Friday, November 23, 2012


Ah, one of the most famous live albums of all time, The Who - Live at ...hey, what the Hull?  This isn't Leeds, but it's darn close.  In fact, it's the very next night, after the legendary recording that sealed The Who's reputation as one of the great live acts of all time, and proved that Tommy was no fluke, as it sold a ton.  It turns out both Leeds and Hull were fully recorded, but there were problems with the Hull tapes, so they were shelved and forgotten.

That was in 1970, when the technology was basic.  But when the vaults were scoured decades later, the Hull tapes were deemed worthy of saving.  However, it has to be one of the most demanding restorations ever attempted.  The big problem was that there was no bass for the first few songs, it was simply unplugged from the mix.  The solution was remarkable;  John Entwistle's playing from the Leeds show was flown in, note by note, and placed on the missing tracks with ProTools accuracy.  Would you know it if they hadn't admitted it?  No way.  You can't tell at all.  Man, that technology, eh?  Lots of other flaws were fixed as well, clicks and pops and even a 20-second gap when reels were being changed.  They simply plopped in the missing bit from the Leeds show again.  Any more than that, and you might cry foul, but 20 seconds, I can live with.  That doesn't mean the set is perfect.  Unlike most live albums, there's been no studio overdubbing, no parts re-done to correct mistakes.  The errors are here, from flubbed vocals to less-than-perfect playing.  But there sure isn't much of it.  This is The Who in their very prime, constantly touring, still in physical shape (looking at you, Keith Moon), and just a great rock band.

What you get here is the whole concert, including the entire Tommy performance, nearly two hours.  The only major editorial move is shifting Tommy onto the second disc, a little out of sequence, as closer My Generation now ends disc one instead.  For those of you who haven't upgraded your Live At Leeds from the original vinyl, and it's famous six songs, that CD has come out as a deluxe version as well, with the entire concert.  There's absolutely nothing different in the set list between Hull and Leeds, except Leeds got one more encore, Magic Bus, because they were a much better audience.  Indeed, the Hull crowd are barely noticeable, partly because there was only one mic. recording them, and partly because they weren't a great crowd, according to those there.

The band, however, are smoking.  Hearing them cruise through the hits set in the first half of the concert, linking several tracks together including Happy Jack, I'm A Boy and A Quick One, While He's Away proves how tight they were on this material.  Then, the raw awesomeness of Summertime Blues and Shakin' All Over lets you know Leeds wasn't a one-night deal, they were incendiary most every night.  If you don't have a full, early Tommy performance in your collection, you won't go wrong with this one; the band truly pull off a 50-minute rock opera, with each member, but especially Roger Daltry, rising to the challenge of playing a role in a grand production, something bigger than any other rock concert to that point.

Here's my recommendation on this;  If you have any of the Deluxe Leeds shows, with the full two-hour set, this is repetitive, and you'll get all you need from Leeds.  If you just have a regular Leeds, or none at all, this will do just grand to get you a full, vintage Who show, especially with the Tommy disc, really a must for any Who fan.  If you're a nutty Who fan, I can tell you, hey, this is almost as good as Leeds, you'd best get it as well.

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