The Who: Live at Hull

The Who

Live at Hull

Geffen, 2013

The Who’s Live At Leeds is arguably one of the finest live documents of a powerhouse rock band at their peak. And in 1970, The Who was. They did not have the financial success of contemporaries, The Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Sure they had some singles that sold well, but they smashed their gear most every night and as a result, were tapped out financially. When they had the breakout success of their rock opera,Tommy, they were still playing 6 or 7 nights a week and twice on Saturday. There is nothing like this kind of roadwork to hone a performer into a picture of perfection. And that’s what Live at Leeds is.

Live at Hull, just released this year, was the performance the band gave the very next night after the legendary Leeds set. The list of songs is nearly identical. And yet there is something dramatically different in tone and attack in the performance. This show seems much more purposeful. Gone (thankfully) are the long winded introductions by Pete Townshend. There’s little to no goofing around between the performers, and many of the songs, at least internally, take on new form. All of this re-affirming that The Who, was at heart, a jazz band, with it’s own cryptic internal communication. A casual listener probably won’t pick up on the nuances, but to hear them toy with “Summertime Blues” and “Shakin’ All Over” so they are suddenly new again, is heady.

One of the other staggering surprises throughout is to hear drummer Keith Moon’s over the top playing be even more overblown than usual. He is on fire and not the sloppy out of control caricature of media legend. Unleashing blinding flurries of notes, the drum fills almost seem forced in at times, and he maintains the energy level throughout the two hour performance. And if there’s any doubts about the wall of sound these three players produced, take note what happens when Townshend delivers a solo. The bottom doesn’t drop. There’s a thick, vibrating mass of sound, built by Entwistle’s two bass rigs and Moons constant avalanche of cacophony.

Tommy is presented in its touring form and delivered with an exacting ferocity. They’d been supporting this record for a while at this point and deliver it with a confidence and aplomb. The stillness in the air is chilling as Daltrey delivers “See me, Feel me, Touch me . . .” unaccompanied.

This isn’t Live at Leeds. This is Live at Hull, It’s not better, it’s different and stands on it’s own merits and deserves your time and consideration.

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