For better or worse Live in Hyde Park is The Who in 2015 and I, for one, will take it. The new Blu-ray-plus-double-CD set presents Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey in fine late-career form. Of course it goes without saying that The Who has never been the same since the untimely passing of original drummer Keith Moon in 1978. Another untimely passing, that of bassist John Entwistle in 2002, resulted in further diminishing of the band’s power. With this recent concert, taped June 26, 2015 at London’s Hyde Park, Mssrs. Townshend and Daltrey are backed by Pino Palladino on bass (Entwistle’s replacement ever since the band resumed touring following The Ox’s death) and longtime touring drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr’s son). The lineup doesn’t stop there, however: Townshend’s brother Simon helps thicken the sound with more guitar, plus there’s a trio of keyboardists in John Corey, Loren Gold, and Frank Simes (also credited as Musical Director).
So The Who has evolved into something of a jam band, far from the lean quartet of yore in which each member had a perfectly defined role. The original Who was a band in the truest sense possible, at least as much (and probably more) of a “four-headed monster” than The Beatles (or fill-in-the-blank with sacred-cow band of your choice). Nowadays Townshend’s guitar thrashing still packs plenty of sting and Daltrey’s weathered voice musters an impressive level of power—but the intensity has dimmed overall, which is perhaps inevitable. The sound we’re left with is sludgier but still thrillingly alive. It’s basically Townshend and Daltrey paying tribute to their legacy, proving that age, hearing loss (Townshend), and illness (Daltrey) haven’t robbed them of the ability to rock out full throttle.
From the word go, with an opening sloppy-but-great workout on the song that started it all—”I Can’t Explain,” the band is bristling. Yes, it’s more relaxed and looser than Live at Leeds or any other untouchably brilliant live Who work, but it’s still invigorating. For reasons unknown, the producers of this set has reserved some tunes as “bonus tracks” on the Blu-ray, but the CDs contain the entire show in order. This includes a booming run through of “The Kids Are Alright” and a ragged “The Seeker.” The set also benefits from the inclusion of an early, too seldom-played chestnut “Pictures of Lily.”
Speaking of the CDs, these are no mere “bonus” addition. If you’re like me, it’s hard to find time to watch a full concert video more than once. That’s where the discs come in, since they make it much easier to revisit the show, in full or in part, while on the go. As for Eagle Rock’s Blu-ray presentation, the 1080i visuals are basically just what we’d expect from a modern, HD concert release. The biggest benefit is the spectacular DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, and the LPCM 2.0 stereo track is a great alternative if you’re not equipped for surround.
The three discs are conveniently packaged in a four-panel digipak, augmented by a booket of pictures and liner notes. Looking for some classic rock to burn your holiday gift cards on? The Who – Live in Hyde Park packs a great value.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B015UE84I0]