 2010

At some point in its' career (if it has taken off and become successful), a band will start to realize who it is; whether it's because they're eating better or have a little extra money to throw around. At that point, they get a little bit confident and why shouldn't they? They paid their dues, left pints of proverbial blood on innumerable stages and got some recognition for it all but (whether as a contrived measure or not) kept its' head down and seemed to be unaffected by the cheers. Eventually that mask falls though, and the band feels comfortable enough to throw its' weight around in front of thousands of people; to be entertainers. That's exactly where The Who was in 1970; the band had already littered rock history with a succession of genre-defining number one hits and even a couple of classic albums, had already sold out some of the largest venues on Earth and had won the world over. They were a staggering success story – so why not bask in that a little? Prior to the band's performance at Isle Of Wight in 1970, the members of The Who  must have asked themselves that exact same question and, judging by the sound of the performance, they couldn't come up with a good reason not to. That isn't to say that the band phones this show in – far from it – but it's clear in listening to the onstage-to-audience interaction that, by 1970, The Who has broken through and knew it.

From the very beginning of the set, there is an ease and a facility about The Who and their presence on the stage that might surprise listeners. From the beginning of “Heaven And Hell,” The Who begins a pattern of simply knocking their individual hits out of the park and Tommy – the album of the moment at the time – which the band plays out here in its' entirety. With blazing ease, Daltrey barrels out every song in The Who's eighty-plus-minute set while Pete Townshend's guitar screams perfectly articulated lines at staggering volumes. This is the sort of night where The Who would cast a spell and take listeners on a journey and, even before Daltrey announces Tommy's overture, it doesn't even sound like the band is playing to anyone; the crowd is watching just that closely.

…And The Who certainly gives that crowd something to see and hear. Played as it is here, Tommy takes on a truly epic tone as Daltrey and Townshend knock out every note without diversion while Moon (who was well into his streak of notoriously reckless behavior) and Entwistle pummel eardrums gracefully.

There are moments – like in the middle of “Amazing Journey” here – when listeners will become totally transfixed, even forty years later; that's how potent the performance is.

As the show goes on and “Pinball Wizard” and “Tommy Can You Hear Me?” shatter the senses of those that were at the show (you can hear it happen here – no joke) and even cause those just listening now to gasp in spite of themselves, it becomes apparent that while this show was very much “of a time,” it is also timeless because it is still able to affect audiences so profoundly. After “We're Not Gonna Take It” lets out and the band runs out its' time by playing still more hits including “Substitute,” “My Generation” and “Magic Bus” the combination of the songs and the performance reveal themselves to be every ounce a classic; the sound was there, the moment was right, the band knew it and could pull it off and so they did; the results are classic.



Live at the Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 comes out August 10, 2010 on Eagle Records. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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