The Who – Isle Of Wight 2004 (Blu-ray + 2 CDs) – 2017

The Who – Isle Of Wight 2004 (Blu-ray + 2 CDs) – 2017

The Who reclaim their rock throne.

Cast: Pete Townsend – guitar, vocals; Roger Daltrey – vocals; Simon Townsend – guitar, vocals; Pino Palladino – bass; Zak Starkey – drums; John “Rabbit” Bundrick – keyboards
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment EVB335649
Director: Matt Askem
Audio: DTS-Master Audio 5.1; LPCM Stereo 2.0
Video: 1.78:1 for 1080i HD, color
Length: 132 minutes
Rating:                     Audio: ****:                          Video: ****:                          Overall: ****:

When the Beatles disbanded in 1970, there was a certain void. It was filled primarily by The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Who. Purveying the social and political anger of their era, The Who were defined by the anthemic, brilliant songwriting of Pete Townsend. In addition, Townsend’s theatrical guitar playing electrified the rock scene. Singer Roger Daltrey exemplified the gritty working class with his growling vocals. Keith Moon’s maniacal, propulsive drumming added to the explosive mix. And John Entwhistle’s sophisticated bass refined an elegance to this wild band. The Who became iconic with songs like “My Generation”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Pinball Wizard”, “Who Are You” and “Behind Blue Eyes”. Their live performances symbolized their no-holds-barred assault on rock. Despite the passing of Moon and Entwhistle, Daltrey and Townsend reunited over the years.

One of the Who’s greatest live concert was the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival. The festival which drew around 650,000 people was discontinued for that very reason. The Who returned to Isle Of Wight in 2004. Eagle Rock Entertainment has released a blu-ray (with 2 CDs) of that concert (The Who Isle Of Wight 2004 Festival). Townsend and Daltrey are backed up by a tight band and they pick up where they left off. Amazingly, the remaining Who members put on an energetic 2 + hour set of mind-blowing rock. Opening the evening is a string of early hits (“I Can’t Explain”/“Substitute”/“Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”). Townsend rips on incendiary guitar runs with dramatic windmill gestures. Daltrey belts out teenage angst that defies age. The music keeps getting better. “Who Are You” is explosive. Townsend asks the audience….”Is it loud enough?”) and profanely asks the mixers too turn up the volume. Then a stunning trio of numbers from Who’s Next ensues. “Behind Blue Eyesstill has the same emotional impact and desperation. “Bargain” has crescendos galore and “Baba O’Riley” brings down the house with unprecedented three chord magic.The poignancy of “…Don’t cry, don’t brace your eye. It’s only teenage wasteland!” is timeless.

The hits keep coming with a trio of songs (“The Punk And The Godfather”/“5:15”/ “Drowned”) from Quadrophenia. “My Generation” was a calling card for disaffected youth, and the stuttering vocal by Daltrey and intense rocking by Townsend still drives this point. Pete came to play and exuded a committed, serious vibe to his guitar playing. The set concludes with the anarchistic “Won’t get Fooled Again”, and yes, Roger hits the screech near the cynical summary, (“…Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”). What could possibly follow up this song. The band skips the leaving the band in a faux pre-encore, and launches into a quartet of tunes from the rock opera, Tommy. Townsend’s spine-tingling chord opening to “Pinball Wizard” is extraordinary. “Amazing Journey” and “Sparks” display rhythmic grace and shifting tempos, while highlighting the band’s creativity. “See Me, Feel Me/Listening To You” is poetic and moving, as it was in 1969. The Who exit the stage, but wait! They return and launch into a revved up hand jive rendition of “Magic Bus”. What a night!

The audio quality of the blu-ray is very good. The default setting is stereo, so you will want to select DTS_Master Audio to get the superior 5.1 mix. The power of the electric instrumentation is more prevalent in this audio setting. The video displays crisp editing and excellent stage closeups. The camera focus is very sharp Nearly all of the band footage is reserved for Townsend and Daltrey. Unfortunately, there are unnecessary audience shots, but the emphasis is on the performance.

TrackList: 
I Can’t Explain
Substitute
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
Who Are You
Behind Blue Eyes
Bargain
Baba O’Riley
The Punk And The Godfather
5:15
Love Reign O’er Me
Eminence Front
Drowned
Naked Eye
Real Good Looking Boy
You Better You Bet
My Generation
Old Red Wine
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Pinball Wizard
Amazing Journey
Sparks
See Me Feel Me/Listening To You
Magic Bus

—Robbie Gerson         

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