Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The 'oo on DVD

1) The Kids Are Alright. Essential. This '78 fan-directed doco actually restored my Who fandom not once, but twice. Sell Out, Live At Leeds, and Quadrophenia were all life-changers for me, in different ways, as was seeing them at Forest Hills in '71. But I'd since lost the thread until I saw this in the theater in Texas when it came out and again in Aspen with my band of the time, winter '79-'80. The "special edition" DVD from 2003 is the one to get, as it restores A Quick One from The Rolling Stones Rock 'n' Roll Circus -- the moment at which they were becoming the greatest live band in the world, which they'd stay a couple of years -- to its rightful magnificence, but there are so many highlights, and really no non-snazz moments. As Reggie Rueffer would say, you gotta have this, Papa!

2) 30 Years of Maximum R&B Live. Originally released in conjunction with their similarly-titled mid-'90s box set, this is almost as essential for fans as TKAA, particularly the three songs from Tanglewood, 1970, and four from Charlton Football Club, 1974. Things start getting dodgy in the Kenny Jones era and go completely south with a horrendous, overblown "Love Reigh O'er Me" from Shea Stadium, 1982, and three songs from the ill-advised "everything but the kitchen sink" 1989 reunion tour. Wise buyers will seek out an original DVD and steer clear of the double-disc 2009 Maximum R&B Live retooling, which replaces the Tanglewood songs with three songs from the At Kilburn: 1977 set (see below).

3) Live At the Isle of Wight Festival 1970. A fan's dream, the most complete release of a show from their late prime -- including the greatest-ever "Young Man Blues" that previously appeared in 30 Years -- but not an unalloyed good thing, as the editors sought to inject "conceptual continuity" by grouping the encore songs that followed Tommy in real time together with the other non-Tommy songs, as a result of which you get to see Townshend smash his guitar in frustration at the end of "Magic Bus" right before they kick off the opera. Duh. The 2006 "special edition" adds two songs that were originally omitted plus a new interview with Townshend.

4) Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who. If you disliked the lack of narrative flow in TKAA, here's a bona fide documentary on the band, directed by Isle of Wight documentarian Murray Lerner, and it's a goodun, if you like this kind of thing, although its lack of complete songs is a built-in irritant to fans. The extras include Lambert and Stamp's original '64 footage of the High Numbers, worth the price of admission by itself, and a peek behind the scenes at a 2003 recording session that I expected to hate but wound up liking real much (at this point, the friendship between Pete and Rog is _the story_). Go fig.

5) At Kilburn: 1977. This is the first invitation-only show that Jeff Stein filmed for TKAA and you can see why it wasn't used -- not only the band's shambolic performance but the way they seem distant from the viewer in a way they wouldn't in the live-at-Shepperton performances of "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" that Stein wound up using (although the iconic knee-drop slide from the end of "WGFA" is actually from Kilburn). Still, it's a not-bad greatest hits set, with Townshend injecting a little spontaneity with the attempted jam on "Join Together"/"Who Are You" (then still in gestation) that follows "My Generation." What makes this really worthwhile, though, is the second disc that includes the complete 1969 London Coliseum show that provided the "Young Man Blues" seen in TKAA and the "Happy Jack" seen in 30 Years. It's the complete set they were playing in the Woodstock-through-Leeds time, including "Fortune Teller," "Tattoo," "I'm A Boy," and "A Quick One," and it burns even though the lighting is pretty dodgy throughout (although it's fine for the Tommy finale and "My Generation" encore). You won't even care that the complete Tommy performance is consigned to a special feature due to drop outs in the 16mm filming, as it's the weakest part of the set.


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