Pete Townsend’s Deep end – Face The Face – Video DVD + CD (1986/2016)

Pete Townsend’s Deep end – Face The Face – Video DVD + CD (1986/2016)

A thirty year-old concert of Who leader has re-emerged.

Performers: Pete Townsend – guitar, vocals; Peter-Hope Evans – harmonica; Chuchu Merca – bass; Simon Phillips – drums; John “Rabbit” Bundrick – keyboards; Jody Linscott – percussion; David Gilmour – guitar; “The Kick Horns” – Simon Clarke, Roddy Lorimer, Tim Sanders, Peat Brachill & Dave Plews; Billy Nicholls – background vocals; Ian Ellis – background vocals; Chris Staines – background vocals; Gina Foster – background vocals; Coral Gordon – background vocals
Studio: Eagle Vision, Eagle Rock Ent./ WDR Rockpalast EV307769, 2 discs (9/16/16)
Directors: Christian Wagner & Pete Townshend
Audio: DTS Digital Sound 5,1; Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 & Stereo
Video: 4:3 screen format on DVD
TrackList (DVD + CD are the same): Won’t Get Fooled Again; Secondhand Love; Give Blood; Behind Blue Eyes; After The Fire’ Slit Skirts; Blue Light; I Put A Spell On You; Hiding Out; The Sea Refuses No River; Face The Face; Pinball Wizard; A Little Is Enough; Rough Boys; Night Train
Length: 87 min.
Rating: Audio: ***1/2         Video: ***          Overall: ***1/2  

The Who keep marching on. For group inspiration and songwriter Pete Townsend, there have been many second and third acts to his career, Perhaps, his career as a solo recording artist has been somewhat dwarfed by the incredible brilliance and near-violent Who stage act. Roger Daltry took on the tougher songs like “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Long Live Rock”, “Who Are You” and “Pinball Wizard”. But there were tender Who numbers like “Song Is Over’ or rockers like “Eminence Front” that remind  everyone that the Who has two singers. Townsend’s solo albums starting in 197i emphasize spirituality on songs like “Pure And Easy” “A Little Is Enough” and “Rough Boys”. With the Who, Townsend’s stage persona was furious with exaggerated windmill guitar playing and physical abandon.

In 1986, four years after the Who’s first farewell tour, Townsend recorded a concept album, White City. With his backup band (Deep End) that included Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, Townsend recorded a memorable show in Cannes for the German TV series Rockpalast. Earlier VHS versions (with many of the songs in the set) have been seen, but now a DVD/CD set has been released. Townsend wisely opens with an iconic Who number, “Won’t get Fooled Again”. With tough acoustic strumming, Pete rips into the first verse, with a harmonica addition. The band joins in which includes a three-piece horn section. Townsend’s strength has always been songwriting. Solo pieces like “Give Blood” (with soulfull backup vocals) and “Second Hand Love” are fine examples of his composing prowess. But he is a casualty of his own success. When he starts “Behind Blue Eyes” (with an effective acoustic first verse again), his winsome higher-register vocals are excellent. Gilmour brings in the big time rock licks. The audience reaction reflects the long-standing appreciation of this brilliant composition.

“Slit Skirts” is an example of quintessential solo Townsend. The quirky vocal phrasing and trademark melodic interludes are on point. Townsend (despite a voice crack) appears to be hitting his stride. A highlight is his cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ eternal standard, “I Put A Spell On You”. He connects with blues, and Gilmour (who gets his own spotlight, performing “Blue Light”) has a nice solo.The band gets to shine on up tempo songs like “Face The Face”, “A Little Is Enough” and “Rough Boys”. But the central poignancy of this rock legend is more resonant on “The Sea Refuses No River”. Townsend is never better than on a solo acoustic guitar singing “Pinball Wizard”. His frenetic strumming and stunning poetic imagery are spine-tingling.

The video quality of this DVD is mediocre.The images are not crisp and the colors are muddled, especially with the stage lighting. The 4×3 format is now dated and cuts off the full stage. There are three audio mixes: DTS 5.1, Dolby 5.1 and Dolby stereo. The DTS sound has the biggest “kick” especially with the horns. The Dolby mix is more even, but not as dynamic.

—Robbie Gerson

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