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Music DVD Review: The Who – At Kilburn 1977

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So this was the holy grail of unreleased Who footage huh? The 1977 Kilburn performance was originally filmed for The Kids Are Alright documentary and it has been collecting dust in the band's vault ever since — apparently they thought it was a little too rough around the edges to use.

Well, yes indeed is was, but this fascinating DVD proves that the material was certainly still worthy of release. And now, 32 years later, we finally have it available in beautifully restored and re-mastered form, along with some not-so-beautifully restored bonus footage of the band's 1969 concert at the London Coliseum.

The Who hadn't played live in over a year prior to the Kilburn show, and their rustiness and lack of rehearsal was quite evident. However, a little sloppiness doesn't necessarily make for a bad show when you are talking about one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. These two recordings show you why in two completely different ways.

Pete Townshend tried his best to hold it all together during the Kilburn performance, but his frustration was clearly evident on more than a few occasions. Watch him knock over an amp head and several drink cups into a terrified looking guitar tech during "My Wife" or christen "Dreaming From The Waist" a "fresh turd." About half-way into the set he finally concedes, "Well, this wasn't fucking worth filming. Might as well send the cameramen home."

Although Townshend was a bit pissed off and frustrated that night, his playing was all the more energized and explosive because of it. He was constantly, jumping around, doing splits, spinning his famous windmill chord strikes, and executing some of the coolest guitar-god poses in the business. I couldn't even match those moves while playing "air-guitar," let alone with a heavy-ass Gibson Les Paul strapped around my scrawny little neck.

The main thing that makes this DVD an essential addition to any respectable Who fan's collection, is the fact that it was Keith Moon's next to last live performance before his untimely death in 1978. He would die only nine months after the recording of this show, and just after the actual Kids Are Alright re-shoot. Moon was especially spirited and engaging (and apparently shit-faced too), but his drum performance was far removed from his prime.

The set list features classic early singles like "Can't Explain" and "Substitute," a few tracks each from Tommy, and Who's Next, and a couple of old covers, "Summertime Blues," and "Shakin' All Over." The highlight of the show comes near the end of the set when they follow a super loose and heavy version of "Join Together" with a raw, keyboard-less, preview of "Who Are You," from their yet to be released album of the same name. The song segues perfectly into the ominous synthesizer intro to the epic Who masterpiece ,"Won't Get Fooled Again," which closes out the show in raucous fashion.

If the intriguing Kilburn main feature isn't enough to entice you into getting this DVD, then the bonus material just might. Included are almost two and one-half hours worth of footage from The Who's December 14th, 1969 concert at the London Coliseum, which was filmed during the band's legendary Tommy tour.

The reason that this footage has been locked in the band's vault for 38 years is because the video is practically unwatchable. The show was shot using 16mm cameras and the venue had no special camera lighting, so the picture is extremely dark, soft, and grainy, and the colors are almost completely washed out. The audio fares much better, but is not nearly as good as the Kilburn show. Although it was re-mastered with a couple of decent DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, the instrument separation and dynamic range were nearly non-existent.

The band's performance was a different story entirely – in fact it may be one of The Who's best performances captured on film. The famous Live At Leeds album was recorded only a few months after this show, and it is now strikingly clear just how that album turned out to be one of the greatest live rock albums of all time. The set is very similar to the Leeds show, but you are also treated to a complete performance of Tommy. If only this had been filmed better.

At Kilburn 1977 offers plenty of good reasons for any Who fanatic to run out and get it – like yesterday. The more casual fans may want to pass.

Set List
01. I Can't Explain
02. Substitute
03. Baba O' Riley
04. My Wife
05. Behind Blue Eyes
06. Dreaming From the Waist
07. Pinball Wizard
08. I'm Free
09. Tommy's Holiday Camp
10. Summertime Blues
11. Shakin' All Over
12. My Generation
13. Join Together
14. Who Are You
15. Won't Get Fooled Again

Ratings:
Performance 7/10
Production 7/10

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About Paul Roy

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Nice review Paul. This is a decent performance, but if you really want great, vintage live Who, the Isle of Wight DVD is hard to beat. Its basically the same setlist as Leeds and on the bonus DVD here, but the quality (both sound and picture) are infinitely better. Like you say, this one’s a keeper for the hardcores, but Leeds is an absolute must-have.

    -Glen

  • JC Mosquito

    Interesting, but not a set that was the stuff of legend. I see why Stein wanted them to refilm the set.

  • Paul Roy

    Thanks Glen. This DVD has really reignited my interest in The Who again, and the Isle of Wight DVD is next on my list. I’ve got most of the recent DVDs by these guys, but there is nothing like some vintage Who.