Review of The Who: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970
Label
Eagle Rock Entertainment
The Who: Live at the
Isle of Wight Festival 1970

Reviewed by Carlos Ramirez

T

he advent of Blu-ray has been an absolute godsend for music and film geeks. Its high-definition capabilities have especially been fantastic for live DVDs, where the restored audio and visual aspects really make a noticeable difference – and we can’t think of many concert films that deserve the Blu-ray treatment as much as the Who’s “Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970.” Many rock journos consider the performance as the Who’s finest live moment. Originally released as a CD and VHS by Sony in 1996, the set has been re-released on DVD, but this new version is the one to get.

Captured on film by Academy Award-winning director Murray Lerner, “Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970”finds the Who in fighting form. Pete Townshend plays with a possessed look in his eyes while Roger Daltrey struts around the massive stage like his shit don’t stink. Every move and pose the duo makes here has been copied by an endless list of would-be rock stars. The concert daringly starts off with “Heaven and Hell,” which is sung by John Entwistle. Opening such a pivotal show in their career with a non-hit that doesn't even feature Daltrey on vocals shows that their rebel spirit was already in full swing. Right from the get-go, Keith Moon attacks his drum kit with manic abandon. Watching him work is a revelation. How could someone playing so wildly maintain such an unfailingly steady rhythm the entire time?

The Who actually took the stage around 2 AM for this festival appearance, but you wouldn’t know it from the crowd’s fevered reaction. Their infectious energy feeds the band’s set, and the songs are performed with an adrenalized vigor. Most of their hits (up to that point) are featured, but the setting lifts moments like “I Can’t Explain” and “I’m Free” to lofty heights. The restored audio touch is evident in the grand scope of the vocal and bass guitar mix. With a beast like Entwistle flying around the fretboard the way he does here, the Blu-ray overhaul is appreciated.

Confident in their control and comfort over his newer songs, Townshend chose to unveil “Water,” “Naked Eye,” and “I Don’t Even Know Myself” at Isle of Wight -- a bold move that ultimately paid off. The rhythm section, in particular, tears into the compositions with the kind of fervor that usually goes hand in hand with the excitement of performing brand new material. Tommy is also played here in all its glory. Lesser bands would have probably been swallowed up by the gargantuan task of rocking the complete album after such an already exhausting set, but this is the Who in 1970 we’re talking about.

This new version also includes a lengthy interview with Townshend, but you can always find that kind of thing on YouTube these days. The real gift here is the Blu-ray blessed concert footage. Audiophiles need to take notice of this one.

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