Written by General Jabbo
When it comes to live performances, few rock bands match the intensity of The Who, especially in their original incarnation. That edge is in full force in the two shows contained in The Who - At Kilburn 1977 DVD.
The Who originally filmed the Kilburn show for inclusion in the documentary The Kids Are Alright, but decided the footage was too rough and instead recreated the show at Shepperton Studios in London the following year (though “My Wife” from the Kilburn show appears on The Kids Are Alright soundtrack). Looking back, it’s a shame the band felt that way, as Kilburn captures a raw, but fierce intensity. The band had not played live in over a year, and rehearsals weren’t going well with the rapidly deteriorating Keith Moon. In fact, Kilburn was the next-to-last gig Moon performed with The Who, as he died less than a year after the filming. In spite of this, Moon still plays with most of his usual abandon. Pete Townshend lets all his frustrations out in the show, looking like a crazed man with his windmills and jumping. He genuinely seems threatening up there. In the height of the punk era, this was rock at its most dangerous.
Opening with “I Can’t Explain,” the band slams through 15 songs in the hour-plus set with songs ranging from their biggest hits (“My Generation,” “Substitute” and “Pinball Wizard) to more obscure tracks such as “Dreaming from the Waist” from The Who By Numbers (not from The Who Sell Out as the enclosed booklet mistakenly says) and “Tommy’s Holiday Camp.” The show includes the famous sequence of Roger Daltrey in the laser lights during “Won’t Get Fooled Again” that was recreated in the Shepperton show, but the true highlight is the first-ever performance (and sole performance with Moon) of “Who Are You.” As the album of the same name was not yet out, this version differs from the studio release and has a looser feel to it.
Visually, the Kilburn show is stunning as it was shot on 35mm film with six cameras, giving it a quality seldom seen in concert films, especially from that era. The film is presented in Dolby Digital stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Digital Surround.
If all this wasn’t enough, At Kilburn 1977 also includes the first-ever recorded performance of Tommy from the London Coliseum in 1969. It’s only when you compare the two shows that you realize how bad of shape Moon was in. While 1977 Moon was great, the 1969 Moon was superhuman, especially on cuts such as “Young Man Blues.”
The Coliseum show was not lit to be filmed, and thus the show is dark and grainy. Some of the video has dropouts, but its historical significance can’t be underestimated. This is Live at Leeds-era Who at their finest.
The only negative of this bonus disc is that it is presented with only the best video footage in the actual show. For instance, some of the mini-opera “A Quick One While He’s Away” is cut from the main show, as the video footage is not that good. The same goes for some of the Tommy songs. The songs are presented in their entirety as bonus features. One would think if they were to be included that they’d just put the entire show in sequence. Also, when Moon speaks, he is often subtitled on the screen. Granted, the audio is low and his accent was thick, but you can understand him.
Still, these beefs are minor and don’t take away from the powerful music contained on these DVDs. If you are wondering why The Who are considered one of the greatest live bands of all time, At Kilburn 1977 will show you many reasons.