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The Who - Live at the Isle of Wight Festival CD (album) cover


The Who



3.56 | 17 ratings

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4 stars A little surprise for 600,000 people, at 2am

The Who stepped on stage at 2am facing a turbulent crowd of 600,000 people. Joni Mitchell had already been brought to tears by the vocal rabble rousers who were convinced that "music is free, man" and had begun to tear down the fences when they decided that buying tickets should be optional. Such nonsense would not phase Mr. Townshend who was determined to dispatch anyone who got into his face. And indeed The Who faced the crowd ready to rumble, with a "bring it on" attitude. They did rumble, but ultimately won them over in by charming them with music. The Who's Isle of Wight performance is a very successful one. Thankfully the performance has been saved for history by the folks who were filming this concert. The quality is remarkably good for 1970 although it is not perfect. There are some issues with syncing the film to the audio, and there are parts where the band seems out of tune. And yet who can complain? It kicks ass.

While Tommy is my least favorite of their classic albums and the most represented album in this set, I was just thrilled to witness this show. Townshend plays with pure violence and Entwistle's bass absolutely rams itself down your throat. You will feel his bass go down your throat and straight through to your rectum. And you'll like it. Daltrey is the most reserved performer here, perhaps his nerves are getting to him. Keith is on another planet, a bull in a china shop, constant blurring motion of pure energy. But unlike the Kilburn show I just watched, which featured a tired Who filled with anger and vitriol, this show revolved around positive energy on stage. The band is still at their peak and despite their "toughness", are still reaching out to the crowd with good will, smiles, and banter. And by the crunching Tommy finale, they had this somewhat skeptical, self-absorbed crowd on their feet pumping their fists to the huge rock stars who for many of them would no doubt revert to being "capitalist pigs" the next day. (Sorry, but watching the entitlement and arrogance of some of the more outspoken leftists presented here (and elsewhere in programs/books on Isle of Wight) was almost too much to stomach. They are perfectly happy to show up and enjoy the great music, do some great drugs, and socialize the evening away, but pay a few bucks for a ticket? Outrage, man! How dare 'our bands' stoop to this level! Townshend discusses his experience with some of these guys in the interview, don't miss it, he doesn't pull any punches when confronted.) It is most amazing to hear the wall of sound these four could generate-these days a reunion of any of the old bands include another 4 or 5 backing musicians just to get it done. Back then, the band handled it all. Here the sound is very dense and powerful, with a few lighter touches on some of the acoustic sections. At times the band was doing punk rock years before it hit the streets.

The disc also includes a lengthy bonus interview with Pete in which he discusses the counterculture, the gatecrashers at Wight, and his contentious relationship with his bandmates. He basically says he had nothing in common with any of them and did not enjoy being in The Who. He was there out of necessity. He saw himself as an artist who would have preferred to work outside of the group, but recognized the wide appeal the band gave him. If you enjoy The Who, the disc is a no-brainer, just get it. If you just want to see the most exciting set of an important festival that was bigger than Woodstock, go for it.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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