I can’t help it. For me, seeing Keith Moon again exploding all over his drum kit at the top of his game is nigh unto a religious experience. So is hearing John Entwistle again, The Ox racing his fingers up and down his axe, making his bass both grounding and soaring. Joining them on The Who: Live in Texas ’75 are two other rather impressive gents named Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. Ah, those were the days, my friend.
Filmed at The Summit in Houston on November 20, 1975, The Who were plugging their newest studio album, The Who by Numbers which had been released just the previous month. By all appearances, they were in an exuberantly good mood that night. Throughout the set, the four banter and tease each other like old school chums, as with Entwistle enduring some good natured jibes before “Boris The Spider.” Daltrey tells the audience he was the one, along with Entwistle and Moon, to write Tommy, but Townshend ended up with all the credit because he was taller, more aggressive, and had a beard. Yes, those were the days.
Of course, most of the camaraderie demonstrated through the 117 minutes is heard in the raw, rough, and energetic playing and singing from a group who could toss out their hits with easy confidence. While the original video footage has been cleaned and the sound remixed by Jon Astley, The Who: Live in Texas ’75 never feels like slick and polished ‘70s arena rock. Instead, at this point in their career, The Who sounded like a great bar band with superlative original songs, very much reflecting the stripped down approach of The Who by Numbers. It might be heretical to say this, but this concert is more engaging than the legendary Live at Leeds.
Of course, the Texas gig was recorded five years and three studio albums after Leeds. This meant the set list could draw from Who’s Next, Quadrophenia, The Who by Numbers, and the single “Join Together.” So we get live versions of then-new staples like “Baba O’Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and surprising vocal harmonies on “Behind Blue Eyes.” From The Who by Numbers, we get “Dreaming From the Waist,” a problematic “Squeeze Box”—Townshend’s guitar drops out—and a rather poignant “However Much I Booze,” where Townshend reveals the very personal song was about his quitting drinking.
The highlights, as usual, come from an extended series of Tommy excerpts including Moon looning on “Fiddle About.” It’s a reminder that, on stage, Moon was a comic performer who enlivened the proceedings with more than his feet and sticks. The concert winds down with covers like “Summertime Blues”—a reminder of the Leeds, England gig—and “Roadrunner.” For an encore, The Who jam out on “Magic Bus” and present the second of their two versions of “My Generation,” the grand finale being a blues rendition.
What more do you need in a rock concert? In recent years, technology has allowed the band to showcase material from Quadrophenia and later work that couldn’t be so easily presented in 1975. The Texas performance captured the band three years before their last essential album, Who Are You, which was the last studio work for Moon. So The Who: Live in Texas ’75 is an evening with the classic lineup—no frills, no sonic wizardry, just straight-up driving rock and thundering roll. Speaking of being essential, this is a do-not-miss addition for your Who collection.